Brock Netter, Staff Writer
WAVERLY — Stack the opponents up like corkwood, and Waverly will knock them down one by one.
In its final home game of the season, a Division IV, Region 16 Quarterfinal, Waverly (8-0) wasted little time asserting its dominance, knocking off Cincinnati Archbishop McNichols 34-13 on Saturday night.
The defense forced three turnovers in the win while the offense did what it’s been doing all season long.
“We knew McNichols was going to be a physical football team,” Waverly’s Mark Stulley said. “But we made it a point to show how dominant we are, and forcing those three turnovers was a huge key. Overall, it was a great team job tonight.”
It was also the send off for this Waverly senior class, led by quarterback and Waverly history-maker Haydn’ Shanks, who added to his touchdown record with two more scores on the evening.
“With me being a senior, it’s a great feeling to get a win in my final home game and last home playoff game as well,” Shanks said. “We’re moving on and that’s what matters most.”
Waverly struck the scoreboard first as Jaxson Poe punched it in on a one-yard score, putting the Tigers ahead 7-0.
McNichols responded on the next drive as Tyler Snyder found the end zone on a six-yard score, set up by his 21-yard run on fourth down to extend the drive. The point after was blocked to keep Waverly ahead 7-6.
It was then where Waverly completely took over and scored 27 unanswered points.
Following an interception by Will Futhey, Poe cashed in his second score of the night. On the next drive, Futhey had four catches, two of them on fourth down with the final one being a seven-yard strike from Shanks, extending the lead to 20-6.
“Fourth down plays are a little stressful since you know you have to make the play and convert or turn the ball over,” Shanks said. “But me and Will have that connection. He knows how to run the route, where to break it off and where to get. From there, it’s just me getting him the ball and allowing him to make the play.”
Fourth down was very kind towards Waverly on the evening, and Shanks found Zeke Brown on fourth and goal for a five-yard touchdown in the third quarter, stretching the lead to 27-6.
Then the defense came up with a huge play. McNichols went deep on fourth down and Stulley went right up with McNichols’ 6-foot-3 receiver, won the battle and intercepted the pass to give Waverly possession.
“He was way taller than me, and he made the catch as we were going down,” Stulley said. “But I just ripped it right out of his hands on the ground. It was hard, but I had to make a play.”
The fireworks weren’t finished defensively just yet. It was Penn Morrison’s turn to get in on the action, and the junior made a lasting impression as he jumped and snagged a one-handed interception, making it look all too easy.
“That was one of the craziest and most athletic plays I’ve ever seen,” Stulley said. “But it’s a hats off to him. He puts in the work every day to be at his best and he did a great job not just with that play but receiving as well.”
Poe cashed in his third score of the night to cap the night for Waverly, and McNichols scored on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Pierce Taylor to Nick Clark to put a final bow on the game.
“We made a few adjustments defensively after McNichols scored their first touchdown,” Stulley said. “But it came down to us making plays. Zeke Brown and Spencer Pollard did a great job as our linebackers. They were a big part of us stopping the run game which was what we wanted to do coming into the game.”
Shanks finished Saturday’s contest 29-of-39 passing for 322 yards and two touchdowns while Poe ended with 95 rushing yards and three scores on 21 carries. Morrison caught eight passes for 133 yards and Futhey hauled in seven catches for 100 yards and a score.
Waverly now advances to a Division IV regional semifinal next Saturday at Clinton-Massie, a team that defeated Bethel Tate 56-20 to advance.
“We need to have a great week of practice, come focused and keep firing on all cylinders Saturday night,” Shanks said. “The biggest thing is we have to attack them first and continue getting after it all night long.”