In a year that is anything but normal, the Waverly Tigers are entering uncharted territory.
Past Tiger teams have won playoff games, but no Waverly team has ever won two regional football games in a row in the same season until Saturday night.
Facing a defensive stalwart in Cincinnati Archbishop McNicholas, the Waverly defense put on a clinic of its own in front of the home crowd in the Oct. 24 Division IV Region 16 playoff game at Raidiger Field, roaring to a 34-13 triumph.
Defensively for the Tigers, Will Futhey, Penn Morrison and Mark Stulley produced a trio of interceptions, while Zeke Brown had a blocked kick, just to name a few highlight plays for the Tigers. Phoenix Wolf broke up two passes, and Wyatt Crabtree led all tacklers with 10 total on the night, including a pair for a combined 6-yard loss.
With the win, the Tigers (8-0) will now have a tall task ahead of them, as they will travel to Clarksville to face the top-seeded Clinton-Massie Falcons (8-0) on Frank Irelan Field. Both Clinton-Massie and Waverly have been a part of the Associated Press polls and in the top 10 for Division IV. In the Oct. 19 poll, Clinton-Massie was ranked first out of all Division IV teams, while the Waverly Tigers checked in at eighth.
In order to set up that contest, the Tigers needed to ground the McNicholas Rockets and launch themselves against their stout defense.
Facing a team that has surrendered an average of 10.3 points per game, the Tigers put up 34 points. McNicholas has not given up more than 28 points all year, and in most games less. The Rockets had recorded two shutouts, including a 27-0 win at Unioto to begin the post-season.
The Rockets had the ball first to start the playoff battle with the Tiers, but they didn’t have it long as the Waverly defense was up to the task of making them go three-and-out.
“They wanted the ball first. We take pride in stopping people,” said Zeke Brown. “We got a three-and-out, and then the offense started rolling from there. We knew they were a good team. They are pretty athletic in what they do. It was good to get the momentum. That’s huge for us to put up 34 points. Defensively, for them to get 13 points, I feel like that’s a lot and way too many for my liking.”
The Rockets’ first punt was downed at the Tiger 36-yard line where Waverly began a slow and steady drive, picking up chunks of yardage on the ground with the line creating holes for hard-running back Jaxson Poe to get through. Quarterback Haydn’ Shanks completed short passes to Zeke Brown, Penn Morrison and Phoenix Wolf along the way. Poe finished the 10-play, 64-yard drive, using a hard 8-yard run to get to the 1-yard line. On the next handoff, he was in the end zone with 7:40 left on the clock in the opening quarter. Ben Flanders connected on the point-after, giving the Tigers the 7-0 lead.
McNicholas worked to counter with an answering drive. Quarterback Pierce Taylor broke his team’s largest run of the night thus far, going 25 yards after Wyatt Crabtree delivered a tackle-for-loss on the previous play. Later in the drive on 4th-and-2, Rocket Tyler Snyder broke a 20-yard run. Two plays later, Snyder finished the drive with a 6-yard run for the touchdown, pulling McNicholas within one. That was as close as the Rockets could come. Zeke Brown leaped high to block the kick with a resounding thud, keeping the score at 7-6 with 2:42 left in the opening quarter.
Never seeming rattled, the Tigers picked up a pair of first downs on their next drive before stalling and bringing Flanders on to punt the ball away after Shanks was sacked for a 16-yard loss.
McNicholas didn’t keep the ball long, as for the second straight week, Will Futhey from the defensive end position, snatched a pass at the line of scrimmage for the first Waverly interception of the night.
Then on the very first offensive play, Shanks aired the ball out to a leaping Penn Morrison who snagged it and fought his way to the 1-yard line on a 47-yard pickup. Then Poe finished the job with a 1-yard run, giving the Tigers a 13-6 advantage with 31 seconds left in the quarter.
“Penn was like a sparkplug,” said Zeke Brown of his teammate. “He’s hidden in the corner. He’s just as good of a receiver as the others, but he doesn’t get as much attention. Penn is good for some big plays every night. When the defenses key on certain guys, Penn is right there. It is great.”
Once again, the Waverly defense was up to the task. After Snyder broke a 16-yard run, the defense tightened and didn’t allow another first down on the drive. The punt gave the ball back to the Tigers on the 15-yard line with 10:25 left in the half.
From there, Waverly put together a 13-play, 85-yard drive. Will Futhey had receptions of 19, 26, and 8 yards on the drive, before finishing with a 6-yard touchdown pass to complete the drive. The point-after kick from Flanders was good, 20-6, with 6:30 left in the half. The Tigers took that lead into half time.
Starting the second half with the ball, Wolf collected the McNicholas kickoff at the 7-yard line and returned it 24 yards. Then the Tigers went to work.
Wolf had receptions of 6, 9, 14 and 4 on passes from Shanks in between runs from Poe. The Tigers moved to the McNicholas 9-yard line where the drive nearly stalled. But on 4th-and-goal at the 5-yard line, Shanks scrambled left and right before lofting a pass in the direction of Zeke Brown, who made a rolling dive to secure the catch in the end zone. The kick from Flanders made it 27-6 with 7:39 left in the third quarter.
The Rockets appeared to be picking up steam and looked to answer with their next drive. When Taylor opted to try a long pass to a leaping receiver at the Waverly 4-yard line, Mark Stulley was there, coming away with the ball for the Tigers’ second interception.
“One of the toughest guys on the team is Mark Stulley,” said quarterback Haydn’ Shanks. “The little fella works extremely hard. He’s not afraid of anybody. It could be a 6-foot-8, 300-pounder, and Mark’s going to hit him as hard as he can and do everything he can to stop him.”
With 4:32 left in the quarter, Waverly looked to use the clock, mixing runs from Peyton Harris in between a pair of big catches by Morrison of 14 and 25 yards. The Rockets’ defense stiffened again. On 3rd-and-15, Futhey had a catch for a 14 yard gain. But on 4th-and-1, the snap sailed over Shanks’ head and his only choice was to run back and cover it. That gave the ball to the Rockets on their own 28-yard line.
Two plays later, Taylor tried to throw long again, but Penn Morrison went up for a one-handed interception, giving the ball back to the Tigers once more. This time they turned the opportunity into points.
Futhey, Brown and Morrison all secured passes from Shanks, while Harris and Poe each gained some ground on runs. Poe had a finishing 1-yard run, followed by a kick from Flanders. With 8:04 left on the clock, the Tigers had a 34-6 lead.
The Rockets scored for the second and final time in the game on the next drive. They put together a 6-play, 71-yard drive, finishing with a 22-yard pass from Taylor to Nick Clark. The kick made it 34-13 with 6:02 to play.
Waverly followed with a time consuming drive, working the clock down to 1:51 when Shanks’ pass was intercepted at the McNicholas 13-yard line. The Rockets looked to try and score one final time, but the Tiger defense prevented it as Keith Doughman and Jacob Crisp had the final two tackles for the defense as time ran out.
Waverly finished the contest with 26 first downs, while limiting McNicholas to 14. The Rockets outgained the Tigers on the ground, producing 178 rushing yards, while Waverly netted 109. However, Shanks had nearly three times the passing yards, finishing at 322, while Taylor had 108. In terms of total offense, Waverly finished at 431 while McNicholas ended at 280.
For the Rockets, Taylor was the leading rusher with 20 carries for 132 yards. He was 9-of-21 passing with 108 yards, 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions. Clark was the leading receiver with 4 catches for 74 yards and a touchdown.
For the game, Shanks completed 29-of-39 passes for 322 yards with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. Morrison was the leading receiver with 8 catches for 133 yards, followed by Futhey with 7 receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown. Zeke Brown also caught 7 passes for 47 yards and a touchdown. Phoenix Wolf secured 7 for 42 yards.
All four of those guys contributed defensively in big ways. Morrison had 3 tackles and an interception. Wolf also had 3 tackles and broke up 2 passes. Futhey piled up 8 total tackles (7 solo, 1 assist), including 2 combining for a total of 37 yards loss, as well as an interception. Brown was in on 5 total tackles (4 solo, 1 assist), 1 for a 5-yard loss, and a blocked kick.
Morrison, the ‘under-the-radar receiver’, said he loves that role.
“I like the title a lot. I like flying under the radar. It is fun,” Morrison. “This win means so much. That’s history. We’ve never done this before. Everyone did their job. It was a complete team effort. It is great to beat a team of that caliber. It shows how good we are. We have to be focused and get ready for the next one. It will be tough.”
“Penn doesn’t get the recognition that the other guys do,” said Shanks “He works just as hard as the other guys. He’s just as good. If they key on one receiver, we have other guys. Penn is a go-to receiver. I trust him to go make plays for me when I get the ball to him. He does that in key moments for us.”
Shanks added, “Hats off to the defense for getting stops and hats off to Penn for getting that interception.”
Stulley had 7 tackles and an interception. Keith Doughman provided 6. Spencer Pollard added 2, while Logan Long and Trey Brushart added 1 each. Jacob Crisp and Devon McGuinn each had an assist on a tackle. McGuin and Crabtree also shared a sack. Pollard, the center of the starting offensive line, along with the rest of the starting offensive linemen Brock Adams, Andrew Welch, Aiden Diehl and Blaise Reader, protected Shanks and provided holes for Poe and Harris to run through. Poe had 21 carries for 95 yards and 3 touchdowns. Harris followed with 7 carries for 26 yards.
“These guys work incredibly hard. The line and the receivers do all of the work,” said Shanks. “I just distribute the ball and they do all the work. This week, we told the line that, ‘This game is going won by you guys up front.’ I told Poe, ‘I’m going to give you the rock until they stop you, and that’s what we did.’ He had three rushing touchdowns. When we can run the ball, that opens the passing lanes up for me, and I let my receivers go and do work.”
Waverly Head Football Coach Chris Crabtree loves the way his players work together as a true team.
“We have a lot of guys who play a role week in and week out. They just do their job. Penn (Morrison) has had a great year all year on both sides of the ball. He made some key plays, going back to the Wheelersburg game. Tonight, he made some crucial catches to get first downs for us. We have a lot of guys who can catch the ball. If you double up someone, that opens someone else.”
After the graduation of 2,000-plus yard rusher Payton Shoemaker, the Tigers needed a running back to step into that spot. Poe, who served as the backup a year ago, has filled the void.
“I can’t say enough about Jaxson Poe. He’s playing both sides of the ball, at running back and on the defensive line. He really did a great job of establishing the run tonight. He ran hard. That’s something we wanted to do was to be physical in the run game,” said Crabtree.
“We knew they had a good defense. We challenged our guys up front (the offensive line) and they took the challenge. They wanted to keep Haydn’ clean, protect him, and open up holes; they did that. They did a great job of opening running lanes for Jaxson (Poe) and Peyton (Harris) tonight as well.”
The special post-season run by the history-making Tigers isn’t over yet.
“We have a team. I talk to these guys about playing for each other. When you have a team that believes in each other, plays for each other, and loves each other, good things are going to happen. This is a special group and they are doing great things right now,” said Crabtree.
“Winning two playoff games is another check mark for us. We will take another week here and get to work. We’ve been fortunate to be at home, so we will take the show on the road for a bit.”
Browns Coach Breaks Silence on Odell Beckham’s Future
The Cleveland Browns are spending a pretty penny at the wide receiver position next season between Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, but head coach Kevin Stefanski feels like his team is in a “good place” when it comes to their pass-catchers.
Stefanski joined the Keyshawn, Will and Zubin show and discussed the future of Beckham and Landry in Cleveland.
“I think we can, yeah,” Stefanski told former NFL receiver Keyshawn Johnson when asked if the Browns could keep both receivers despite their large cap hits. “I think you don’t want to be so dogmatic about it and say, ‘All right. We have to have this number of receivers and this number of tight ends and this running back.’ I think you go with what you have and you make sure that you’re putting yourself in position to field a competitive roster for a bunch of years moving forward.”
Stefanski on Roster Situation: ‘We’re in a Good Spot’
When asked about the future of certain members of the roster, the company line for the Browns has been that they want to collect as many talented players as possible. But Cleveland has some big decisions to make as they look to improve on the defensive side of the ball after investing heavily on offense over the last three offseason.
Beckham and Landry alone would eat up more than 15% of the Browns total cap space with their 30.5 million combined cap hit.
Beckham is scheduled to make $15.75 million this season, with $12.791 million of it guaranteed for injury. Landry carries a $13.253 million salary, but just a $3 million dead cap hit.
“I think we’re in a good spot. The easy part to say is, ‘Hey, just give us more players. Give us three more great players on the offensive side, and give us three players on the defensive side, and we’re going to spend this amount on each guy.’ I think we have a plan. We’ll follow through with that plan.
“But ultimately as coaches, we’ll make it work with whatever we go to,” Stefanski said. “And I say that because sometimes you have a season, I’ve been a part of some teams in the past where you had four great receivers, so you molded your offense to that, or you had three great tight ends, and you molded your offense to that. So that’s our job as coaches to take what we have on our roster and make sure we’re maximizing everybody’s talents.”
Jarvis Landry’s Cryptic Tweet Sparked Concerns
While there has been lots of speculation around Beckham’s future in Cleveland, Landry has mostly avoided any of that talk. However, the 28-year-old Landry sparked some concerns when he tweeted last month: “If One Door Closes… That Means Bigger Ones Are About To Open.”
Landry played through injury last season with a cracked rib but was still the team’s leading receiver, snagging 72 catches for 840 yards and three touchdowns. It was a fairly mediocre year by his standards, coming in with his lowest reception total since his rookie season.
Browns general manager Andrew Berry could only laugh when asked about the tweet.
“You’re going to have to ask him,” Berry told reporters. “He played really well for us last year. He’s one of our team leaders. Unfortunately, I don’t follow him on Twitter. We like Jarvis a lot.”
Blake Griffin Reveals Why He Chose Nets Over Lakers & Warriors
When the Detroit Pistons announced that they would be shutting Blake Griffin down in hopes to find a trade partner or reach a buyout agreement, NBA fans knew that championship contenders would be knocking down Griffin’s door in hopes to acquire the six-time All-Star.
Major suitors included the Warriors, Lakers, and Heat but ultimately Griffin decided to roll with the Brooklyn Nets, despite the fact that they could not offer him the most money. On Monday, he detailed why Brooklyn was his first choice.
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Blake Griffin Reveals Why He Chose Nets
“They have a need for a 4-man. I’ve always had a lot of respect for Steve Nash and all of the guys they have,” Blake Griffin told Bleacher Report via NetsDaily.
“Sean Marks has done a great job there. It was a tough decision and I wanted to be on a team that was contending.”
Above all else, what drove Griffin to the Empire State over the other contenders is the fact that they look more poised to win a championship than any other team, even if their record reflects otherwise.
“My only goal is to help win a championship,” Griffin said via NetsDaily
“Some years it’s more realistic than others. But that’s why I came to Brooklyn.”
Griffin Is Excited for ‘Lob City’ Reunion
When Griffin suits up with the Nets for the first time he will be reunited with his old Los Angeles Clippers teammate DeAndre Jordan. Jordan and Griffin built a very close relationship during the ‘Lob City’ era.
The six-time All-Star is over the moon about being reunited with his old friend which also played a major part in him choosing the Nets.
“We go way back,” Griffin said of DeAndre Jordan via NetsDaily.
“Anybody who you’re that familiar with it always makes it easier. That definitely played a part.”
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Griffin at one point was one of the best power forwards in the NBA. While his prime years may be behind him, he still enjoys going up against the best players of his position because at the end of the day he will always be a competitor.
“The best in my position – Giannis and AD. It’s always a challenge so those guys are the most fun,” Griffin said of who his favorite players to play against are via NetsDaily.
Sean Marks Sounds off on Blake Griffin Signing
One person who deserves his flowers for the product that the Nets are getting ready to unleash is their General Manager Sean Marks. Brooklyn once had one of the worst rosters in the NBA, but brick by brick Marks, has been able to build a roster that is star-studded with talent.
Just like with the rest of the stars that he has helped get to Brooklyn, he is ecstatic to welcome Griffin to the County of Kings.
“We’re fortunate to be able to add a player of Blake’s caliber to our roster at this point in the season,” Marks said in a statement via CBS Sports.
“Blake is a versatile frontcourt player with a long track record of success in our league, and we’re excited about the impact he’ll make for us both on and off the court in Brooklyn.”
Griffin is set to make his debut on Thursday when the Nets play the Boston Celtics.
High school football team told National Anthem won’t be played, so they sing it loud
If you’ve got just one eye on the current affairs of the U.S. right now, you’ll know that the country is in the midst of a political upheaval.
Tensions are running high and demonstrations seem to be occurring every single day, driven in the main by the racial strains that have risen to the surface this year following the wrongful deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, amongst others.
With many clamouring to voice their concerns and complaints, virtually every walk of life in the U.S. is facing change.
The arena of sports has been an obvious outlet over the years when it comes to people expressing their beliefs and principles, not least because of the nature of its diversity.
Colin Kaepernick famously drew attention to the plight of Black Americans by kneeling during the national anthem back in 2016. He was heavily criticised for doing so, eventually even losing his job as an NFL player because of it.
Given the events of this year, he’s garnered more support, but the fact he had to suffer for his conviction isn’t right at all.
Of course, there’s a debate currently raging regarding the national anthem, and whether or not it should be played at sporting events. Certain high-profile figures have followed Kaepernick in kneeling for the anthem during recent times, whilst others see that as a move of disrespect.
Personally, I think people should have the right to choose. After all, for some people respecting the flag and anthem is of paramount importance.
One high school football team in Granbury, Texas certainly think it is. When their high school band couldn’t play before a game, the Granbury Pirates weren’t happy at all.
In fact, they were so affected that they decided to sing the National Anthem together, a capella. The team rose to their feet, placed their hands over their hearts and belted out the anthem with passion and pride.
I don’t know about you, but hearing such a rendition makes my heart swell with pride.
Listen to the boys in the video below:
Everyone should have the right to choose whether they want to sing and stand for the national anthem, but I think we can all agree that the video above is something truly special.
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