Category: Wheelersburg

Pirates’ Matthews inks with Oilers

‘Burg standout signs with D-II Findlay

By Paul Boggs

 

 

WHEELERSBURG — For Makya Matthews, his wardrobe won’t change too much.

That’s because Matthews, the Wheelersburg High School all-purpose standout, will remain in Orange and Black, but made it official on Wednesday with his announcement to play college football for the University of Findlay.

Matthews, a soft-spoken senior whose outstanding performances on the football field did his talking, was flanked at his signing ceremony by his mother Sara Fry; several other family members; Wheelersburg High School head football coach Rob Woodward and almost the entire Pirate team — of which he was the most recognized from the 2019 campaign.

Matthews was one of 32 recruits from Ohio which signed to play for Findlay, according to a university press release on Wednesday — in conjunction with the annual National Signing Day all across the country.

Matthews — who played and can play almost any and all of the skilled positions — moves on to play for the Oilers, an NCAA Division II school located in Findlay and a member of the Great Midwest Athletic Conference.

The Oilers are coached by Jason Keys, who is entering his 10th season leading the program.

For Matthews, in the Wheelersburg High School foyer full of enthusiastic supporters, he simply yet politely replied “yes sir” when asked about his excitement of playing college football.

He said Findlay was his first official visit, and he “just loved the coaching staff and talked to a few players and they liked it a lot too”.

“It was pretty much Findlay all the way for me,” said Matthews. “Their offense is very similar to ours. It’s an RPO (run-pass option) style. I’ll play the slot and hopefully contribute.”

Matthews said he was being recruited to Findlay for the wide receiver position, primarily the slot spot, although on his biographical information in the press release it lists him as a five-foot nine-inch, 172-pound running back.

But no worries, Pirate and Findlay fans, for Matthews is indeed your truly defined all-purpose player.

In fact, he was a three-time all-Southeast District Division V first-team honoree —at three different positions.

As a sophomore, as part of the Pirates’ 2017 Division V state championship squad, he made all-district as a defensive back —but landed on the list on the offensive side for his final two seasons, as an all-purpose pick as a junior and as a running back as a senior.

While making first-team all-district automatically earned him Special Mention all-Ohio accolades, he was a first-team all-state selection in 2018 and again in 2019.

Following up the undefeated 15-0 state championship year, the Pirates went 13-1 and reached the state semifinals again —before rallying from a 2-3 start last year by sweeping through the Southern Ohio Conference Division II again and advancing to the regional semifinals.

Matthews had a large hand in the success of all three seasons.

“Makya has been a special player in our varsity program, but even before that at the younger levels, he was always a hard worker with the group that he has come through with. People have recognized his talent,” said Woodward. “As he came in as a freshman, I remember recognizing he had a special ability and his hand-eye coordination with the ball was something that was extremely explosive. And the group of guys he had around him, they all just had a hunger and a drive to work towards excellence. Makya was really a catalyst for all of that. While he doesn’t say a lot, his hard work on and off the field is infectious to everyone he is around.”

For those into career statistics, Matthews’ are astonishing in all three phases.

Defensively, in actually twice being named the SOC Division II Defensive Player of the Year (2018 and 2019), he made 147 tackles and 12 pass deflections with 10 interceptions —two of which he returned for touchdowns.

He also forced five fumbles and made one recovery, as Woodward went on to say that “he made plays on balls his sophomore year that we hadn’t seen from a free safety in a number of years.”

Matthews made headway with his offensive production that same season — to the point where he became a major impact player.

So much so that he had the game-tying touchdown in the state championship game against Pemberville Eastwood.

He caught 105 passes for 1,791 yards and 20 touchdowns, and averaged exactly 17 yards per reception, while also carrying the football 213 times for 1,436 yards — and scoring 21 rushing touchdowns while averaging 6.7 yards per carry.

He also developed a knack for special special teams returns, amassing 611 yards on 24 kickoffs for an average of 25-and-a-half yards, while taking back three punts to the house —part of 55 returns for 804 yards and 14.7 yards per return.

Including his interception returns, and his four pass completions for 96 yards and one TD, Matthews was responsible for 47 touchdowns in his decorated Wheelersburg career.

He finished with 4,738 all-purpose yards, which —with his interception return yardage —is only 52 yards shy of 5,000.

“I liked playing wide receiver, but that and running back are really close,” said Matthews. “It’s a different feeling running with the ball down the field, but I also like catching it.”

In the storied tradition of Wheelersburg football, he is only the third Pirate in school history to be a two-time first-team all-Ohioan — and only the fifth player to be named a two-time winner of the Andy Hopkins Most Valuable Player Award.

His three punt returns for touchdowns are a Wheelersburg career record, as he is fourth all-time in career receiving yards (1,791) and receiving touchdowns (20), fourth all-time in career all-purpose yards (4,738), and fifth all-time in career TDs (47).

“Makya took on greater roles on offense over his last two years while continuing to play and excel on defense. Then he came on even more in special teams with the skill sets that he has,” said Woodward. “He is just an outstanding young man, both on the field and in the classroom. He works extremely hard and is gifted with intelligence and work ethic. It’s really going to carry him on through his college career.”

Matthews said his four years as a Pirate prepared him well to be an Oiler.

“Being here at Wheelersburg was honestly great preparation for college,” he said. “Just the work we put in and the style that we do everything. It proves that success comes with all that hard work.”

But Matthews is also quite talented, and intelligent, too.

He said he plans to major in pharmacy, while wide receiver and/or running back he can play both, Woodward expects him to make a serious special teams impact.

“I think Findlay will find he is really gifted and will help give them depth as a return specialist. Both kickoffs and punts. Receiver or running back, he is great about catching the ball behind the line of scrimmage, which a lot of times is just an outside run for teams in today’s offenses,” said the coach. “We are very excited about him going on to the next level and we think Findlay has picked up a great player in Makya, both for football and academically.”

One thing is for sure for Matthews at Findlay — he won’t have to trade in any Orange and Black.

Ridgewood’s revenge

Results

Team1234TOutcome
Ridgewood14147742Win
Wheelersburg307717Loss
Ridgewood’s revenge: Pirates fall 42-17 to Generals in Region 19 semi
By Paul BoggsLANCASTER — Unfortunately for the Wheelersburg Pirates, Ridgewood’s revenge was served quite cold.
In the fifth all-time meeting between the Pirates and undefeated Generals on Saturday night, in the Division V Region 19 semifinals at a frigid Fulton Field in Lancaster, the Generals — specifically sophomore quarterback Gabe Tingle — just had all the right moves and made all the big plays.
Tingle, the East District Division V Offensive Co-Player of the Year, torched the Pirates’ pass defense for four touchdowns and 288 yards on 15-of-22 — and second-seeded Ridgewood rolled third-seeded Wheelersburg 42-17 to advance to the Region 19 championship tilt next week.
Tingle, too, paced the Generals in rushing with 93 yards and a 2-yard touchdown run on 16 carries — as Connor Kunze kicked all six Ridgewood extra points, while catching three of Tingle’s TD tosses.
For the Pirates, they had won their first four meetings with Ridgewood — all in the playoffs and all occurring since the 2007 season.
However, the 2019 club wasn’t Wheelersburg’s most highly-touted team of all-time, while many observers of Ridgewood believe this is the best General squad ever.
The Generals are now a perfect 12-0, won their second straight playoff affair over a Scioto County team, and will now face top-seeded and 11-1 Ironton for the Region 19 championship next Saturday night.
Wheelersburg, meanwhile, wraps up its season at 8-4 — and exits the postseason in the regional semifinal for the first time since 2010, as it did not make the playoffs in 2011 and lost to Liberty Union in the regional quarterfinals in 2012.
The Generals also snapped the Pirates’ six-game winning streak, as Wheelersburg had won eight out of nine games entering the regional semi.
But Ridgewood was real good, and actually was involved in its closest game all season — aside from a 31-9 victory over Indian Valley.
“They are a good team, no doubt,” said Wheelersburg coach Rob Woodward, who completed his 12th season at the Pirate helm on Saturday night. “We went into the game knowing we had to stop the run. And low and behold, they went after us in terms of taking some shots downfield. And they converted them. We had to get some stops there and we didn’t. They maintained momentum the whole game and in playoff football, that’s what happens if you are not on top of your game.”
The Generals scored on their first four possessions and in nine plays or less, and only a kneel-down for the final first-half play prevented a possible larger lead than 28-3 at halftime.
Then, following the Pirates’ 12-play 70-yard four-minute and 11-second scoring drive to open the second half and which featured five first downs, the Generals answered with a similar eight-play, 73-yard four-minute and nine-second drive that ended with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Tingle to Kunze at the 3:25 mark of the third quarter.
Once again, the Generals were up by 25 at 35-10, and Evan Horsley — the Pirate senior quarterback who had both of Wheelersburg’s touchdowns on one-yard runs — was intercepted by Kunze on back-to-back possessions.
The second of those was with 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter and, with Ridgewood starting at the Wheelersburg 9-yard-line after Kunze’s 21-yard return, the Generals were in the end zone again just three plays and a minute and 15 seconds later — on Tingle’s final of four touchdown passes and third to Kunze.
The four-yard pitch-and-catch on a nice back-shoulder throw made it 42-10 just 45 seconds in the fourth quarter, and put the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s running-clock rule into effect — for a mere two minutes and 20 seconds anyway.
Horsley, who paced the Pirates with 92 rushing yards on 18 carries and completed 10-of-21 passes for 138 yards, had his second scoring plunge with 8:40 remaining.
Braxton Sammons successfully made his second extra-point kick to stop the running clock, but after Wheelersburg forced Ridgewood into only its second punt attempt, Horsley was intercepted for the fourth and final time.
Of course, the Pirates and Horsley had to throw deep and take some second-half chances — after falling behind 28-3 and victim to the Generals’ big plays.
“The shots that we did take downfield that we didn’t convert resulted in worse things for us,” said Woodward. “The shots that they took they converted. Hats off to them for being in the right spot and making good plays on the ball.”
Ridgewood outgained Wheelersburg by almost 200 (315-117) yards in the opening half, including by 140 (225-85) through the air.
In all, while both teams rushed for 123 yards on almost an identical number of carries (35 for Wheelersburg and 34 for Ridgewood), the big difference was in the 150-yard (288-138) and four-touchdown disparity in the passing game.
Both teams ran 56 plays from scrimmage, while the Generals held a 23-14 advantage in first downs.
Following its first first down, on a Tingle completion for nine yards on the game’s second play, Ridgewood went up 7-0 on the fourth play from scrimmage — when Tingle, from the Wheelersburg 49-yard-line, went deep down the middle to a wide-open Koleton Smith.
No Pirate defender was within 10 yards of Smith, as it appeared a safety got lost in coverage — as Smith made the catch on the deep post route and raced into the end zone.
While Kunze caught five passes for 164 yards and a hat trick of TDs, Smith made the most receptions from Tingle — seven for 115 yards.
“The fourth play of the game was just a good job by them schematically. They worked those first three plays setting things up, trying to see what we were in. We had a blown assignment, but a good football team plays that chess match and executes,” said Woodward.
The Pirates did answer, as Matthews — who was held in check rushing with 35 yards on 14 carries but caught six of Horsley’s passes for 87 yards — returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards to the General 29.
Wheelersburg moved to the 11 and faced a 3rd-down-and-2, but Matthews losing a yard on the next play forced a Sammons 29-yard field goal at the 6:48 mark of the first period.
However, the next two full quarters belonged to Ridgewood, which went up 14-3 just four minutes and nine seconds later.
The Generals drove nine plays and 67 yards, aided largely on a pass completion from Tingle to Smith to midfield — with a Wheelersburg 15-yard face-mask penalty tacked on.
Kaden Smith finished the march with a four-yard TD run, and the Pirates got no closer the rest of the way.
The Pirates then drove as deep as the General 8-yard-line, thanks largely to Matthews running for 26 yards on a successful fake punt, but a fumbled snap on 3rd-and-5 essentially stalled the drive out — as Matthews’ inside counter run on fourth-down resulted in a turnover on downs.
Two plays later, from his own 1-yard-line in fact, Tingle scrambled and stepped up in the pocket — and found Kunze open behind the Pirate secondary for a 64-yard gain to the Wheelersburg 35.
Tingle then escaped for a 15-yard run to the 15, as the Pirates were whistled for another personal-foul penalty, and Tingle’s 2-yard run at the 8:14 mark made it 21-3 — ending an eventful, but impactful, six-play drive.
The Pirates then drove seven plays to the General 26, as a Horsley pass to Matthews for 27 yards put them inside the 30, but Ridgewood’s Kurtis Varian intercepted Horsley in the end zone at the six-minute mark of the second stanza.
Ridgewood went up 28-3 three-and-a-half minutes later with two-and-a-half minutes left in the half — when Tingle, after already hooking up with Kunze for 39 yards, found him open in the corner of the end zone from 27 yards away.
That capped a seven-play, 80-yard drive, as another Wheelersburg possession which moved to the Ridgewood 33 stalled out after.
But one drive which concluded with precious points was Wheeelersburg’s opening of the third quarter — when the Pirates quickly operated with a no-huddle offense and involved Horsley on all but four of the dozen plays.
The Pirates converted three third downs in the series, as Horsley had a 31-yard sprint up the middle to begin the drive — followed by pass completions to Hunter Ruby for 15 yards to the 13 and to Matthews for seven yards two plays later.
Horsley had the final yard for the score, and Sammons kicked the extra point, putting the Pirates down 28-10 with 7:42 remaining.
But when Wheelersburg forced a punt on the next General possession, it was whistled for a roughing-the-kicker call — resulting in the Ridgewood drive remaining alive and picking up 15 yards and an automatic first down to the Pirates’ 42.
Three plays later, the Generals made the Pirates pay for that penalty — when Tingle’s deep slant pass to Kunze turned into his 30-yard touchdown reception.
“Exactly what we wanted to do was get the ball back in our possession after we scored. Our player was trying to make a play and block the punt, and he made an aggressive mistake. High school players are going to make aggressive mistakes,” said Woodward. “He was trying to do what his job was, which was force the kick. It was at an inopportune time that he happened to run into the punter, but I will never fault a player for trying to do what he can to make a play. It was just at a time when we felt we had an opportunity to take some momentum.”
The Pirates didn’t help themselves with eight penalties for 93 yards — five of which were personal foul calls.
Indeed, Wheelersburg wasn’t at its best on Saturday night, but again enjoyed another strong season.
The Pirates captured their sixth consecutive Southern Ohio Conference Division II championship, and turned around their season after an 0-2 and 2-3 start.
Wheelersburg’s senior class will graduate having played 14 playoff games over four seasons, including the 2017 Division V state championship and last season’s state semifinals.
Its four-year record is an incredible 48-6.
“What a great four-year ride it has been here for these seniors and all the success they have had,” said Woodward. “We were a little thin at times this year with depth, but they have embodied our theme this year, which was ‘Respect the W’. That is to play the game of football the way it is supposed to be played at Wheelersburg High School. I am most proud of what these seniors did during the weeks of practice. The games are fun, but I remember the time spent in preparation for those games and how hard we had to work to go out and have success. This was a successful senior class at Wheelersburg. We had guys step up that needed to when it was time to step up.”
Unfortunately, on one cold night in Lancaster anyway, Ridgewood got its revenge.
“Great turnout by our fans tonight. Pirate Nation was out in full force supporting our kids and that’s all you can ask for,” said Woodward. “I’m proud of the job our guys did together this entire season to get to this point. It wasn’t the way we wanted it to turn out tonight, but hats off to Ridgewood for that.”
* * *
Ridgewood 42, Wheelersburg 17
Wheelersburg 3 0 7 7 — 17
Ridgewood 14 14 7 7 — 42
R — Koleton Smith, 49-yard pass from Gabe Tingle (Connor Kunze kick), 10:17, 1st (7-0 R)
W — Braxton Sammons, 29-yard field goal, 6:48, 1st (7-3 R)
R — Kaden Smith, 4-yard run (Connor Kunze kick), 2:42, 1st (14-3 R)
R — Gabe Tingle, 2-yard run (Connor Kunze kick), 8:14, 2nd (21-3 R)
R — Connor Kunze, 27-yard pass from Gabe Tingle (Connor Kunze kick), 2:32, 2nd (28-3 R)
W — Evan Horsley, 1-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), 7:42, 3rd (28-10 R)
R — Connnor Kunze, 30-yard pass from Gabe Tingle (Connor Kunze kick), 3:25, 3rd (35-10 R)
R — Connor Kunze, 4-yard pass from Gabe Tingle (Connor Kunze kick), 11:15, 4th (42-10 R)
W — Evan Horsley, 1-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), 8:40, 4th (42-17 R)
Team Statistics
W R
First downs 14 23
Plays from scrimmage 56 56
Rushes-yards 35-123 34-123
Passing yards 138 288
Total yards 261 411
Cmp-Att-Int. 10-21-4 15-22-1
Fumbles-lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 8-93 5-61
Punts-average 0-0 1-33
——
Individual Leaders
RUSHING —Wheelersburg: Evan Horsley 18-92 2TD, Makya Matthews 14-35, Eli Swords 2-(-7), Hunter Ruby 1-3; Ridgewood: Gabe Tingle 16-93 TD, Isaiah Lamnceck 9-23, Kaden Smith 2-7 TD, Deontae Brandon 2-4, Kigenn Millender 1-1, Team 4-(-5)
PASSING — Wheelersburg: Evan Horsley 10-21-4-138 ; Ridgewood: Gabe Tingle 15-22-1-288 4TD
RECEIVING — Wheelersburg: Makya Matthews 6-87, Hunter Ruby 2-29, Eli Swords 1-19, Gage Adkins 1-3; Ridgewood: Koleton Smith 7-115 TD, Connor Kunze 5-164 3TD, Colten Hursey 1-9, Kaden Smith 1-3, Kurtis Varian 1-(-3)

 

 

 

Ridgewood

CMP ATT INT PYDS TD ATT RUYDS TD REC REYDS TD
00000000000
Sacks Tackles INT FGM FGA
00000

Wheelersburg

# Offense CMP ATT INT PYDS TD ATT RUYDS TD REC REYDS TD
Evan Horsley10214138018922000
Hunter Ruby000001302290
20Gage Adkins00000000130
23Eli Swords000002-701190
29Makya Matthews00000143506870
 Total102141380351232101380
# Defense Sacks Tackles INT FGM FGA
 Total00000

Details

Date Time League Season
November 16, 2019 7:00 pm Playoffs 2019

So we meet again: Pirates play Generals in Region 19 semi

So we meet again: Pirates play Generals in Region 19 semi

By Paul Boggs

FB_IMG_1573743667824.jpg

WHEELERSBURG — We know undefeated Ridgewood is indeed good.

But, in a universe and time when all you need is one more point than your opponent, is Wheelersburg better?
That question is going to be answered for sure on Saturday night, as the 8-3 Pirates — already 4-0 all-time against Ridgewood —play the 11-0 Generals in a Division V Region 19 semifinal, set for 7 p.m. inside upgraded Fulton Field in Lancaster.

Wheelersburg will be playing in its seventh consecutive regional semifinal — all of which have been victories.
But perhaps the Pirates reaching this season’s semifinal has been their most challenging, as Wheelersburg was 0-2 and 2-3 before sweeping through the Southern Ohio Conference Division II slate — en route to its current six-game winning streak.

The Pirates have actually won eight of their last nine games, with their three losses coming to teams with a combined stellar record of 31-2 — all three of which are playing in regional semifinals of their own.

Two of Wheelersburg’s wins were over Minford — a 21-20 overtime triumph to start their winning streak, and again in last week’s regional quarterfinals by a count of 28-23.
Wheelersburg coach Rob Woodward said his Pirates — against Minford just as they have all season — “just continue to show resiliency of facing adversity and learning from it and adjusting to it”.

“Our kids are extremely coachable. Our senior class has worked through so much and been involved in so many big games they understand how to make adjustments and improve,” he said, in an interview on Tuesday. “A lot of people wrote us off after week two of this year. Our kids recognized that, and it left a bad taste in our mouths in terms of how they work to compete. But they have gone out and proven that they are the top team in the SOC II, and now we’re working to prove that we’re a team to contend here in Division V. It’s a huge accomplishment to make the playoffs and win a playoff game. Each round we get here, we’re going to go out and have fun playing the game and keep attacking like we do each and every week. Our kids learn and get better.”

Speaking of better, all the Pirates need to be is one point better than the Generals, but Wheelersburg will need to play better for the game’s entirety than it did against the Falcons.

Despite its second-half success en route to the win, Wheelersburg struggled in the first half and trailed 3-0, and committed eight penalties for 90 yards.

The Pirates must eliminate those mistakes, especially against the Generals’ explosive offense, spearheaded by spread-offense quarterback Gabe Tingle.

In the regular season, Tingle — a 5-foot 11-inch 180-pound sophomore — slung the ball around for 2,052 yards and 22 touchdowns with only two interceptions.
He completed 70-percent of his passes on 99 out of 141 attempts, and also rushed for 726 yards on 83 carries with 15 trips to paydirt.

Tingle was a frontrunner for East District Division V Offensive Player of the Year, as the Generals — which steamrolled through the Inter-Valley Conference — played in nine games with a running clock with six of those 10 tilts featuring the starters not playing a down in the second half.

In the regional quarterfinals against Portsmouth, which the Generals rolled 56-21, Tingle completed a dozen passes on 19 attempts for 233 yards and a hat trick of TDs — and rushed eight times for 71 yards.
Tingle’s rushing statistics trailed only those of Kaden Smith, who had two touchdowns and 81 yards on only nine carries.

Smith caught three passes for 84 yards, while Koleton Smith hauled in all three of Tingle’s TDs— part of his eight receptions for 117 yards.

Portsmouth coach Bruce Kalb, in an interview previewing the Trojans’ playoff game against Ridgewood, said Tingle is the engine that makes the Generals’ machine run.
Woodward concurred.

“Tingle is extremely athletic,” he said. “He’s the controller of all things in terms of their running game and passing game. He is really able to elude defenders with his feet. They spread the ball around a lot because it opens up holes for him to be able to run. And he is great at running the football and makes great decisions. Probably about 50-percent of the time, I would say he is given the go-ahead that if he likes what he sees to throw it, and if he doesn’t, he isn’t afraid just to tuck it and take off and run with it.”

Woodward compared Tingle to Greenup County (Ky.) quarterback and Marshall University signee Eli Sammons as far as a passing threat, while Minford signal-caller Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis best represents the running style that Tingle will present.

The coach added that Ashland (Ky.), which the Pirates rallied to defeat 34-33 in overtime for their initial victory of the season, offers similar speed at the skilled positions.

Tingle’s top receiver is in fact Koleten Smith — a 5-10 170-pound senior who had, in the regular season, 37 receptions for 778 yards and seven touchdowns with a 21.2 yards per catch average.

His lead lineman is six-foot one-inch 237-pound senior tackle John Evin, a three-year starter and second-team all-Ohioan last season.

“This will be our fifth time playing Ridgewood, so we have had experiences with them. I do think that this is one of their best put-together teams in terms of overall talent. They have stout lines, and a few big guys going both ways for them. They have a lot of one-back sets with a lot of things that they do, they show a lot of formations, and they take chances offensively,” said Woodward. “We’ve been put in situations where our players and coaching staff have been challenged to face these types of players and teams. We have to recognize where to best put our players and work towards the execution that it takes.”

Part of that execution, Woodward explained, is good tackling on Tingle.

“Tackling is huge this week because Tingle is extremely elusive and so good at avoiding tacklers with his feet,” said the coach.

The Pirates’ legs will be busy with running the football with Makya Matthews, quarterback Evan Horsley and even wide receiver Hunter Ruby, but Wheelersburg will be facing a stalwart General line.

Zach Prater (6-1, 290, jr.) and Bryce Prater (6-3, 280, jr.) are twin brothers — as Zach has 35 tackles, including eight for loss and five sacks, while Bryce has 23 tackles, including 11 for loss and four-and-a-half sacks.

The ends are Kaden Smith (5-11, 205, sr.) and J.J. Durr (5-11, 215, jr.), combining for 62 tackles, 22 of which were for loss with 11 sacks.

The Generals’ linebacking corps consists of the team’s top two tacklers — Deontae Brandon (6-0, 183, jr.) and Isaiah Lamneck (5-10, 170, sr.).

Brandon was first with 68 tackles including 11 for loss and five-and-a-half sacks, while Lamneck notched 61 tackles with eight for loss and four sacks.

“Their defensive line is stout with the Praters being bodies in the middle that makes it tough to run against,” said Woodward. “Then they have three linebackers that run to the ball well behind them. They are extremely aggressive on defense. They are a good quality football team which you would expect as you get into the second round.”

The Generals are coached by John Slusser, whom Woodward said “he always has good conversations with at coaching clinics and things.”

Both mentors are graduates of Ohio Wesleyan University, although Woodward is 3-0 against the Generals as a head coach — part of 4-0 overall as he was a Pirate assistant in 2007 (21-13).

That was also the last season in which the Pirates played at Lancaster for a playoff bout.

The Pirates also own wins over Ridgewood in 2010 (21-12), 2015 (42-21) and 2016 (37-6), but the perception this time is that Wheelersburg will enter as an underdog — against a General club many in and around West

Lafayette believe may be the program’s best-ever.
For sure, Ridgewood will be the latest quality squad that the Pirates have played this season, joining the likes of 10-1 Ironton, 10-1 Columbus Hartley and undefeated Jackson.

In the SOC II, the Orange and Black beat 7-3 Minford, 8-2 Waverly and 5-5 Valley and Oak Hill.

“We have faced good teams too that have presented a lot of the same challenges. We have to go and attack them (Generals) with the same type of preparation that we put forth throughout this entire year,” said Woodward.

“Good teams are going to have success in moments throughout the game. We have to continue to respond like we did last week and like we have all year. We have to be ready to go out and have a full four-quarter battle.”
The Pirates have had plenty of those while Ridgewood not many, so Wheelersburg will probably play cool under fire — if it comes to that.

“Playoff football is a whole different animal. A lot of factors come into play and teams have to be extremely prepared to go out and be successful,” said Woodward.
For those into counting, Woodward — in his 12th season as head coach — was doing some math, and counted now 28 Pirate playoff games in the last decade.

They will try to make it 29 with a regional championship game appearance, but first things first, they have to be a mere one point better than Ridgewood — regardless of how good these Generals are.

“Our kids understand what it takes to win at this level in a week-12,” said Woodward. “We hope to do it again Saturday night.”

Pirates’ playoff win means season sweep of Falcons

Results

Team1234TOutcome
Wheelersburg00141428Win
Minford3071323Loss

Pirates’ playoff win means season sweep of Falcons

By Paul Boggs

WHEELERSBURG — It all began, innocently enough, with an onside kick.
Turns out it was the kick-start that got the host Wheelersburg Pirates warmed up on a cold night — and off and literally running.
With Wheelersburg recovering an onside kick to open the second half, and the tide turning to the Pirates’ favor in the form of 242 second-half rushing yards, Saturday night’s much-anticipated rematch against the Minford Falcons went Wheelersburg’s way — with the Pirates going up and eventually holding on for a 28-23 Division V Region 19 quarterfinal victory inside Ed Miller Stadium in Wheelersburg.

With the win, the Pirates extended their OHSAA regional quarterfinal winning streak to seven, as this is the eighth consecutive season in which Wheelersburg has not only competed in the playoffs — but also has hosted a regional quarterfinal.
The third-seeded Pirates and sixth-seed Falcons both entered at 7-3, but — largely thanks to Wheelersburg’s 21-20 overtime triumph over the host Falcons (7-4) on Oct. 4 — the Pirates (8-3) got the home game.

And, for the second time in a season against Minford — and for the fifth time in Wheelersburg head coach Rob Woodward’s dozen campaigns — the Pirates defeated the same squad in the regular season…AND in the playoffs.
In fact, the first time that happened was Woodward’s first season as head coach — against Minford in 2008 (14-7 in regular season and 14-6 in regional quarterfinals).
But for the Pirates, the plan is simple in November.
Just keep playing.

“We just want to be playing in week 12 and here we are. No matter whom it is against,” said Woodward. “We have guys that make big-time plays in big-time playoff games. In all three phases. We’ll take it. It’s playoff football. You just want to still be playing. We had some miscues in the first half, but we made some adjustments and reached into our toolbox to find some things that we could do differently. Our coaches communicated those with our kids and we were able to make some successful changes in the second half. Minford come in here very prepared, threw everything at us, gave us a tremendous battle. Our kids did enough of what they needed to do to ensure we came away with the win. We did some things that we recognized that were effective enough for us. We’ll go back and fix the things that we need to fix, but we’re still playing next week.”

And, next Saturday night to be exact, the Pirates play undefeated Ridgewood in a Region 19 semifinal — at 7 p.m. at Lancaster’s Fulton Field.
Early on, though, it appeared as if Minford — making its first playoff appearance since 2012 — might be the one advancing, as the Falcons forced a pair of Pirate punts and a turnover on downs while driving 10 plays over five minutes and eight seconds in the first quarter to lead 3-0 at halftime.

Matthew Risner made a 27-yard field goal with 3:38 remaining in the opening period, and that kick held up — as Braxton Sammons missed a 32-yard attempt for Wheelersburg with six-and-a-half seconds left in the first half.

But special teams indeed was a theme, and Wheelersburg was just getting kick-started.

Sammons made all four of his extra-point attempts, and the Pirates presumably put the game out of reach at 28-10 with only 3:53 remaining — after Wheelersburg recovered a Sammons squib kick at the Minford 19-yard-line following the Falcons fumbling the return.

“Braxton (Sammons) made all four extra points, did a great job kicking off, and we recovered two onside kicks. We’ll take recovering that squib kick at the 20 in the fourth quarter. We’re always trying to take advantage of things when we can,” said Woodward. “Playoff football is often won on special teams.”
Is was on Saturday night.

Following the Pirates’ collectively and Sammons individually executing the onside kick to start the second half, Wheelersburg went off for 242 rushing yards on 27 carries— scoring all 28 points in a matter of 20 minutes.

The Pirates attempted only a single second-half pass, but definitely didn’t need to throw, especially when Makya Matthews and quarterback Evan Horsley had their wheels working in the cold just fine.

After 11 carries for 40 yards in the opening half, Matthews erupted for 164 yards and a hat trick of touchdowns on 14 rushes in the second.
His two short scoring runs of six and seven yards came exactly 52 seconds apart in the fourth quarter, making it 28-10 for Wheelersburg’s largest lead.
Matthews amounted a massive 204 yards on 25 carries, as Horsley had 14 total carries for 93 yards — with eight tries for 64 yards in the second half.
Horsley’s one-yard dive to cap a 10-play, 80-yard, four-minute and 17-second scoring drive put the Pirates in front for good at 14-10.

Hunter Ruby rushed five times for 24 yards, as three kneel-downs in the victory formation at the end of the game gave Wheelersburg 318 rushing yards on 47 carries.
Horsley completed half of his eight passes for 38 yards, but it was Wheelersburg’s second-half ground assault which wore the Falcons out.
“I’ve always commended our guys on their ability to continue to play for four quarters and their conditioning that they work themselves through. This week was no different. It showed tonight,” said Woodward. “Our guys just kept cranking it up and playing at a high level, which is what we want. We always tell our guys to win it in the fourth quarter. Even if you’re struggling throughout, just continue to push and persevere and win it in the fourth.”

But the Pirates had to get kick-started first, which was on the onside kick to open the third.


Sammons calmly kicked the ball, hovered over it almost as it rolled the necessary 10 yards before being touched, and then the Pirates fell on it at the Falcon 47-yard-line.
Minford coach Jesse Ruby said his Falcons actually “expected” the onsider, but “unfortunately, we just didn’t recover it”.
“They did a nice job of not touching it in the first 10 yards. It slow-rolled and it let them get there and get a good recovery, he said.

The Pirates took immediate advantage, as Matthews — on the same back-to-back running play-call — dashed up the middle for nine yards, before bursting for 38 yards to the end zone only 39 seconds in.

Sammons made the extra point for the 7-3 Wheelersburg lead, as the Pirates then answered a quick Minford score with their second touchdown that featured five carries apiece by Matthews and Horsley.

Minford, meanwhile, moved the ball as well — amassing 309 yards on 57 plays from scrimmage, with a balance of 35 rushes for 141 yards and Elijah Voglesong-Lewis completing 13-of-22 passes for 168 yards.

Ty Wiget, the Falcons’ senior standout running back who had 71 yards on 11 carries, had 41 of them on one run just a minute-and-a-half into the third quarter — from the Wheelersburg 44 all the way to the three.

Wiget then scored on the next play, as Minford’s 51-yard and 53-second scoring drive — with Risner’s extra-point kick — gave the Falcons a 10-7 advantage.
But other than that TD, and Voglesong-Lewis’ two short scoring runs within a minute of each other in the final two-and-a-half minutes to get the Falcons to within 28-23, Minford failed to put touchdowns on the board once inside the 25-yard line.

Coach Ruby said that Minford made mistakes that indeed impacted its performance.
“Self-inflicted mistakes, whether that’s a penalty or a missed assignment or a missed block or a missed tackle or taking a sack or dropping a catch, those situations certainly hurt,” he said. “They are just critical in a playoff atmosphere. It’s just unfortunate that we had a few. But every play matters. Offense, defense and special teams. It showed tonight in all three phases. Every play tonight, every play against Wheelersburg this year had a pivotal role at some point in time.”

In the first quarter, a Voglesong-Lewis short-screen pass completion to Bryson Ashley for 33 yards moved the Falcons to the Pirate 10, but a fumble on the exchange two plays later stalled the drive — and forced the Falcons to kick the Risner field goal.

A full 12 minutes later, Minford moved as deep as the Pirate 17, but a holding penalty pushed the Falcons back to the 28, as a Voglesong-Lewis pass on 4th-and-11 from the 23 into the end zone was dropped.

Both of those first-half drives were 10 plays, as — trailing 14-10 — the Falcons drove eight plays and as deep as the Wheelersburg 22.
But on 3rd-down-and-8, the Pirates sacked Voglesong-Lewis for a 13-yard loss, resulting in a punt which Minford misjudged in an attempt to down it near the goal-line.
Wheelersburg then went three-and-out, and a Risner return to the Pirate 46 set shop up for the Falcons at the outset of the fourth quarter.
Minford moved nine plays in three minutes and five seconds to the 14, but three straight incompletions — and a two-yard gain on 4th-down by Voglesong-Lewis — left it empty-handed again.
The Pirate defense did bend at times, but it definitely didn’t break.

“They got down towards the red zone, and we bowed our backs. We stopped them a couple times on fourth down, we forced a punt, we forced a field goal. Some huge defensive plays down in the red zone that we needed to make,” said Woodward. “Those all add up in a big playoff game like this.”
Voglesong-Lewis led the Falcons with 18 carries for 61 yards, as Risner recorded eight receptions for 106 yards — while rushing four times for 10.
Meanwhile, more of Matthews and Horsley had the Pirates up 21-10 with 4:45 remaining, as Wheelersburg drove 88 yards in only eight plays in four-and-a-half minutes with Matthews scoring from six yards out.

After the Pirates recovered the ensuing Sammons squib-kick kickoff, Ruby ran a jet sweep for 12 yards to the seven, as Matthews covered those final seven yards to make it 28-10 just 52 seconds later.

“We just mishandled that ball. We had a couple of guys with an opportunity to get it, and every time we jumped on the ball, it squirted out and their guys were able to make a play and get on it,” said Coach Ruby.

Minford made the final 3:39 interesting, though, as Risner’s return of 50 yards of the ensuing kickoff and pass completion to him for 21 set up Voglesong-Lewis’ six-yard run at the two-and-a-half minute mark.

Risner made the extra point for the 11-point deficit (28-17), as the Falcons then executed and recovered an onside kick of their own — and were right back at midfield.
Another Voglesong-Lewis completion to Risner, this one for 34 yards, quickly moved Minford to the Wheelersburg three-yard-line — as Voglesong-Lewis ran in again three plays later with a minute-and-a-half remaining.

But the Falcons failed on the two-point conversion pass attempt, and after another Falcon onside kick which Wheelersburg recovered, Minford’s comeback bid was officially over — as well as its comeback season.

“I thought our kids played hard and well throughout the whole game, but Wheelersburg made some key plays in the second half. When you are down 28-10 and there’s three minutes to go, you can see a team just easily lay down and give up. I was very proud of our kids for coming back and showing resiliency, making a big play, getting in the end zone, recovering an onside kick and getting back in the end zone again in that short amount of time,” said Coach Ruby. “We had two touchdowns there in a minute. Their effort all night was great.”
Minford started last season 6-0, then lost the final four games to fall out of playoff contention.

The Falcons were on a similar slide this year, having lost two of three after opening 5-0 — and sitting one spot out of the playoffs prior to their regular-season finale against Valley.
But Minford shut out Valley, and Waverly won at Oak Hill, thus propelling the Falcons into the Region 19 quarterfinals.
Minford will graduate and say goodbye to 15 seniors, as Ruby said the group was “very good”.

“These seniors were huge to this team this year. I’ve been head coach for four years, so I’ve had them all since they were freshmen,”he said. “Just to see their attitude and leadership and work ethic over the last four years get better and better, they will be missed. They’ve worked hard to try and improve our program. They’ve carried themselves so well throughout this whole season.”
For the Pirates, they play on against second-seeded Ridgewood, whom Woodward and Wheelersburg are quite familiar with.

“We’ve played them in the past. Coach (John) Slusser and I know one another well,” said the coach. “He has a quality good football team and program. It’s going to be a battle.”

* * *
Wheelersburg 28, Minford 23
Minford 3 0 7 13 — 23
Wheelersburg 0 0 14 14 — 28
M — Matthew Risner, 27-yard field goal, 3:38, 1st (3-0 M)
W — Makya Matthews, 38-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), 11:21, 3rd (7-3 W)
M — Ty Wiget, 3-yard run (Matthew Risner kick), 10:26, 3rd (10-7 M)
W — Evan Horsley, 1-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), 6:09, 3rd (14-10 W)
W — Makya Matthews, 6-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), 4:45, 4th (21-10 W)
W — Makya Matthews, 7-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), 3:53, 4th (28-10 W)
M — Elijah Voglesong-Lewis, 6-yard run (Matthew Risner kick), 2:33, 4th (28-17 W)
M — Elijah Voglesong-Lewis, 3-yard run (pass failed), 1:29, 4th (28-23 W)

Team Statistics
M W
First downs 15 17
Plays from scrimmage 57 55
Rushes-yards 35-141 47-318
Passing yards 168 38
Total yards 309 356
Cmp-Att-Int. 13-22-0 4-8-0
Fumbles-lost 3-1 0-0
Penalties-yards 6-56 8-90
Punts-average 2-36 3-31.7
——
Individual Leaders
RUSHING —Minford: Elijah Voglesong-Lewis 18-61 2TD, Ty Wiget 11-71, Matthew Risner 4-10, Timmy Walk 1-1, Team 1-(-2); Wheelersburg: Makya Matthews 25-204 3TD, Evan Horsley 14-93 TD, Hunter Ruby 5-24, Team 3-(-3)
PASSING — Minford: Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis 13-22-0-168; Wheelersburg: Evan Horsley 4-8-0-38
RECEIVING — Minford: Matthew Risner 8-106, Bryson Ashley 2-46, Drew Skaggs 2-11, Ty Wiget 1-5 ; Wheelersburg: Eli Swords 2-26, Makya Matthews 1-8, Hunter Ruby 1-4

Wheelersburg

# Offense CMP ATT INT PYDS TD ATT RUYDS TD REC REYDS TD
Evan Horsley48038014931000
Hunter Ruby000005240140
23Eli Swords000000002260
29Makya Matthews00000252043180
 Total4803804432144380
# Defense Sacks Tackles INT FGM FGA
 Total00000

Minford

# Offense CMP ATT INT PYDS TD ATT RUYDS TD REC REYDS TD
Tim Walk00000110000
2Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis13220168018612000
7Matthew Risner00000410081060
11Drew Skaggs000000002110
25Ty Wiget0000011710150
30Bryson Ashley000000002460
 Total132201680341432131680
# Defense Sacks Tackles INT FGM FGA
 Total00000

Details

Date Time League Season
November 9, 2019 7:00 pm Playoffs 2019

The rematch: Minford, ‘Burg meet again after epic OT duel

The rematch: Minford, ‘Burg meet again after epic OT duel

By Paul Boggs

Usually, the sequel is not as good — and just doesn’t live up to the hype — of the original.

For the visiting Minford Falcons and host Wheelersburg Pirates, let’s just hope they can buck that trend.

That’s because, for the second time this season, the two Scioto County and Southern Ohio Conference Division II rivals meet on the gridiron — only this time the encore takes place inside Ed Miller Stadium in Wheelersburg in a Division V, Region 19 quarterfinal tilt.

Both squads are 7-3, as kickoff is set for Saturday night at 7 p.m. — inside what should be an amped-up, and overflow, Ed Miller Stadium.

Wheelersburg, winning the outright SOC II championship for the sixth straight season, is hosting a regional quarterfinal for the eighth consecutive campaign.

The Orange and Black battled back from an uncharacteristic 2-3 start, which included three setbacks to teams with a combined staggering record of 28-2.
Also unusual for the tradition-rich and proud Pirate program was only having four regular-season home bouts, so a playoff affair for a fifth was a positive consequence.

“We’re just extremely proud of our senior group and what they’ve been able to accomplish this year in a gauntlet of a schedule. We knew it was going to be a tough 10-game stretch for us. As it has shaken out, we had the eighth-toughest schedule in Division V in the entire state. We lost to three teams with a combined record of 28-2. But our seniors have never doubted anything or wavered.

Head Coach Rob Woodard

Current Team
Wheelersburg
They just continue to work and strive to get themselves better. They’ve pushed the younger kids and the younger guys have stepped up in areas where we needed them,” said Wheelersburg coach Rob Woodward, in an interview on Tuesday. “In terms of the program, we knew what we were working towards this year. Our guys continue to battle with that. They won an SOC II title again, and earned a home playoff game again. With only four home games this year and how our schedule worked out, a home playoff game is definitely something I wanted to see for our seniors and our community.”

The Pirates captured the third seed in Region 19, while the Falcons — which are making their first playoff appearance since 2012 — swooped in for the sixth seed.
Minford fell from fourth to ninth in the Region 19 computer rankings following back-to-back defeats against Oak Hill and at Waverly, and needed not onlyto defeat Valley in the regular-season finale — but also an Oak Hill loss to Waverly.

The Falcons got both, as fourth-year head coach Jesse Ruby returns to the playoffs, as he served on the staff of multiple Minford playoff appearances from 2007 thru 2010 — and again in 2012.

“Our kids came out and accomplished a lot of the things we want to accomplish. We played really good football for a stretch in the first half of the year. There are always moments you look back in the season and wish you would have done better, but overall, I think the team is happy with how their season went,” said Ruby, in an interview on Tuesday. “Being back in the playoffs again is something we don’t take for granted. To get to this point, it doesn’t happen as frequently as you would like for it to. It really means something to make the playoffs in football. It’s important to play and defeat quality opponents, and play your best football each week.”
Speaking of 2012, it was the year before that when the Pirates last missed the postseason, as their now 31st appearance sits sixth for most all-time in Ohio High School Athletic Association history.

Wheelersburg is 38-28 all-time in the tournament, while Minford — making its ninth all-time appearance — is 3-8.
One of those eight losses was to Wheelersburg, as the two teams faced off in the regional quarterfinals of 2008 — with Wheelersburg winning 14-6.

Last season, the Pirates played Portsmouth West in both the regular-season and SOC II finale — and then again in the Region 19 quarterfinals.

For Woodward, winding down his 12th season as the Pirates’ head coach and 17th in the program, was asked about playing the same squad twice in one year.
It’s happened with Ironton twice in fact, in both 2014 and 2015, in which Wheelersburg won the playoff matchup 38-7 after defeating the Fighting Tigers in the annual season opener.

Now, it’s Minford’s two-times turn again.
“I always tell our guys control the things we can control, and that is putting ourselves in the best situation that we can. Whomever our opponent is, we’re going to have to go out and prepare for like anyone else,” said Woodward. “Our guys were just excited to get that home playoff game. Minford is going to be a tough opponent, and playoff football is playoff football. You have to be ready to go each and every week.”

It’s safe to say, though, that the Falcons are licking their chops for a second shot at the ‘Burg.
In their week-six meeting at Minford, as the then-undefeated Falcons welcomed Wheelersburg that was perhaps viewed as most vulnerable, the Pirates pulled off an epic 21-20 overtime triumph — stopping the Falcons’ two-point conversion attempt after Minford’s Matthew Risner reached out and made an acrobatic over-the-shoulder touchdown catch for the 21-20 deficit.
With that victory, Wheelersburg won its 22nd consecutive SOC II game — en route to another championship and a 26-game league winning streak which will carry over into next season.

It was an electric, standing-room-only, and super-hyped atmosphere at Minford High School, and it was a game in which every play pretty much mattered in the outcome.
It started on the game’s fourth play, in which Minford standout running back Ty Wiget — with wide-open running room — was five yards away from a 52-yard touchdown dart.

But Wheelersburg’s primary playmaker, Makya Matthews, made probably the Pirates’ play of the season — sprinting and chasing down Wiget at the 5-yard line and tomahawk-chopping the football loose and into the end zone.

The Pirates recovered for a touchback, essentially saving their season in the process.
Both teams hit for long touchdown passes to Matthews (76 yards in the the quarter) and Risner (59 yards in the third quarter), but a 67-yard scoring strike to Risner from Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis was negated on a holding penalty.

Ruby said the mistakes Minford made against the Pirates pertained not to scheme, but to execution.

Head Coach Jesse Ruby

Current Team
Minford
“I felt we played very well, but there were little things in terms of a linebacker misreading a key, or the quarterback missing a read on a pass, it’s those little things. Not anything with particular play calls or if we would have ran a different defensive look,” said the coach. “I think so much of it was an execution thing. Overall, I thought our gameplan and the way our kids executed that was pretty good. Just the little things of those issues.”

Of course, not getting the two-point conversion attempt — which would have given Minford its first win over Wheelersburg since 2009 — still stings with the Falcons to this very day.

Thus, Minford’s motivation for a rematch goes without saying.

“The initial sting of losing that night bothered our kids. But reflecting back at it, I felt like our kids felt pretty good about the way they played that game. They definitely would love to have an opportunity to do it again. To see if they can make it a different result,” said Ruby. “I think they are very excited about the situation we have.”
But while the Falcons have whom they want, the Pirates are indeed a different team than from six weeks ago.
It was in that game, in fact, in which Wheelersburg went with senior Evan Horsley at quarterback for good — as he replaced an ineffective Aaron Masters in the second quarter.

Horsley hooked up with Matthews for a 76-yard touchdown pass for a 7-0 Pirate lead, as Horsley had three completions on seven attempts that night — while rushing for 92 yards on 14 carries.

Since then, the Pirates have scored at least 41 points in their final four games — including 55 at Oak Hill, as Horsley has rushed for 429 yards and five TDs on 76 carries.

As a passer, he has completed 31-of-53 for 58-percent, amassing 601 yards and nine scores.
Woodward said Horsley has evolved the Pirate offense from a simpler package of plays against the Falcons until now, as these Pirates are more run-oriented.
In Wheelersburg’s 42-28 triumph over Waverly, Matthews carried 29 times for 267 yards and a hat trick of scores — while wide receiver Hunter Ruby ran several jet sweeps.
“At that time (Minford game), we were evaluating things, and knew what Evan (Horsley) could bring to the table,” said Woodward. “We felt we needed to make that switch at that time. We were able to utilize a small set of plays that we had repped with him there, but since that time, we’ve really been able to expand on what we’re able to do. Evan brings such a leadership and commanding presence at the quarterback position. He is a threat to run, he recognizes how plays are meant to be executed and where to go with the football. And if it doesn’t, he does a great job of checking down and improvising and continuing to make sure positive yards are gained on a given play. That offensive consistency has taken pressure off our defense, allowing them to be more attacking and aggressive, which is definitely what we strive to be and play better at.”

Coach Ruby concurred that Horsley brings a greater running element to the Pirate offense.

“Evan Horsley is such a good runner. Now he has the ball in his hands every play. It just makes them more dynamic in the way they can attack you, given his skill sets,” he said. “His ability to run the ball, especially in the middle, off a fake to Matthews running outside or things of that nature really poses a threat to a defense. Our kids have to be able to read their assignment and not get caught looking in the backfield.”

The Pirates have big-play ability as do the fast Falcons, who can quickly strike with the likes of Vogelsong-Lewis, Wiget, Risner and Drew Skaggs.

Wiget rushed 25 times for 143 yards against Wheelersburg, while Vogelsong-Lewis completed 8-of-12 passes for 143 yards.

For the season, Vogelsong-Lewis has thrown for 1,429 yards and 16 scores on 82-of-151, while rushing for 708 and seven TDs on 114 carries.

Wiget has amassed 1,358 yards and 18 touchdowns on 197 attempts, while catching 16 passes for 156 yards out of the backfield.

Risner with 557 yards and seven touchdowns and Skaggs with 467 yards and six scores have 25 receptions apiece.

“They are spreading the ball around to more guys, so we have to make sure we account for them, but we know that Ty Wiget and (Elijah) Vogelsong-Lewis are threats to score on any given play,” said Woodward. “They have a lot of speed that we are well-aware of.”
But Ruby believes better ball control against Wheelersburg “would help” his offense out.

“We have been a big-strike offense. We’ve always had the ability to score from anywhere on the field with our speed and in a variety of ways,” he said. “But we have to improve on being able to sustain drives and convert on third down, and have the mentality that we need to get four yards on every play and not 50. So we can continue to move the chains and eat up some of the clock. Wheelersburg is similar to us in that they have a lot of fast players, they can score very quickly, and they have big-play potential. If you can limit their possessions, it can work to your advantage.”

Although, while possessions may or may not be limited, it’s highly likely there will be more of unlimited hype.
After all, the two schools are an estimated 15 minutes apart — and play each other once-a-year in already a high-stakes regular-season match.

Throw in Saturday night being a playoff game…and we can only hope that the sequel is better than the original.
“It’s a playoff game, plus it’s a game in which the first meeting was decided by one point in overtime. People in and around the area want to see how this game is going to go again,” said Ruby. “It’s hard for me to express to our players how big I think this game is going to be. If you thought the first game was big, this one will be twice as much.”

And, all that HAS to happen is the winning team be at least one point better than the losing club.
“Even if it’s one point again, the key focus we have is to have fun playing the game, feed off of each other’s energy, and go out and win in advance. In the playoffs, you have to do everything you can to execute and do the things you need to do, regardless of the opponent. Everybody plays in the playoffs with a heightened energy, with a heightened level of play,” said Woodward. “We have to understand that we’ve got five rungs on the ladder that we want to work to climb. Our guys are doing a great job of preparing for that this week.”

Join the discussion here

Pirates win wild shootout with Waverly

Results

Team1234TOutcome
Wheelersburg7147742Win
Waverly777728Loss

 

Pirates win wild shootout with Waverly

By Paul Boggs

Photo’s by Ruth Boll

WHEELERSBURG — For anything Waverly’s Payton Shoemaker can do — and did on Friday night — Wheelersburg’s Makya Matthews can certainly do too.

And — in fact — Matthews joined Evan Horsley, Hunter Ruby and the Pirates’ offensive line in racing past the visiting Tigers, and thus took over inside track position towards another outright Southern Ohio Conference Division II championship.

Matthews mustered an estimated 300 all-purpose yards, Wheelersburg rushed for 457 as a team, and the Pirates withstood Shoemaker’s big plays en route to capturing a critical 42-28 victory inside an electric — and even overflow — Ed Miller Stadium in Wheelersburg.

That’s correct.

While Waverly’s playmaker Shoemaker — the Tigers’ all-Ohio Division IV running back — showed off in the form of 202 rushing yards and all four of the Tigers’ touchdowns, the Pirates put it together in a variety of ways while spreading around the wealth.

With the victory, the Pirates are now 5-3 while Waverly dipped to 6-2 — as both squads entered Ed Miller Stadium with identical 2-0 SOC II records.

It was a total team triumph for Wheelersburg, which won its third consecutive contest — and extended a pair of impressive streaks.

The five-time defending division champion Pirates took a gigantic step, or two, towards their sixth straight title — winning their 24th straight SOC II tilt dating back to this time back in 2013.

In addition, Wheelersburg won over Waverly again — a now 13-game stretch which dates back to the Tigers’ two victories in 2005 and 2006.

Wheelersburg coach Rob Woodward has headed up the Pirates for now a dozen meetings with Waverly, and only Friday’s contest — along with the 11-point outcome (24-13 Wheelersburg win) three years ago — have been within two touchdowns.

But at least this one lived up to the amped-up build-up, as most observers around Southeastern Ohio had obviously dubbed the matchup as the region’s “game of the week”.

With Wheelersburg’s pedigree, however, it seems like every week is that way with the tradition-rich Pirates.

The trio of teams which have defeated them this season are a combined — and staggering — 22-2, as the Orange and Black overcame early-season injuries and adversity to successfully save their season and right their ship.

As of early Saturday morning, Wheelersburg “controls its own destiny” towards a Division V, Region 19 playoff berth.

“Our kids understand how hard we’ve worked. We had such a tough battle early on in the year, but all it did was strengthen us and exposed things that we needed to work on as a coaching staff and do better as a team. It put guys in pressure situations, and we’ve tried to work and figure out what the best scenarios are of the personnel that we have,” said Woodward. “We’re playing our best football right now at the end of the year.”

But, the first goal against Waverly was conquering the club which many observers believed was the one most likely to unseat the Pirates atop the SOC II.

With Shoemaker touching the football, he can score on any given snap — which he did twice on Friday night with touchdown dashes of 75 yards in the second quarter and again from 40 yards midway through the third.

Of the Tigers’ 250 total carries this season, the five-foot nine-inch 155-pound senior Shoemaker now has 189 — while rushing for 1,668 yards and 23 touchdowns, which is good enough for almost nine yards per tote.

He also tallied two short TD plunges — from a yard and three yards out — accounting for 24 of the Tigers’ 28 points, with all-Ohio placekicker Grayson Diener drilling all four of his extra-point kicks.

But only one player could, and would, outdo Shoemaker — that being the Pirates’ Matthews.

Matthews, often on jet sweep plays or inside isolation calls, managed a healthy 29 carries for a hefty 267 rushing yards — and had a hat trick of touchdowns.

He also caught two passes for 25 yards, and would have added more return yards — had he not fumbled a Diener punt or had Diener not sent three kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.

His short seven-yard run put the Pirates ahead 14-7 just a minute and 47 seconds into the second quarter, and capped a 10-play, 65-yard, four-minute and 24-second scoring drive — which was kept alive by a Waverly roughing-the-punter penalty.

After Shoemaker sprinted for his 75-jaunt on the next play from scrimmage that spanned exactly 19 seconds, Matthews immediately answered — taking a straight isolation up the middle for 49 yards to make it 21-14 at the 7:16 mark.

That drive last just two minutes and 20 seconds, and covered a quick 80 yards in only seven plays.

His third and final touchdown, with only a minute-and-a-half remaining, was a 42-yard burst in which he broke free — and occurred as Wheelersburg was basically attempting to run out the clock with a 35-28 lead.

Matthews’ final 42 yards occurred on the Pirates’ 64th play from scrimmage, and gave them 457 rushing yards with 27 first downs, as Horsley hammered out 94 yards on 17 totes from the quarterback position — and playing almost the entire time on an injured and taped-up ankle.

“They (Pirates) had some formations that we knew and we had practiced, but sometimes we didn’t get aligned right. And the kids sometimes don’t get to practice that speed. Matthews is fast, and sometimes you don’t get as a realistic look as maybe you need to,” said Waverly coach Chris Crabtree. “It wasn’t anything we didn’t see or didn’t expect, but at times, we probably didn’t tackle as well we needed to. Matthews probably got an extra few yards every time we did tackle him. That’s a credit to him being a strong and fast kid, but we just couldn’t get off the field when we needed to.”

Horsley, who has quarterbacked the Pirates for the past two-and-a-half games, also completed 7-of-12 passes for 91 yards — with Ruby making five receptions for 66 yards while rushing for 72 on a dozen attempts.

“Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games,” said Woodward of his top trio from Friday night. “Makya Matthews and Hunter Ruby were a great one-two punch, and Evan Horsley had to battle through getting banged up early on, and what a warrior he was out there. But he takes command of our offense. He still was able to run the ball that much and do the job that he did. All three of them wanted to make sure they played and battled through this game and they did that. But our best our defense was our offense and our offensive line. Our backs ran hard and our line blocked well. That was the best performance our offense put together tonight.”

Especially in the second half, when Woodward and Wheelersburg went ball-control mode, attempting to keep Shoemaker — who already had rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns on 15 first-half carries — off the field.

The Pirates took the second-half kickoff and played keep-away, marching 80 yards in 11 plays and consuming five minutes and seven seconds off the third-quarter clock.

The Pirates, with all 11 plays coming on the ground, picked up five first downs — as Carson Williams went in from five yards out to finally double the lead to 28-14 at the 6:53 mark.

Sure enough, Shoemaker scored only a minute and 11 seconds later — with his 40-yard dash that followed five plays.

But the Pirates then crafted yet another impressive 80-yard scoring march — this one even more accomplished, in the form of 13 plays and devouring exactly six minutes and 53 seconds.

Ruby ran in from three yards out just 1:11 into the fourth quarter — making it a two-score game again at 35-21.

“That’s (ball control) what we really wanted to do the entire game,” said Woodward. “Take chances when we could, but make sure that if it took a few plays to get the chains moving, then that’s okay. That keeps a very explosive Shoemaker off the field.”

But right on cue, the Tigers and Shoemaker wasted little time to answer — 40 seconds in fact following a 49-yard, three-play drive.

Waverly quarterback Haydn’ Shanks, who was limited with his mobility and playing on an injured knee, still completed nine of his 17 passes for 162 yards — including a half-dozen to Will Futhey, whose deep 45-yard reception following a false-start penalty put the Tigers in business at the Wheelersburg 9-yard-line.

That was Waverly’s longest pass play, as Futhey finished with six catches for 126 yards, including his final two receptions of 27 and 24.

Shoemaker covered the final nine yards of that Tiger series — scoring from three to make it 35-28 with 10:07 remaining.

However, Waverly wouldn’t score again — and when it needed to the most.

The Pirates moved to the red zone again in only eight plays and 43 yards, but once again and more importantly controlled the clock — this time holding the football for five-and-a-half minutes.

But a 41-yard field goal attempt by Braxton Sammons, who successfully converted all six of his extra-point kicks, missed just short and to the right with 4:37 to go.

The Tigers tried to hurry-up with their no-huddle offense and tie, but they turned the ball over on downs at midfield, following back-to-back sacks of Shanks that lost 10 yards to the Waverly 48 — and an incomplete pass on fourth down.

On that particular possession, Shoemaker carried just once for six yards.

“We just didn’t convert on offense there. We didn’t hit it all on all cylinders like we needed to do at times,” said Crabtree.

Matthews then put the contest on ice, taking his final carry his 42 yards to the house to make it 42-28 with Sammons’ sixth and final extra-point boot.

To add added injury to insult, the Pirates forced three more Shanks incompletions on the Tigers’ final series that covered eight plays and only a minute between the 30-yard-lines, but they sacked Shanks twice more — and the junior signal-caller had to be assisted off the field following the second one.

Crabtree said he expects Shanks “to be okay”.

“He obviously has an injury on that knee, and he got hit from behind on that last play and went down on that knee. He got up and came off the field, and right now, he’s moving around pretty good,” said the coach. “It’s been week-to-week for him so we’ll have to see how it goes, but I think he will be fine.”

Both the very end, and the very beginning of the game, were disastrous for the Tigers.

That’s because Shoemaker fumbled on the game’s first play, and Wheelersburg recovered at the Waverly 33.

Horsley hit Matthews for 16 yards to the Tiger 23, then two plays later, found Ruby with a nice touch pass from 19 yards out to get the Pirates on the scoreboard just two minutes and 19 seconds in.

“With an explosive offense like what Waverly has, that turnover we turned into points was an extra possession for us that we weren’t counting on,” said Woodward. “That was good.”

Crabtree admitted that mistakes and subsequent field position played a major role, as the Tigers trailed from opening kickoff until the final whistle.

“In that first half, we were our own worst enemy. We probably beat ourselves more than they did,” he said. “We had that turnover, we had the roughing penalty that led to their second touchdown. We talked about whomever makes the least mistakes is going to come out on top. We made a few more than they did. Ultimately, those things are going to come back and get you when you play against really good teams. But I am proud of my kids for coming out and competing and playing hard. It would have been easy for them to hang their heads and back down after that first play, but they didn’t.”

Waverly will host fellow 6-2 Minford next week, as the Oak Hill Oaks upset the host Falcons on Friday night, kicking a last-second field goal to win 17-14.

Wheelersburg, which played at Ed Miller Stadium for the first time in a month, will return to the road — and return to SOC II action — at Valley next week.

A win over the Indians will lock up at least a share of the Pirates’ sixth straight SOC II title.

“Our first goal is to win the SOC. Tonight, we took the next step we needed to take,” said Woodward. “We will work towards the next step next week.”

* * *

Waverly 7 7 7 7 — 28

Wheelersburg 7 14 7 14— 42

WBurg — Hunter Ruby, 19-yard pass from Evan Horsley (Braxton Sammons kick), 9:41, 1st (7-0 WBurg)

Wave — Payton Shoemaker, 1-yard run (Grayson Diener kick), 2:41, 1st (7-7 tie)

WBurg — Makya Matthews, 7-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), 10:13, 2nd (14-7 WBurg)

Wave — Payton Shoemaker, 75-yard run (Grayson Diener kick), 9:48 2nd (14-14 tie)

WBurg — Makya Matthews, 49-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), 7:11, 2nd (21-14 WBurg)

WBurg — Carson Williams, 5-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), 6:33, 3rd (28-14 WBurg)

Wave — Payton Shoemaker, 40-yard run (Grayson Diener kick), 5:42, 3rd (28-21 WBurg)

WBurg — Hunter Ruby, 3-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), 10:49, 4th (35-21 WBurg)

Wave — Payton Shoemaker, 3-yard run (Grayson Diener kick), 10:07, 4th (35-28 Wburg)

WBurg — Makya Matthews, 42-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), 1:33, 4th (42-28 Wburg)

Team Statistics

Wave WBurg

First Downs 13 27

Scrimmage Plays 43 77

Rushes-Yards 25-177 64-457

Passing Yards 162 91

Total Yards 339 548

Cmp-Att-Int 9-18-0 7-13-2

Fumbles-Lost 2-1 2-0

Penalties-Yards 6-40 8-48

Punts-Average 3-40.3 1-32

——

Individual Leaders

RUSHING —Waverly: Payton Shoemaker 21-202 4TD, Haydn’ Shanks 4-(-25); Wheelersburg: Makya Matthews 29-267 3TD, Evan Horsley 17-94, Hunter Ruby 12-72 TD, Carson Williams 5-15 TD, Aaron Masters 1-9

PASSING — Waverly: Haydn’ Shanks 9-17-0-162, Wade Futhey 0-1-0-0; Wheelersburg: Evan Horsley 7-12-1-91 TD, Makya Matthews 0-1-1-0

RECEIVING — Waverly: Will Futhey 6-126, Phoenix Wolf 2-9, Mark Stulley 1-27; Wheelersburg: Hunter Ruby 5-66 TD, Makya Matthews 2-25

Wheelersburg

# Offense CMP ATT INT PYDS TD ATT RUYDS TD REC REYDS TD
Evan Horsley7121911171000000
Hunter Ruby00000168504470
Carson Williams00000230000
14Aaron Masters00000190000
20Gage Adkins000000001191
29Makya Matthews011003126932250
 Total71329116746637911
# Defense Sacks Tackles INT FGM FGA
 Total00000

Waverly

# Offense CMP ATT INT PYDS TD ATT RUYDS TD REC REYDS TD
1Payton Shoemaker00000212014000
6Will Futhey0000000061190
10Mark Stulley000000001270
13Haydn Shanks917015504-250000
15Wade Futhey01000000000
23Phoenix Wolf00000000290
 Total9180155025176491550
# Defense Sacks Tackles INT FGM FGA
 Total00000

Details

Date Time League Season
October 18, 2019 7:00 pm SEO 2019

Venue

Wheelersburg

Tigers, Pirates meet in huge SE Ohio showdown

Tigers, Pirates meet in huge SE Ohio showdown

Wheelersburg vs Waverly

By PAUL BOGGS

Photo’s by Ruth Boll

If you believe a lot of what you hear, then this season is surely the Waverly Tigers’ best opportunity – maybe ever – at a victory against the Wheelersburg Pirates.

 

But also, if you believe what you actually see, then you can’t miss the fact that these Pirates are perhaps peaking at exactly the perfect time.

 

Indeed, the inside track to the 2019 Southern Ohio Conference Division II  championship – and a truckload of OHSAA playoff computer points – awaits the winner on Friday night, as the Tigers travel to Wheelersburg for what has to be the most amped and hyped-up matchup between these two proud programs in recent memory.

One thing is for sure – it’s gotta be considered “the game of the week” throughout all of Southeastern Ohio.

 

Kickoff inside what should be an electric – and even overflow – Ed Miller Stadium in Wheelersburg is set for 7 p.m.

The Tigers are 6-1 while the Pirates are 4-3, but Wheelersburg has certainly righted its ship after an 0-2 and 2-3 start – while Waverly rides a four-game winning streak.

 

Both squads are 2-0 in the SOC II, but the Pirates carry with them a now 23-game division win streak into Friday night.

 

And don’t worry about that excess of Orange and Black, because basically everyone inside Ed Miller Stadium – minus the obvious neutral observers – will be donning those colors.

 

Yeah, you can say this is a big ballgame in the late stages of the season – especially when both clubs “control their own destiny” towards a state playoff berth.

 

Of course, both coaches – in interviews over the telephone this week – tried to emphasize the importance of not blowing the buildup out of proper proportion.

“We know who we are playing this week, but whether it is Wheelersburg this week or Minford next week or Oak Hill in week 10, we still have to go out and execute a gameplan to win the game,” said Waverly coach Chris Crabtree. “You can’t get all caught up and lost in who we are playing. We just need to do what we have to do, and be confident that we will go down there and have success. (Wheelersburg coach) Rob (Woodward) and his staff always do a tremendous job from one year to the next there, and they don’t rebuild, they just reload. They will try to get the ball in Makya Matthews’ hands and we know they play great defense. It’s still going to come down for us and our ability to not make mistakes, make plays on offense and be able to tackle well in space on defense.”

 

Wheelersburg coach Rob Woodward was also asked about the SOC II championship chase – and the playoff push that this week’s bout brings about.

“Those things of course exist, but all we can do is control the things we can control on the field when playing Waverly this week,” he said. “The playoff points and how those shake out, we can’t worry about that. We just have to focus on a good week of practice and preparation – both physically and mentally – for a good Waverly team that is coming in here on Friday with every intention of beating us. They have a lot of good athletes, a lot of speed, a lot of weapons who are dangerous when the football is their hands. Our kids know what’s at stake, but they also know they need to focus on the things we need to work on to hopefully help us get another win.”

 

One thing that is different for the Pirates this week – they are finally back in the friendly confines of Ed Miller Stadium.

 

They’ve been on the road for the past month, and won three of four games to reverse the early-season slide, including that epic SOC II opener in overtime (21-20) at Minford two weeks ago.

 

“It is nice to be back at home, where we’ve been on the road for a while,” said Woodward. “Ed Miller Stadium should be rocking and that should only help elevate our kids’ play. There is always a lot of energy there that our kids feed off of. It’s exciting to be home.”

 

However, what Wheelersburg did discover during its lengthy road show was that Evan Horsley is indeed its starting quarterback.

 

#
Name
Evan Horsley
Current Team
Wheelersburg
Leagues
SEO, SOC2
Seasons
2019
Horsley (5-10, 205, Sr.) took over under center in the second quarter of the Minford game, and promptly completed a 76-yard touchdown pass to Pirate primary playmaker Makya Matthews.

 

In the second half and overtime against the Falcons, he engineered two go-ahead scoring drives – and rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.

 

Last week, he followed that up at Oak Hill by completing 7-of-9 passes for 150 yards – three of which went to Matthews for 82.

 

Horsley hit Matthews for a 44-yard scoring strike in the second stanza, after connecting with Hunter Ruby for a 50-yard touchdown in the opening quarter.

 

Horsley also rushed four times for 56 yards, scoring on three of them, including from 43 yards out in the second period.

 

Woodward said Horsley was last a regular quarterback as a freshman backup, but that injuries and other circumstances made the coaching staff decide that he was the best young man for the job.

 

“The key for us offensively has been taking care of the football, and Evan (Horsley) has been making good decisions,” said the coach. “Evan can make plays throwing the ball, but when the passing play breaks down, he knows to take off and use his feet. But most importantly, he takes good care of the football for us. We worked him into the rotation with the injuries we had to other guys at the start of the year, and he has handled it with such maturity.”

 

Crabtree said Horsley playing quarterback only adds to an already multi-dimensional and complex Pirate offense that is difficult to slow down – let alone stop.

 

“They throw so much at you. Especially in different formations and packages. They try to ouflank you with so many formations and plays. Now you have Horsley who gives them another dimension of running the ball from the quarterback position,” said Crabtree. “Then of course Matthews is a playmaker like we haven’t seen. Whether they line him up at running back, at wide receiver, in motion, in the slot, they are going find ways to get him the ball. They will take their shots downfield too, because they have other good receivers as well.”

 

Crabtree contends that his Tigers must be physical up front with Wheelersburg, but  must also be able to tackle the likes of Matthews in space – and eliminate the Pirates’ playmaking ability.

 

“They can burn you with big plays, especially Makya (Matthews),” he said. “We can’t let them hit us for so many big plays like they have the capability to do so. We need to play physical, but we also need to play fast, and part of that is getting to the football and making tackles.”

#
29
Name
Makya Matthews
Current Team
Wheelersburg
Leagues
SEO, SOC2
Seasons
2019

Meanwhile, Woodward said the Tigers have their own playmaker in running back and kick returner Payton Shoemaker.

 

Of the Tigers’ 225 total carries this season, Shoemaker (5-9, 155, Sr.) has 168 – while rushing for 1,466 yards and 19 touchdowns, which is good for almost nine yards per tote.

#
1
Name
Payton Shoemaker
Position
2020
Height
5-09
Weight
155
Current Team
Waverly
Leagues
SEO, SOC2
Seasons
2019

He has also returned seven punts for 63 yards, and 10 kickoffs for 224.

 

His all-purpose yardage totals nearly 1,900 (1,861 yards), which is an average of 266 yards per game.

 

While Waverly operates out of the spread-the-field attack – and quarterback Haydn’ Shanks has completed 74-of-118 passes for 1,120 yards and 13 touchdowns with only one interception – it is indeed Shoemaker that has Woodward most concerned.

#
13
Name
Haydn Shanks
Position
2021
Height
6-03
Weight
190
Current Team
Waverly
Leagues
SEO, SOC2
Seasons
2019

“Payton Shoemaker is the key to their offense, and he is really a threat to score at any time,” he said. “They have the (Haydn’) Shanks kid at quarterback and two really good receivers in (Phoenix) Wolf and (Will) Futhey, but Shoemaker’s running ability sets up their passing game. They like to use their athletes and spread the ball around, but it starts first with Shoemaker, so we need to account for him and make sure we are getting guys around him.”

 

With the exception of their 41-14 week-three four-turnover and injury-riddled loss against Unioto, the Tigers have scored at least 30 points in every game, including a second-highest for season-high 48 against Amanda-Clearcreek.

 

Waverly remains, in fact, the 6-1 Aces’ only defeat for the year.

 

Amanda-Clearcreek is in Wheelersburg’s playoff region – Region 19 of Division V – as the Pirates (12.0071 computer points average) improved to third following their 55-0 shutout at Oak Hill.

 

Meanwhile, Waverly (13.1286) is third in Region 15 of Division IV – after three years of qualifying for the playoffs in the Cincinnati-heavy Region 16.

 

The Tigers, should they make the postseason again, should compete better against teams closer to this side of U.S. Route 23.

 

Waverly does, however, need to start competing much better against the Pirates, which have won every meeting in this series since 2007 – by a whopping scoring average of 43-8 that includes four shutouts.

 

In fact, last year (Wheelersburg won 49-0 in 2018) was one of those.

 

Crabtree contends that this season can be different against the Pirates.

 

And, on paper, it appears to be the Tigers’ best opportunity in at least a decade-and-a-half.

 

“We have a lot of experience, and I think being in this situation before where we haven’t performed as well against Wheelersburg has helped us learn for this year,” said Crabtree. “We know what Wheelersburg is and has been, and it’s always a very tough place to play. But our kids are going in there confident that if we take care of the football, we execute our gameplan and we make the plays we need to make, we will give ourselves a chance.”

For the Pirates, it’s just another important encounter for a tradition-rich program that has seen so many – especially in the SOC II.

 

“Our kids’ first goal is to win the league, and we know we get everybody’s best shot” said Woodward. “We prepare physically and mentally for this game like any other. We absolutely respect every opponent we play, and we do all the things from the start of the week until the end of the week to get us ready to play on Friday.”

 

Week 7 Roundup Preview: Wheelersburg @ Oak Hill, Wellston @ Nelsonville-York, Jackson @ Washington C.H.

Key games involve Jackson County clubs

 

By PAUL BOGGS

Photos by Ruth Boll,

Oak Hill vs Wheelersburg

So a lingering question for the Wheelersburg Pirates this week has been are they “back”?

 

What exactly are these Pirates back from probably depends upon subjective perspective, but – truth be told – Wheelersburg was never gone if you are referring to the Southern Ohio Conference Division II championship chase.

 

The Pirates did begin the season an uncharacteristic 2-3, but do remember they graduated the most successful senior class in school history – and lost to three teams with a current combined record of 16-2.

Still, they entered SOC II competition as the consensus division favorite, and captured the gigantic conference opener last week with their colossal 21-20 overtime triumph at Minford.

 

It was the second such one-point overtime win for Wheelersburg, with 5-1 Ashland (34-33) being the other, as – with Minford now 5-1 – the Pirates picked up enough playoff points to vault them all the way to fifth in the OHSAA Division V Region 19 computer ratings.

 

This week, Wheelersburg invades Oak Hill, which is also 3-3 and just outside the Region 19 top-10 in 11th.

That matchup, no longer a non-league one, is now an SOC II encounter – and even a bit better one than originally anticipated in say the preseason.

 

Kickoff on Friday night inside sparkling Davis Stadium in Oak Hill is set for 7 p.m.

 

After a 20-point (35-15) mistake-filled loss at Jackson, the Pirates put together an effort for the ages in winning at Minford – and extending their SOC II win streak to 22 games.

 

“It was such a great step forward for us last week. We were finally at full strength health-wise for the first time all season, and we had a great week of preparation and practice,” said Wheelersburg coach Rob Woodward. “We’ve overcome a lot of adversity and injuries already this year, we’ve played a great schedule to get us ready for the SOC II, and we keep getting better in all three phases.”

The Oaks opened SOC II action at injury-riddled Valley, and escaped the Indians’ lair with a 21-16 victory – their second consecutive of the season.

 

Wheelersburg has dominated the series against the Oaks, who were members of the SOC I -and held a strangle-hold upon that division for the past decade.

 

The Pirates are another heavy favorite for a victory on Friday, but should they saddle themselves with more penalties and even turnovers, then Oak Hill has the opportunity at an upset.

 

The Oaks are primarily a run-oriented unit, while Wheelersburg enjoyed success both running and throwing a week ago.

Oak Hill Rushing

PlayerPositionATTRUYDSTD
Triston Diltz2020189105812
Keaton Potter20201066436
Noah Donley2020934424
Nate Clutters202310580
Cameron Kerns20219370

“I’m not sure what the expectation was for Oak Hill entering the year, but they’ve won a couple of big games in the last two weeks and we certainly expect them to give us another kind of challenge,” said Woodward. “At some point, we figured Oak Hill would move up to the SOC II, so that’s a big reason why we kept them on the schedule. They have shown an ability to run the football. Coach (Paul) Carver has done a good job in his first year there.”

 

 

Wellston at Nelsonville-York

Nelsonville-York vs Wellston

Speaking of good first years, new coach Mike Smith has the Wellston Golden Rockets off to their best start since a 6-1 beginning in 2004, which was the first season of two (also 2006) in which they qualified for the state playoffs.

 

The Golden Rockets opened that season with a loss to Jackson, ran off six straight victories, and then fell short at Nelsonville-York (13-8), which went on to capture the Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division championship.

 

Fast forward 15 years, and the Golden Rockets return to Buckeye country having began this campaign at 5-1 – on a five-game winning streak following their final matchup against undefeated Jackson.

 

Wellston is 2-0 in the TVC-Ohio with two shutouts – an 8-0 blanking at Alexander and a 42-0 blowout of River Valley.

 

But, beginning with the Buckeyes on Friday night, the Golden Rockets really get into the meat of their schedule, as Athens – the defending division champion – comes calling next week, with archrival Vinton County looming soon.

 

Nelsonville-York – having lost to two of the top Division VI programs in all of Ohio in undefeateds Trimble and Fort Frye – has recovered nicely with four straight wins, including two lopsided ones over River Valley and Meigs in the TVC-Ohio.

RankPlayerPositionRECREYDSTD
1Brandon Phillips2021273153
2Keegan Wilburn2020233655
3Ethan Gail2021223013
4Drew Carter202292183
5Austin Thrapp202081252

The winner will, along with expected Athens, improve to 3-0 in the division.

Kickoff inside historic Boston Field in Nelsonville is set for 7:30 p.m.

 

#
3
Name
Keegan Wilburn
Position
2020
Current Team
Nelsonville-York
Leagues
SEO, TVC-Ohio
Seasons
2019
The Buckeyes sport senior running Keegan Wilburn – an Ohio University commit and the reigning Division VI Offensive Player of the Year.

 

Wilburn, a threat to score at any time he touches the football, has rushed for 475 yards and seven touchdowns on 35 carries – while catching 18 passes for 242 yards and four scores.

 

When Wilburn gains yardage, his average is a whopping 13-and-a-half yards per play.

 

He also has 94 receiving yards for 811 all-purpose.

 

#
11
Name
Rylan Molihan
Position
2020
Current Team
Wellston
Leagues
SEO, TVC-Ohio
Seasons
2019
Wellston senior Rylan Molihan is the closest thing to Wilburn for the Rockets, as he has rushed for 712 yards and eight touchdowns on 87 carries, while making six receptions for 72 yards and one TD.

 

While Nelsonville-York last won the TVC-Ohio in back-to-back falls of 2016 and 2017, it’s been since back-to-back seasons of 2001 and 2002 when Wellston last won its only league championships.

#
4
Name
Mikey Seel
Position
2020
Current Team
Nelsonville-York
Leagues
SEO, TVC-Ohio
Seasons
2019

It’s also a massive contest involving OHSAA computer points, as the Buckeyes are 10th in Division VI Region 21, while Wellston is eighth in Division V Region 19.

The top eight teams in each region qualify for the playoffs – with the top four squads earning first-round home bouts.

 

 

Jackson at Washington Court House

Miami Trace vs Jackson

The Jackson Ironmen are actually at work with trying to make this season their seventh undefeated in school history.

 

In fact, under 11-year head coach Andy Hall, the Red and White went 10-0 in the regular season in 2011 and 2014 – so Hall has a chance at three for a decade.

The others were in 1996, 1961, 1954 and clear back during the Great Depression days in 1932.

 

Oh, but these Ironmen are anything but depressed, as they begin a three-game road stretch with what’s suddenly become an interesting encounter with Washington Court House.

 

The Blue Lions are 4-2, and aim to upset the visiting and undefeated Ironmen on Friday night at 7 p.m.

RankPlayerPositionRECREYDSTDFGA
1Eli Lynch20206675990
2Jerome Mack20202937980
3Calum Brown20232236230
4Jamie Mccane20201721440
5A.J. Dallmayer202386010

Jackson is the defending Frontier Athletic Conference champion with Hillsboro, but the Indians are only 3-3  – and the Ironmen are the overwhelming conference favorite.

But the Ironmen – despite key victories last week by Wellston, Logan and especially Wheelersburg – fell to fifth this week with the latest release of the Division III, Region 11 computer ratings.

 

Jackson can regain some of that traction – and positioning – by defeating the Blue Lions, whose four victories are over teams with a combined record of a poor 4-20.

 

While Washington’s defense has vastly improved, as it surrendered 69 points to the host Ironmen a year ago, the Blue Lions must make major inroads in stopping Jackson’s powerful running attack.

 

Jayden Spires is the Ironmen’s leading rusher with 580 yards and six scores on 84 carries, while five other backs have carried at least 18 times – with Brice Graham going for 59.

 

 

 

Pirates pull one off…again

Results

Team1234OTTOutcome
Wheelersburg0707721Win
Minford0068620Loss

‘Burg clips Falcons 21-20 in OT epic

By Paul Boggs

Photo by Ruth Boll

Video by Litter Media

 

MINFORD — It’s no secret that these are not exactly your older brother’s Wheelersburg Pirates.

 

They do make their share of mistakes.

 

Their current roster doesn’t have the same star power of the past few successful seasons.

And, believe it or not, they had lost three football games entering Friday night’s Southern Ohio Conference Division II opener at the undefeated Minford Falcons.

 

But, one thing is for certain – and that’s the king is indeed not dead.

 

That’s because the visiting Pirates, despite being plagued by more mistakes and even forced to improvise on the fly, somehow – and someway – found a way to extend their SOC II winning streak.

 

Wheelersburg never trailed, got massive plays from its playmakers, and made the memorable stop on Minford’s two-point conversion try to prevail 21-20 in overtime in front of an electric and standing-room-only crowd at Minford High School.

 

With the victory, the Pirates – with losses to teams with a combined record now of 16-2 – pulled even to 3-3.

 

In easily arguably their most difficult SOC II test of the past six seasons, the Pirates pushed their division win streak to 22 games – dating back to a loss against Valley in 2013.

 

It absolutely wasn’t easy, but then again, these Pirates have battled injury and adversity unlike any Wheelersburg squad in at least the last half-decade.

 

The same was true at Minford – as the Pirates threw a pair of interceptions and opted to change quarterbacks, punted five times following three-and-out possessions, committed 10 penalties for 105 yards including three personal fouls, and even lost an onside kick following the Falcons’ first touchdown midway through the third quarter.

 

However, they made the big plays when they needed them the most – defensively, offensively, and on special teams.

 

“Every year is different, but this is a huge win for us because it’s an SOC II game. When you look at the adversity we have faced with the schedule we have played, and our guys have recognized the tall task that’s been ahead of them throughout those five weeks, I can’t say enough about our kids and the effort they put forth, especially our seniors,” said an elated Wheelersburg coach Rob Woodward. “We came in here tonight against a great team in Minford, and we faced a lot of adversity in this game. But again, all of our seniors…the battles that they have had, what a way for them to come out on top in this SOC II game.”

 

The Falcons, which were 5-0, found themselves on the wrong side of the scoreboard for the first time all year.

 

However, it remains 2009 when Minford last defeated Wheelersburg – by a 16-15 final score.

 

It was almost another one-point Falcon triumph on Friday, as Minford’s Matthew Risner made a simply acrobatic over-the-shoulder catch in the back of the end zone in overtime to make it 21-20.

 

Facing 2nd-down-and-11 from the 21-yard line, Minford quarterback Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis landed the ball where only Risner could catch it – in bounds and near the back line, but over the top of Wheelersburg’s Makya Matthews.

 

It was then decision time for fourth-year Minford head coach Jesse Ruby – to either kick the extra point and force a second overtime tied at 21-21, or to go for the two-point conversion and the victory.

Ruby rolled the dice and elected to go for two, but the Pirates stacked the box and brought the house against the Minford run formation.

 

Ty Wiget –in attempting to squeeze inside through the line – was stuffed at the goal line as a result, and the Pirates poured onto the field in a wild celebration.

 

Ruby, when asked about the decision to play for the win and the two points, simply said “there was no doubt”.

 

“I had full faith and confidence in our kids. We were playing well and moving the ball well and decided to go for the win. Our kids’ attitude and effort were great the whole game. Unfortunately, we came up just one play short,” he said. “It was so tight in there and kind of hard to see, but Wheelersburg just made a good play. It was the last of several that they made.”

 

And, making plays – particularly Matthews – was something the Pirates did all night.

 

Truth be told, none were bigger than his dead-sprint chase-down defensive effort on the game’s fourth play  – when Wiget broke free for a 52-yard run and was well on his way to the end zone.

 

But Matthews didn’t give up on the run, caught Wiget from behind at the 5, tomahawk-chopped the ball with his right arm out of Wiget’s hands – and the Pirates pounced on the pigskin for a stunning turn-of-events touchback.

 

As that play faded in the memory banks as the game wore on and advanced into overtime, it was highly discussed afterward as the night’s biggest play.

 

“That was just a great job by Matthews to track Ty down and strip the football,” said Ruby. “It was just an unfortunate play for us right there.”

 

Indeed it was, because had Wiget scored, then the Falcons would be in front four plays in – and maybe overtime is never reached.

 

“Makya Matthews is just a warrior. Makya is the most competitive player that I believe I have ever coached. He does everything he can on a given play to make sure that if he can make the play, he is going to make it,” said Woodward. “He was just outstanding in this game and it all started on that play.”

 

It then extended to the Pirates’ first touchdown with just a minute and 52 seconds before halftime.

Following a mistake-prone first half by both clubs – which featured a touchdown apiece negated due to holding penalties, 13 combined flags for 135 yards and a turnover apiece – the Pirates made a major stop of a Minford drive on 4th-down-and-inches at the Wheelersburg 24 with 2:06 remaining.

 

On the Pirates’ first play following the turnover on downs, Evan Horsley – who replaced an ineffective Aaron Masters at quarterback – hooked up with Matthews for a 76-yard touchdown strike that made it 7-0 with Braxton Sammons’ extra-point kick.

Matthews made the high grab of Horsley’s pass at the Wheelersburg 40, broke a tackle, then outraced Falcon defenders all the way to the end zone.

 

“We dialed up a big play there, Evan (Horsley) throws a floater up there, but Makya just goes up and snatches it out of the air and is able to take it all the way for a touchdown,” said Woodward.

 

#
Name
Evan Horsley
Current Team
Wheelersburg
Leagues
SEO, SOC2
Seasons
2019
Horsley completed three of his seven passes for 82 yards, as Matthews made two receptions for 73.

 

On the ground, Matthews amassed 133 yards on 24 carries, while Horsley had 92 yards on 14 totes.

#
29
Name
Makya Matthews
Current Team
Wheelersburg
Leagues
SEO, SOC2
Seasons
2019

“Evan (Horsley) put this team on his back tonight. He carried the ball a number of times and grinded out those tough yards,” said Woodward. “Our offensive line was opening up holes continuously. It’s a game of big plays and battles in the trenches.”

 

And, also, a game of mistakes.

 

Besides Matthews turning Wiget’s touchdown into a touchback, the Falcons had two holding penalties for 17 yards apiece – the first of which wiped out a 67-yard scoring strike to Risner while the second stalled a Minford march to near midfield with time running out in the first half.

 

“Mistakes just kill you in close tight ballgames like this,” said Ruby. “Unfortunately, we had some more tonight.”

 

But one pass completion from Vogelsong-Lewis to Risner did not produce any penalty flags – and instead resulted in a 59-yard TD on a screen pass that began with a catch in the flat.

 

That occurred with 6:47 remaining in the third quarter, but Minford missed the extra-point kick – and thus trailed 7-6.

 

“We just kept stressing that we were still in the ballgame and had plenty of time left. We have plenty of weapons and we can score really fast. We showed that with Risner’s long touchdown reception,” said Ruby. “We just had to keep battling back.”

 

The Falcons then recovered the aforementioned onside kick at midfield, but that – and two other possessions – resulted in three three-and-outs, sandwiched around a Horsley interception by Minford’s Levi Warren which ended a 10-play Pirate drive and reached the red zone.

 

However, the next Pirate possession produced points – an eight-play, 67-yard drive that spanned 3:09 and picked up four first downs.

 

Matthews, whose 24-yard gainer moved Wheelersburg from the Falcon 46 to the 22, capped off the drive with a seven-yard inside run with eight-and-a-half minutes to go.

 

Sammons’ second successful extra-point kick made it 14-6, but Minford answered with a colossal 13-play, 61-yard, five-and-a-half minute march – ending with Wiget going in from eight yards away at the 2:51 point.

 

But with the Falcons trailing 14-12, they still needed the two-point conversion for the tie – and amazingly and inexplicably somehow converted it.

 

With a high snap in the shotgun to Vogelsong-Lewis, he deftly and quickly handed off to Wiget, who shocked the stadium by faking everyone out and executing an option pitch back to Vogelsong-Lewis, who ran it in.

 

Whatever it was worked, and tied the tilt at 14-14.

 

Wheelersburg was getting more line surge and better rushes in the second half, but a 10-play series between the 35s in the final 2:51 resulted in a turnover on downs.

 

In the overtime, though, the Pirates punched it in on four plays – with Matthews carrying for six yards to the 14, followed by 13 more yards to the one.

Two plays later, Horlsey hit paydirt from a yard out off tackle – and Sammons’ PAT kick made it 21-14.

 

Of the Pirates’ 191 second-half and overtime rushing yards, Matthews mustered 107 on 18 carries, while Horsley had 71 on 11.

 

“Wheelersburg was just doing a good job up front of getting movement and producing some running lanes,” said Ruby. “I thought our kids read their keys pretty well, and were flying around to the football and making them earn it, because we kept them from getting any more big plays.”

 

At least on offense – as the Pirates made the stop on Wiget’s two-point conversion run following Risner’s incredible TD catch in overtime.

 

Minford’s playmakers made a difference as well, with Wiget actually amounting a game-high 143 rushing yards on 25 carries, as Vogelsong-Lewis completed eight of his 12 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns to Risner.

 

Risner, who also intercepted Masters on the Pirates’ first possession, recorded four receptions for 105 yards.

 

Still, Woodward thought Wheelersburg’s defense “played lights out”.

 

Head Coach Rob Woodard

Current Team
Wheelersburg
“It’s tough to cover everything Minford throws at you,” he said. “With (Matthew) Risner out there and the speed that he has, and with Wiget and Vogelsong-Lewis with the speed that they have, you have to account for both sides of the field and that was a challenge to our coaches and players.”

 

 

 

The Falcons’ challenge now is to recover for the remainder of their difficult SOC II slate – and get back to their winning ways which originally vaulted them to the top spot of the OHSAA Division V Region 19 computer ratings.

 

The Pirates and Falcons are both in Region 19 – and a potential playoff rematch is indeed a distinct possibility.

 

“It’s all about attitude and effort, and we just have to treat every opponent with the same respect we gave Wheelersburg. And we may very well see Wheelersburg again,” said Ruby. “We have to focus on ourselves every week, and improve upon limiting mistakes, penalties and turnovers. We have to prepare ourselves for the rest of the SOC II schedule.”

 

That rest of the schedule starts next week at Portsmouth West, while Wheelersburg – for the fourth consecutive week – hits the road when it takes on division newcomer Oak Hill.

Furthermore, the Pirates play at Oak Hill for the second season in a row – although that SOC II winning streak remains intact, as the king is indeed not dead.

 

“A huge part of high school football is mentally having your kids ready. The SOC II is strong, and we’re getting everybody’s best shot. And our number-one goal is winning the SOC II,” said Woodward. “That’s a great football team that we just beat tonight, and our kids should be extremely proud. We’re a good football team too, we just have continue to move forward and get better.”

 

*     *     *

Wheelersburg 21, Minford 20, OT 

Wheelersburg 0 7 0 7 7 – 21

Minford 0 0 6 8 6 – 20

W — Makya Matthews, 76-yard pass from Evan Horsley (Braxton Sammons kick), 1:52, 2nd (7-0 W)

M — Matthew Risner, 59-yard pass from Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis (kick failed), 6:47, 3rd (7-6 W)

W — Makya Matthews, 7-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), 8:34, 4th (14-6 W)

M —  Ty Wiget, 8-yard run (Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis run), 2:51, 4th (14-14 tie)

W — Evan Horsley, 1-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), OT (21-14 W)

M — Matthew Risner, 21-yard pass from Elijah-Vogelsong Lewis (run failed), OT (21-20 W)

Team Statistics

W M

First downs 15 12

Plays from scrimmage 58 52

Rushes-yards 48-263 40-149

Passing yards 88 143

Total yards 351 292

Cmp-Att-Int. 4-10-2 8-12-0

Fumbles-lost 2-0 1-1

Penalties-yards 10-105 8-75

Punts-average 5-31.6 6-37.3

——

Individual Leaders

RUSHINGWheelersburg: Makya Matthews 24-133 TD, Evan Horsley 14-92 TD, Aaron Masters 4-20, Carson Williams 3-14, Hunter Ruby 2-2, Jay Holsinger 1-2 ; Minford: Ty Wiget 25-143 TD, Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis 14-8, Team 1-(-2)

PASSINGWheelersburg: Evan Horsley 3-7-1-82 TD, Aaron Masters 1-3-1-6; Minford: Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis 8-12-0-143 2TD

RECEIVING Wheelersburg: Makya Matthews 2-73 TD, Hunter Ruby 2-15; Minford: Matthew Risner 4-105 2TD, Drew Skaggs 3-28, Ty Wiget 1-10

 

POST GAME CHATTER HERE

Video

Wheelersburg

# Offense CMP ATT INT PYDS TD ATT RUYDS TD REC REYDS TD
Evan Horsley37182114921000
Hunter Ruby000002202150
Carson Williams000003140000
14Aaron Masters131604200000
29Makya Matthews000002413312731
55Jay Holsinger00000120000
 Total41028814826324881
# Defense Sacks Tackles INT FGM FGA
 Total00000

Minford

# Offense CMP ATT INT PYDS TD ATT RUYDS TD REC REYDS TD
2Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis9130138214110000
7Matthew Risner0000000041032
11Drew Skaggs000000003290
25Ty Wiget00000251471260
 Total9130138239158191382
# Defense Sacks Tackles INT FGM FGA
 Total00000

Details

Date Time League Season
October 4, 2019 7:00 pm SEO 2019

Venue

Minford

Falcons face ‘Burg in huge SOC II opener

By PAUL BOGGS

Photo’s by Ruth Boll

Wheelersburg vs Minford

 

Simply put, if you can’t remember the last time the Wheelersburg Pirates lost a Southern Ohio Conference Division II football tilt, then you likely aren’t alone.

 

That said, you likely won’t remember the last time the Minford Falcons defeated the Pirates.

 

However, with Wheelersburg off to its worst five-game start in recent memory, the undefeated Falcons have an opportunity to end those pair of dubious streaks on Friday night – as 5-0 Minford hosts the 2-3 Pirates in an all-important and highly-anticipated SOC II opener.

In fact, it can be argued it’s the most important matchup in all of Southeastern Ohio this week.

 

Kickoff at Minford High School is set for 7 p.m.

 

In answer to the original two questions, the Pirates last lost an SOC II affair in 2013 – a division winning streak that stretches a massive and impressive 21 games.

 

In addition, a full decade (2009) has passed since Minford last defeated Wheelersburg.

 

But nobody can likely remember – without looking it up online – when the tradition-rich Pirates last started 2-3, and perhaps showing signs of vulnerability despite their three losses to teams with a combined mark of 13-2.

 

Head Coach Rob Woodard

Current Team
Wheelersburg
“We’ve scheduled those teams that are extremely challenging to raise our level of play and get us ready to attack the SOC. What we haven’t done well in the three losses is execution,” said Wheelersburg coach Rob Woodward. “We haven’t been lined up right in situations on defense, we haven’t been disciplined in our play, taking poor angles and thus bad tackling. We need to do a better job of controlling the line of scrimmage. Our offensive gameplan needs to take pressure off our defense. All three games we lost we basically played on our side of the 50. Our offense can be our best defense, but we have to execute better in all three phases. We just didn’t play the way we needed to play against good opponents like that. We just have to move forward and make adjustments.”

 

Indeed, don’t tell fourth-year Minford coach Jesse Ruby about the Pirates being “down” this season.

 

In fact, he believes the highly-touted Pirates are the best team his Falcons have faced to date – and are indeed the SOC II champions until they are defeated.

 

Wheelersburg has lost to three teams by at least 20 points, but that trio of 4-1 Ironton (30-6), 4-1 Columbus Hartley (44-6) and undefeated Jackson (35-15) just happens to be three of the best programs in the south central quadrant of the state.

 

Head Coach Jesse Ruby

Current Team
Minford
“Wheelersburg has been the best team in the conference for years. They have been undefeated in the conference for five seasons in a row. In my opinion, they are still the best team in the conference until someone proves otherwise, despite their three loses this season. The teams they have lost to this year have a combined record of 13-2,” said Ruby. “Wheelersburg, even though they are 2-3, is a very good football team. They will be the best team we have faced by far.”

 

Although, despite their quality wins over Ashland (34-33 in overtime) and Greenup County (38-7), the Pirates haven’t been completely healthy this season, which impacted them in their losses against Ironton and Hartley.

 

Then last week, while perhaps the healthiest Wheelersburg has been all season, the Pirates allowed almost 300 rushing yards and committed three critical turnovers in their 35-15 loss at Jackson.

 

That was actually only

the Ironmen’s second victory against the Pirates since that series restarted in 2012 – with the other coming five years ago.

 

The Pirates got burned on a 54-yard touchdown run by Jackson freshman Jacob Winters on the opening play of the second half, then were the victims of a pair of Evan Spires fourth-quarter “pick-sixes”.

 

In all, Jackson scored 21 of its 35 points off Wheelersburg turnovers.

 

“We had poor execution in all three phases last week. We were trying to change up a few things, but we got down 14 points in the first quarter. We tried to rally and make some adjustments, but Jackson did a great job of adjusting on their part and having different things ready for us,” said Woodward. “Moving forward, we have to make adjustments in the areas we were exposed in and clean things up.”

 

For one, Ruby isn’t counting on the Pirates to make the same self-inflicted mistakes as they did a week ago.

 

#
29
Name
Makya Matthews
Current Team
Wheelersburg
Leagues
SEO, SOC2
Seasons
2019
Instead, he is depending on his Falcons to play solid defense, keeping Wheelersburg’s many offensive play-makers – primarily Makya Matthews – in check.

 

“In the last game, Jackson was able to capitalize on a few mistakes that Wheelersburg made. But defending Wheelersburg is extremely challenging due to the number of weapons they have on offense,” said Ruby. “They run a lot of different formations, they can run the football with many different players and they have many skilled receivers. Their quarterback is well-coached in where to put the football. They do a lot of things offensively to put the opposing defense in a bind.”

Woodward said Minford does the same thing – with the likes of its fast-paced high-powered spread offense engineered by left-handed quarterback Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis.

 

#
2
Name
Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis
Height
5-10
Weight
175
Current Team
Minford
Leagues
SEO, SOC2
Seasons
2019
Vogelsong-Lewis has completed 35-of-60 passes for 648 yards and six touchdowns, while rushing for 506 yards and four TD on 60 attempts.

 

 

 

#
25
Name
Ty Wiget
Position
2020
Height
5-09
Weight
175
Current Team
Minford
Leagues
SEO, SOC2
Seasons
2019
Meanwhile, senior running back Ty Wiget has simply ran wild this season – to the tune of 880 yards and a dozen scores on 107 carries.

 

 

#
11
Name
Drew Skaggs
Height
5-10
Weight
150
Current Team
Minford
Leagues
SEO, SOC2
Seasons
2019
The Falcons’ top receiver is Drew Skaggs with 250 yards on 11 receptions.

 

“Minford is a mirror of what we try to do,” said Woodward. “Their quarterback and running back are really good and they have the ability to run out of any formation. They can go either way with running or passing, and those guys do a lot of damage with their feet. We have prepared this week in practice for a system that looks a lot like ourselves.”

 

But what Minford doesn’t need nor want to help Wheelersburg out is turn the football over – or make other mistakes.

 

The Falcons, despite winning 28-21 at East Clinton last week, were guilty of five turnovers – three interceptions and two lost fumbles.

 

Ruby said his squad started the year by limiting its miscues, but has committed eight turnovers in the past two weeks, while also being flagged for too many penalties and missing too many tackles.

 

“We started the year off really well by playing team football and limiting our own mistakes. In the first three games, we played sound defense, committed very few penalties, punted once per game, and only turned the ball over once. The attention to the little things allowed us to play at a high level in those first three weeks. The past two weeks have been a different story as we have made too many mistakes – too many penalties, too many missed tackles and too many turnovers,” said the coach. “The good thing is our players were able to overcome adversity and still find a way to win in the past two games.”

 

But against Wheelersburg, those same mistakes will result in a loss.

 

“Taking care of the football is extremely important. Any time you have more turnovers than your opponent, you are at a disadvantage. We need to limit our own mistakes – missed assignments, penalties and turnovers to be successful in this game. If we fail to do that, we will be in for a long night. We have to be able to maintain our blocks, take care of the football, and play as mistake-free as possible to give us the best chance to win,” said Ruby. “That goal is something we preach each and every week.”

 

What Ruby also preaches each and every week is that the next opponent on the Falcons’ schedule is Minford’s most important of the season.

 

However, it’s difficult to ignore what’s at stake for both teams – as Friday night marks a playoff-points bonanza for the winner.

 

Both teams are members of Division V, Region 19, as the Falcons (9.65) are top-ranked and the Pirates are seventh (6.05) in the second release of the official Ohio High School Athletic Association football computer ratings released on Tuesday.

 

The top eight teams in each region qualify for the playoffs – with the top four squads earning first-round home bouts.

 

Minford is also the seventh-ranked club in the third release of the Associated Press Ohio high school football poll for Division V.

 

More times than not, the top spot in the Region 19 computer ratings and a top-10 ranking the Division V AP poll belong to Wheelersburg – but not this season, so far.

 

Although, it can all change on Friday for the Pirates, but then again, the Falcons can snap a pair of infamous streaks involving Wheelersburg.

 

“One thing that we talk about each and every week is that we treat each week as if it is the most important game of the year. Every game has playoff points. Aside from the distractions from the outside, we try to treat every opponent as they are the best team we have faced to this point in the year. This week is no different from the opponents we faced weeks one thru five,” said Ruby. “We have to focus on ourselves and work to improve how we have played in our most recent games. That goal is our focus each and every week.”

 

The Pirates’ first focus, Woodward said, regardless of record, is defending their SOC II championship.

Which is something they’ve done an outstanding job of – given it has been six seasons since they last lost a league game.

 

“We know the SOC teams especially raise their level of play against us and circle us on their calendar. We just approach it as the next opponent, knowing and expecting to get their best shot. We don’t worry about our past or our future, we only worry about that week’s game,” said Woodward. “Our goal is to win the SOC, we prepare our guys for this, and so far in practice, this has been one of the best weeks of preparation and being healthy that we’ve had this year. That’s good to see.”

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