Waverly tops Lansing, wins division title
ATHENS - Waverly coach Jason Miller loves to throw the football and he loves his quick-strike offense.
Saturday night, the Wolverines took a different approach, using a ball-control offense to keep Lansing's dynamic offense off the field in a 29-22 win to clinch its third consecutive Section IV, Division IV title.
"We talked about running the ball and controlling the clock," said Miller. "Those two kids (Elijah Burns and Tyler Winslow) are incredibly dangerous.
"We really wanted to keep them off the field by controlling the football. It just felt like every time they touched the football, they could go the distance.
"That was our game plan and we didn't get away from it," added Miller. "We didn't force anything."
Sophomore QB Peyton Miller led Waverly's ground game with 156 yards and two TDs on 25 carries and Joey Peters added 101 yards on 21 carries. In all, Waverly gained 274 yards on 51 carries.
The Wolverines did the majority of their damage between the tackles, which Miller says was the game plan.
"We just felt their alignment and technique was set up to stop the C and D gaps - the outside," said Miller.
"We worked very hard this week at running to the weak side, away from the tight end - counters away from the tight end," he said. "We were trying to get people spread out and pull people out of the box because of their man-to-man coverage.
"And we were gaining a man with the fullback or tailback (blocking) and running the quarterback.
"So, we gained a man advantage by getting people out of the box and running with the quarterback," added Miller. "It worked out pretty good."
The Bobcats put themselves behind the 8-ball at the outset, gambling on their first possession and being stopped on 4th-and-2 at their 40 when Waverly's John Hallett recovered a fumble at the 41.
It took just one play for the Wolverines to capitalize when Miller sprinted 41 yards up the middle on a QB keeper to make it 6-0 with 9:29 left in the first quarter.
After the teams exchanged punts, Winslow capped a six-play Lansing drive with a 35-yard TD run. Austin Candea's run for conversion made it 8-6 with 35 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Waverly's next possession, which featured a 27-yard run by Miller, stalled at the Lansing 10, but Zack Saxon split the up rights with a 28-yard field goal to give the Wolverines a 9-8 lead with 8:08 left in the first half.
After forcing a Lansing punt, Waverly marched 63 yards on 12 plays, chewing up nearly 5 1/2 minutes off the clock to take a 15-8 lead with 5.7 seconds remaining in the first half. Miller capped the drive with a 1-yard run on fourth-and-goal.
The Wolverines received the second-half kickoff and drove 78 yards on 11 plays, consuming more than five minutes of the clock in upping their lead to 22-8. Saxon finished off the drive with a 7-yard TD run around left end, then tacked on the PAT with a ricochet shot off the upright that caromed through.
Lansing answered quickly when Burns ripped off a 65-yard TD run to slice the deficit to 22-14.
Waverly's next possession received a big boost when Lansing was penalized 15 yards for a horse-collar tackle and then received another 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct by one of its coaches, moving the ball to the Bobcat 28.
After a 2-yard run by Saxon, Miller completed his only pass of the night, a 26-yard TD strike to Perry down the far sidelines. Saxon's PAT kick made it 29-14 with 3:48 left in the fourth quarter.
It may have been the only completion of the night for Miller, but it certainly caught the attention of his coach and father, who said it was a well-executed play all the way around.
"That was an absolutely perfect ball, thrown into the back corner of the end zone with good trajectory," said Jason Miller. "He has the propensity to throw the ball more on a line, but he was able to step into the throw because of the play-action and because the line did a fantastic job selling the run.
"And, Dylan (Perry) made a great catch," he added.
Lansing responded with an 11-play possession of its own, marching 74 yards on a drive culminating with a 10-yard TD run by Burns, who also tacked on the conversion run to slice he deficit to 29-22 with 9:47 remaining in the game.
After Zach Gingerich returned the ensuing kickoff 51 yards to the Lansing 33, the Wolverines marched to the Bobcats' 6, but stalled and elected to attempt another field goal. Saxon's attempt was wide right, giving Lansing the ball at the 20 with 3:19 remaining.
Lansing moved the ball to midfield, but facing fourth-down fumbled a hand-off exchange and Peyton Miller came up with the loose ball to preserve the win.
Burns led the Lansing ground game with 172 yards and two TDs on 19 carries, while Tyler Winslow added 125 yards and a TD on 22 carries.
Miller completed 1 of 4 passes for 26 yards and a TD, while Winslow's only pass attempt was incomplete for Lansing.
The win wraps up a Division IV title for the Wolverines and Miller said it couldn't happen to a better bunch of kids.
"When you lose as many seniors as we did, there are going to be doubts. That's why I'm so proud of these kids - most of them didn't get much playing time last year.
"These kids have not won at any level," said Miller. "They won one game in their modified season in 8th-grade and didn't win a game on JVs as 10th-graders.
"It's so nice to see them accomplish everything some of our better teams have accomplished," he said. "We're division champions and now we have an opportunity into a 10th week by winning next week - that's what we did last year and that was a super team.
"I wouldn't say they're over-achievers, but man they're working hard to achieve what they've got to this point," added Miller. "Having a kid (Colton) in this class, I'm super proud to see them get to six wins. No matter where you are, six wins in an eight-game season is an accomplishment.
Waverly will face Newark Valley Saturday at U-E's Ty Cobb Stadium in the Section IV, Class C semifinals.