PIKETON, Ohio — Things could not have gone worse for the Piketon Redstreaks in their season opener Friday night.
Piketon (0-1) lost their defensive leader, linebacker Matt Smith, to injury early in the second quarter. Their star quarterback, Devon Brewster, would be ejected a quarter later, earning himself a subsequent suspension for week two. And, to top it all off, they lost to their county rival, Waverly, 34-6.
“That was a tough one,” Piketon head coach Tyler Gullion said.
Things were much different on the other sideline. Waverly (1-0) captured its second straight win in the Pike County Rivalry on the back of their stellar running game. Behind their huge offensive line, Tiger running backs Brian Cydrus and Devon Rigsby ran wild, combining for 267 yards on just 31 carries. Rigsby’s two second half touchdowns slammed the door and sealed the victory for Waverly.
“That’s the kind of football we want to play,” Waverly head coach Chris Crabtree said. “We want to do those things and hopefully keep getting better with that.”
Things actually started well for Piketon. After forcing Waverly to turn the ball over on downs at midfield, the Redstreaks’ no-huddle offense shredded the Tiger defense with quick runs up the middle. Running back Ethan Fremdner picked up 42 of the Redstreaks’ 53 yards on the drive, capping it off with an eight-yard scamper to put Piketon on the board early with a 6-0 lead. Fremdner would finish the night with 106 yards on 22 carries.
But Waverly would answer right back. On the second play of the ensuing series, Cydrus would break a number, picking up sixty of his 110 rushing yards on the night. The run took the ball down to the Piketon four. Waverly quarterback RJ Perkins would punch it in on the next play, and suddenly the game was tied at six.
Despite the breakdown, the Piketon defense held its own during the first quarter. The Redstreaks registered a number of big hits on Tiger ball carriers, including two by junior linebacker Matt Smith. But on the first play of the second quarter, disaster struck.
The play was just a simple 3-yard dive by Cydrus, but a Waverly lineman fell awkwardly into Smith’s leg. He was helped off the field, limping, and would not return the rest of the night.
“Not good,” Gullion said when asked about Smith’s injury. He said that he believed everything in Smith’s leg was “structurally good,” but he would have to re-evaluate the injury later on in the week.
Without their vocal leader there to guide them, the Piketon defense had little hope of stopping the runaway train that was the Waverly rushing attack. Later in the quarter, set up by a 3rd -and-10, 19-yard misdirection run by Drew Harris, Rigsby would cap the drive with a 6-yard touchdown and give the Tigers a 14-6 lead.
Even still, the Redstreaks had an opportunity to tie the game before halftime. After a lengthy 70-yard drive, Piketon had the ball 4-and-10 on the 11-yard line with nine seconds remaining before the intermission. However, Brewster’s pass to the corner was intercepted by Cade Marquez, and the Redstreaks went into the locker room empty handed.
“I’m pretty proud of their defense in what they were able to do,” Crabtree said.
Piketon’s chances quickly disintegrated early in the second half. On their first drive of the half, the Redstreaks threatened to score when they quickly moved into Waverly territory. Then, Brewster and Tiger linebacker Mason Chapman got tangled up after a play. Brewster responded with a quick kick in the direction with Chapman. Both players were hit with personal fouls, but Brewster was ejected. His night was done.
OHSAA rules stipulate that when a player is ejected, they earn an automatic one-game suspension. Therefore, Brewster will not be eligible when Piketon takes on Vinton County next week.
“I didn’t even see what happened, but you can’t lose your composure,” Gullion said.
That’s exactly what happened from that point forward. Without two of its key leader, the Redstreaks wilted down the stretch. Rigsby would pick up 96 yards in the second half, including a 21-yard score to cap his night and give the Tigers their final score of 34-6.
“Early on it didn’t look like maybe it was going to happen. We made some adjustments, and when he got that hot hand we just kept giving it to him,” Crabtree said of Rigsby’s performance.
Though he didn’t need to throw much, Perkins was efficient for Waverly. He finished the night 4 of 8 for 48 yards, including a beautiful lob to a diving Harris to put the Tigers up 20-6.
“We keep talking about it about wanting to change the culture here,” Crabtree said. “We want them to be physical, and that’s what we keep preaching. Hopefully we can continue to do that.”
If there was one bright spot for Piketon besides Fremdner’s gutsy performance, it was the play of back-up quarterback Gabe Birkhimer. Entering the game in less than desirbale circumstances, the sophomore held his own, going 7-for-8 for 56 yards.
“We’ve got all the confidence in the world in him,” Gullion said. “He’s a smart kid, a fiery kid.”
Alex Hider can be reached at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter
Piketon — TD, E. Fremdner 8 yd Rush (Kick no good) (0-6, 6:41)
Waverly — TD, RJ Perkins 4 yd Rush (Kick no good) (6-6, 4:58)
Waverly — TD, D. Rigsby 6 yd Rush (Rigsby 2 pt conversion) (14-6, 3:07)
Waverly — TD, D. Harris 18 yd Pass from RJ Perkins (Conversion no good) (20-6, 4:29)
Waverly — TD, D. Rigsby 4 yd Rush (C. Howell PAT) (27-6, 11:44)
Waverly — TD, D. Rigsby 21 yd Rush (C. Howell PAT) (34-6, 10:33)
|Rush Att-Yards||48 — 344||32 —113|
Passing — Waverly: Perkins 4-8-0, 46; Piketon: Brewster 11-21-1, 74, Birkhimer 7-8-1, 56
Rushing —Waverly: Rigsby 18-167, Cydrus 13-110, Perkins 8-29, Harris 1-19, Chenowith 5-18, Kottenbrook 1-3, Colbum 2-(-2). Piketon: Fremdner 22-106, Birkhimer 4-6, Brewster 4-1, Barker 2-0
Receiving —Waverly: Chapman 2-28, Harris 1-18. Piketon: Southworth 11-86, Jordan 2-44, Thacker 3-8, Harris 2-(-8)