Waterford faces key TVC matchup against Southern

WATERFORD — In its last three games, the Waterford High football team has defeated its opponents by an average score of 47-8.

Those numbers are due in part to the Wildcats playing solid football, but also to the struggles of their opponents. Frontier, Eastern and South Gallia are a combined 6-15 this season.

Friday, Waterford (6-1) figures to get its first big test since early in the season when it travels to Racine Southern (5-2) for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. The game is Southern’s Homecoming.

While Waterford (5-0) sits atop the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division standings, Southern (3-2) is one of its top contenders. Though the Tornadoes have already lost a pair of league games, a win versus Waterford would put them right back in the mix along with Trimble (5-1) and Miller (3-2).

Waterford is coming off a dominating 56-8 win over South Gallia, while Southern dropped a tough 21-12 decision to Trimble. So the Tornadoes will be looking for a bounceback win while the ‘Cats hope to keep rolling.

“Southern has got some really nice players,” said second-year Waterford head coach Eric McCutcheon. “They run a lot of different packages. It will be a challenge and we’ll have to play our best game.”

Dylan Smith is one of Southern’s top playmakers — last week against Trimble he had 76 yards on 13 carries and 46 yards on four catches and two touchdowns. Quarterback Logan Drummer completed 8 of 19 passes for 127 yards and two scores.

Defensively, “we’ll have to play aggressive,” McCutcheon said. “It will take a big effort.”

Waterford went into the South Gallia game a bit banged up, and McCutcheon said his squad still isn’t 100 percent. The coach is happy with how different people have stepped in and been successful. The Wildcats’ top offensive performers, quarterback Peyten Stephens and running back Braden Bellville haven’t missed a beat.

Bellville is the area’s leading rusher with 1,148 yards and 18 touchdowns on 130 carries. He’s also caught eight passes for 232 yards and three more scores.

“He’s been huge for us,” McCutcheon said. “He brings it every night in practice and in games. He makes our offense balanced.”

Stephens, in his first full year starting under center, has passed for 853 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s made mistakes, throwing six interceptions, but has exceeded McCutcheon’s expectations.

“Peyten has done an exceptional job,” he said. “He runs our offense, hits the open receivers and has done an excellent job.”

Cody Harris has been Waterford’s leading receiver this season, hauling in 19 receptions for 335 yards and five TDs. Defensively, Teddy Smith has 9 1/2 sacks this season while George Pantelidis, Rhys Thatcher and Noah Huffman all have two interceptions.

With Southern clinging to its Division VII, Region 27 playoff hopes, McCutcheon expects Friday’s game to have a different feel.

“It’ll be an atmosphere like a playoff game,” McCutcheon said. “They’re going to play their best and we’ve got to match their intensity.”

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