Wildcats ready for football playoffs
WATERFORD — For the second consecutive season the Waterford Wildcats will open the postseason on their home field when they host the Sciotoville East Tartans Friday night in a Division VII, Region 27 playoff opener at Waterford Elementary.
For the second straight year the Wildcats went 9-1 in the regular season, with both losses coming at the hands of their neighbor and fellow playoff team Fort Frye.
Last season the Wildcats won their first ever playoff game at home with a win over Bishop Rosecrans (13-9) and then went on to defeat Tri-Valley Conference rival Trimble (22-0) in the second round before bowing out to in a regional semi-final to Harvest Prep (29-15).
“We get a game at home again which is very exciting. We’ve been there once and know it’s a whole different ballgame,” said second-year Wildcat head coach Eric McCutcheon after last week’s win over Belpre. “The atmosphere is a lot different and the stakes are a lot higher so we are excited and can’t wait to play in front of our home crowd.”
The 2017 Wildcats have been led by a defense that allows just 10 points per game and a balanced offensive attack led by All-Ohio candidate Braden Bellville, who accounted for nearly 2,000 total yards.
Bellville averaged over nine yards per carry as he broke the all-time Waterford single season rushing record previously held by Dan Dobereiner by tallying 1759 yards and 26 touchdowns on 194 carries.
The junior also hauled in 11 pass receptions for 230 yards and three more scores.
Junior quarterback Peyten Stephens had a strong regular season as well as the big 6-foot-3 inch, 210- pound signal caller completed 63-of-138 pass attempts for 1046 yards and 12 touchdowns while also rushing for six scores.
Senior Teddy Smith (33-186) will likely join Bellville and Stephens in the backfield after beginning the season on the Wildcat offensive line.
Key receivers for the Wildcats include seniors Noah Huffman (14-234) and Cody Harris (19-337) and Andrew Harra-Baker (11-161)
Don’t be surprised if on occasion McCutcheon inserts sophomore Zane Heiss into the game at quarterback, allowing Stephens to join Smith and Bellville to form a powerhouse back field.
The Wildcat defense has gotten stronger and stronger as the season went on as they allowed a grand total of 52 points over the final seven games of the season.
Only twice all season long did an opponent score more than 12 points against the ‘Cats defense led by Smith and his 12 sacks and 77 tackles from the nose tackle position and Bellville at linebacker (83 tackles).
Sciotoville East comes into the game with an 8-2 mark on the season with their only two losses coming against playoff teams in Danville and Oak Hill.
The Tartans will be making their third consecutive appearance in the postseason, dropping their playoff openers to Danville last year and Caldwell in 2015.
The James Gifford-coached East squad averaged 41 points per contest in the regular season while limiting their opponents to just 16 and oddly enough have not been in a game decided by less than 24 points the entire season.
Last week in their regular season finale against Notre Dame the Spartans scored a 48-14 win paced by three touchdown passes from quarterback Brady Douthat.
Kyle Flannery ran for a 77 yards and a pair of touchdowns while Ethan Carver totaled 88 yards and a score on 11 touches.
The Tartans are led defensively by the likes of Chandler Carver, Braiden Haney, Ethan Gifford and J.D. Hatcher and on special teams by Devon Stephens who returned a kick-off 77 yards for a score against Notre Dame.
The two have played a pair of common opponents with similar results as both teams scored blow-out wins over Eastern and South Gallia in the regular season.
The opening kick-off is slated for 7:30 p.m.