Wildcats’ Peyten Stephens conducts a clinic at quarterback

JORDAN HOLLAND The Marietta Times Waterford’s Peyten Stephens attempts a pass as teammate Nick Fouss (1) looks on during a high school football playoff game against Berne Union Saturday night.

WATERFORD — Waterford High played inspirational first-half football.

The fourth-ranked Wildcats scored on their first four offensive possessions en route to a 34-14 triumph over the visiting Berne Union Rockets in an OHSAA Division VII, Regional 27 playoff opener Saturday night.

And, while it was a team effort all the way, WHS senior quarterback Peyten Stephens figured in on all five touchdowns, rushing for two and passing for three more.

“They (Rockets) made it pretty clear early that they weren’t going to let Braden (Bellville) do most of the scoring on our team,” the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Stephens said. “So, we started airing it out, and we realized we were killing them. We just kept on going, going, and going. Eventually, when they covered the pass, I just took off and had a couple of rushing touchdowns. They didn’t have any answers.”

Stephens completed 11 of 17 passes for 189 yards, and had touchdown throws of 22 yards to George Pantelidis, 29 yards to Zane Heiss, and 12 yards to Nick Fouss. He also ran for two TDs of 14 yards and three yards, and had a two-point conversion run.

“Peyten played phenomenal,” said Waterford head coach Eric McCutcheon.

“On defense (from his left end position), he shut down half the field, and on offense, he threw the ball all over the place. We got targets all over the field and he hit them tonight.”

Stephens agreed.

“Real early, George was getting open real easily for me,” he said. “That helped out, and they realized maybe they ought to guard George. So, I started to throw it to Nick and Zane, and they made great plays. That catch by Zane over here in this corner, that was phenomenal. I couldn’t have asked for more from that kid.”

The only reason that Waterford didn’t score on all five of its first-half offensive possessions was that Rhys Thatcher intercepted a BU pass just before the half, and the clock eventually ran out.

Waterford led 28-7 at the intermission.

“We dominated and came out on all cylinders in the first half,” McCutcheon said. “The kids were pumped and fired up.

“The seniors didn’t want this to be their last night, so they played extremely hard. The whole team played hard, too. It was a great game.”

While Bellville, the school’s career rushing leader, didn’t score, he was the Wildcats leading ground-gainer with 117 yards on 20 carries.

“We usually give the ball to Braden, and I love sharing the limelight with him,” Stephens said. “But tonight, it was my time to shine. This game’s going into the memory book, especially since it was a playoff game.”

After the break, Stephens hooked up with Fouss for a TD late in the third quarter to make it 34-7 — and then the Wildcats would not score again.

“We kind of got slowed down a little bit for some particular reason in the second half,” McCutcheon said. “But we’re moving on, and we’re excited.”

Ron Johnston is a Marietta Times sports writer, and can be reached at rjohnston@mariettatimes.com