Game of the Week

Big defensive plays set the table for a huge Pirates playoff win

Derek Briggs set a tone that catapulted the Garaway Pirates to victory in week one of the playoffs

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It is called setting a tone, and Derek Briggs had it down pat on Saturday, Nov. 3 when the Garaway Pirates hosted Liberty Union in the opening round of the state football playoffs.
With the Pirates kicking off to open the big night, Briggs raced down the field, found ball carrier Cole Peardon, grabbed him, and pretty much took him down like a rodeo cowboy hog-tying a steer.
That tackle set the tone for a huge 47-14 win that allowed the Pirates to advance to round two, where they will face another local team in the Coshocton Redskins.
“That was amazing, probably the best feeling I’ve ever had,” Briggs said of the stunning hit. “I ran downfield and avoided right and got back on my path, and he was there, so I hit him. He wasn’t going down, so I picked him up and just threw him down.”

It sett the tone for the way Garaway would play the rest of the night, as the hit fired up the players and the crowd.
But Briggs wasn’t alone in setting the tone.
On the Lions’ very first play from scrimmage, Joel Honigford broke through the line and hammered the running back for a four-yard loss. That play too showed Liberty Union that Garaway was extremely focused.
Head coach Jason Wallick said that play in itself went a long way in showing the Pirates that they could determine the outcome of the game by controlling the line of scrimmage.
Honigford said it was more than just himself t hat made the many defensive plays on the night happen.
“That’s all fundamentals,” Honigford said. “This is a big game. Any playoff game is a big game, and you can sometimes come in and overthink things. But we didn’t, we just went back to the fundamentals.”
All season long, the Garaway defense has shown a penchant for allowing an opening drive touchdown before settling in.
Captain and quarterback R.J. Jacobs talked with the defense about that, and how they needed to bear down from the first snap.
“Once we get going e are fine, our defense shuts people out,” Jacobs said. “I (told them) we can not let them have that drive at the beginning of the game. They came out, shut them down, got our offense on the field and our offense went right down and scored.”
Garaway took over possession after a punt and Jacobs quickly hit Quinn Miller on the Pirates’ second play for a 39-yard pass down to the one-yard line. Two plays later Jacobs plunged in for a score and a 7-0 lead.

The Lions would respond with a 49-yard bomb to Peardon to draw to within 7-6. Peardon then picked off a Jacobs pass that Jacobs said he should never have thrown, and raced to Garaway’s 22 yard line.
That set the stage one more enormous defensive gem for Garaway.
On a fourth down and four from the 16, the Lions were threatening to take the lead, which could have been a big momentum swing. Instead, Gunnar Angel swept across the field to the left sideline on a swing pass. Angel delivered a big-time hit, stopping the Lions running back a half-yard shy of a first down.

“All week in practice we had been going over t heir plays, and I recognized the formation and saw him wheeling out of the backfield,” Angel said. “I really didn’t think about how big it was at the time, I was just trying to make another play.”
Two plays later, Jacobs hit Ty Hamsher on a crossing pattern, and Hamsher bolted downfield 75 yards for a touchdown and 14-6 lead.
Garaway was about to show just how dominant it would be.

After getting a stop, Garaway quickly moved down field after a 44-yard pass to Brady Winters set the table for a brutal six-yard scoring run by Winters, who bounced off several tacklers and ran through two more to the end zone.
Another defensive stop and another Garaway drive resulted in a Jacobs to Hamsher 16-yard scoring strike, and Garaway led 27-6 moments into the second quarter.

On this night, the Lions would not be king of anything, as Garaway was taking no prisoners.
A big play from Grant Hershberger eventually allowed Jacobs to scoot around the right edge and tiptoe into the corner of the end zone.

Garaway held a commanding 34-6 halftime lead.
Seconds into the second half, Jacobs would put a gigantic exclamation point on the game, not with his arm, but with his legs. The senior quarterback dropped back to pass, then found a hole built by the offensive line, and showed off some breakaway speed in outrunning the Lions defense for a 58-yard touchdown.
Some fun things happened in the next few plays, as Hamsher made his first interception of the night, and Jacobs moved into fifth spot in OHSAA history in passing yardage.

Winters crushed one in for his second score of the night, and Hamsher made his second interception, a beautiful read in which he glided in and grabbed the pass right before a Lions’ receiver could snag it.
A late inconsequential Lions score with the Garaway starters already celebrating on the sideline was far from meaningful as the Pirates dominated in every aspect.
“I loved our intensity tonight,” Wallick said. “I thought we made some plays early that really set the stage for the rest of the game.”
“This is week one of our five step journey,” Jacobs said. “Now we are on to week tow, and we can not have a let down this next week in practice. We have to keep rolling and keep things going the way it is.”
Statistically, the game was as lopsided as the scoreboard would indicate.
Garaway racked up 492 yards to Liberty Union’s 190, the Pirates limiting the Lions to 65 yards through the air, 49 of those coming on the long score. Jacobs went 14-of-21 for 313 yards and two TDs, plush e ran for 99 yards and added a pair of touchdowns. Winters also average 6.6 yards per carry in totaling 66 rushing yards, while scoring twice. He added 64 yards on four catches.
Hamsher and Miller each had huge nights catching the ball, Hamsher snaring five passes for 136 yards and Miller hauling in five catches for 113 yards.
Angel led the attack on defense with six stops, while Christian Wright and Grant Hershberger both record four tackles.

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