A quick scan of the final statistics of the Garaway Pirates football game on Friday, Sept. 7 versus the Danville Blue Devils, and it is easy to see why the game went into overtime.
In a tightly contested battle that saw both teams pull off last-second excellence, it was a bold move by Garaway head coach Jason Wallick that paved the way for the Pirates to score a 29-28 overtime road victory that was both well played and exciting.
The Pirates earned a big early lead, had a chance to put it on ice but didn’t, saw Danville storm back and score on a fourth-and-15 desperation play at the end of the game, and then after Danville scored in overtime, the Pirates answered, went for two and connected to end a thrilling game.
“It was never in doubt,” Wallick said of the decision to go for two and the win on Garaway’s first possession in overtime. “I told coach Elmore when overtime started to get a two-point play ready. We hadn’t stopped them late, and it is kind of the unwritten rule that you go for the tie at home and the win on the road.”
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Wallick allowed the play clock to run all the way down before calling time-out, gathering the troops and making sure everyone was on the same page. They were, and the Pirates executed perfectly for the win, capping off a sensational road win in a place where most teams don’t leave quite as fortunate as Garaway did.
“We tried to explain all week to our kids that it is always a challenge to play at their place,” Wallick said. “They’ve got a great football tradition there, and we knew that it was going to be a struggle and a challenge because a team with their tradition and work ethic isn’t ever going to quit.”
Things looked great for the Pirates early as they handled the Blue Devils’ defense with ease in building a quick 14-0 lead. Brady Winters plunged in from 6 yards on Garaway’s initial drive after getting a three-and-out to create a seven-point cushion, and after the two teams traded a couple of defensive stands, Garaway doubled its lead to 14-0 when quarterback Dawson Ley burrowed in from a yard out.
“It was huge for us to come out and set the tone immediately,” Wallick said. “That second score was really important.”
However, Danville has qualified for the state tournament seven straight years and knows how to win and didn’t panic, and with 90 seconds to play in the half, quarterback Dalton David charged in from 5 yards out to draw the Blue Devils to within a touchdown at 14-7.
On the other side of half-time, neither team could do much offensively as the defenses took over, but Wallick said they let a golden opportunity slip away from them right before the half, and Danville quickly turned the tables and inched to within one when David found Corbin Hazen on a 13-yard scoring strike, but Danville missed the PAT and trailed 14-13.
The defenses continued to star in the third period, and with 4:34 to play, it appeared as though the Pirates might put this one in the win column when Braden Yoder, stepping in for Winters, ran one in from three yards out to move the lead back to eight at 21-13.
Again Danville showed its resolve, and with just 15 seconds left on fourth and 15, David scrambled, took off and found his way into the end zone from 15 yards out to give the Blue Devils hope.
“He made a phenomenal play. He did a nice job of keeping that play alive with his legs and creating an opportunity for his team to have a chance, and we lost containment,” Wallick said. “Unfortunately we should have never been in that position, but it was kind of indicative of how close the game was.”
Still needing a two-point conversion, they got one when Langdon Johnson plowed in, the nose of the ball just resting over the goal line, and this game full of thrills was about to go to a completely new level.
Danville got first crack from the 25-yard line and made good when Christopher Greenwalt scooted in from a yard out, the extra point meaning Garaway would have to produce a TD on its possession or the game would be over.
Showing plenty of guts, Ley was able to guide the Pirates to a score when he found Peyton Miller on a 5-yard scoring strike, and the game looked like it would be headed for double-overtime.
“Our kids kept fighting and trusted in each other,” Wallick said.
That was when Wallick decided to go for two, a gutsy move that meant the Pirates would score from 3 yards out and go home a winner or the Blue Devils would get a stop and send them home a loser.
Ley curled out and on the run delivered a perfect pass to Matthew Mullen, who hauled it in for the game-winning conversion.
- For the third straight week the Pirates suffered a disconcerting injury to one of its star players. This time it was senior tailback Brady Winters, who went down with a back injury in the second half, which eventually forced him not only out of the game, but also to the emergency room. Winters went down hard, and while he was able to move his arms and legs, he had momentarily lost feeling in his extremities.
“We’ve been very unfortunate with the injury bug so far this year, but our kids have developed a real ‘next-man-up’ mentality,” Wallick said. “Hopefully we can get everyone back and healthy over the next few weeks. We had four starters out to begin the game. Then Brady went down, but we have had kids step in and perform when they had to.
- The numbers tell the tale of total tightness
Total yards: Garaway – 360, Danville – 378
First downs: Garaway – 24, Danville – 24
Number of plays: Garaway 69, Danville – 71
Yards per play: Garaway – 5.2, Danville – 5.3
Yards per catch: Garaway – 8.5, Danville – 8.3
Receiving completions: Garaway – 17, Danville – 16
Receiving yards: Garaway 145, Danville – 133
Rushing yards: Garaway – 215, Danville – 235
Turnovers: Garaway – 1, Danville – 1