Game of the Week

Pirates exact revenge on Generals in another typical wild ride between IVC rivals

Another knock-down, drag-out between two IVC rivals goes to the Pirates

Garaway head coach Jason Wallick chatted with family and friends following the Pirates’ huge 27-21 victory over Ridgewood on Friday, Oct. 5 on The Hill in Sugarcreek. That was in stark contrast to last season when the Generals pulled off a spine-tingling win at their place that had Wallick hunched over in agony in front of the Garaway locker room.

Such are the fortunes of Inter-Valley Conference South football, but more importantly this IVC South rivalry has grown in leaps and bounds over the past years and is truly a rivalry in which both teams have an immense amount of respect for the other.

In another terrific game that came right down to the final play, just like last year, The Pirates withstood a frantic push on Ridgewood’s final drive and came away a winner in this battle of unbeatens.

“I think tomorrow morning we will be able to step back and take a big, deep breath, but we are pretty wired up right now,” Wallick said following the game. “That was a true Garaway versus Ridgewood football game. The fans were phenomenal; the energy was great. It was just a great football game, and neither team quit. I thought we came out very prepared, and the kids executed extremely well tonight.”

“That was a typical Ridgewood-Garaway game,” Ridgewood head coach John Slusser said. “It’s always close, and it always comes down to the end. It was a dog fight.”

After Garaway stopped Ridgewood to open the game, Matt Mullen’s sensational effort after a catch set up quarterback Dawson Lay’s 1-yard plunge to put the Pirates up 7-0. Lay then found Mullen across the middle, and the Pirates pushed their lead out to 13-0. Garaway’s defense played a great first half, and Ridgewood’s only threat to score was thwarted when Mullen blocked a Keith Claxon field goal attempt.

Nobody thought the Generals would crawl into a hole and go away, and they didn’t. Ridgewood was about to strike to begin the second half.

Kaden Smith, who was a thorn in Garaway’s side all night, darted around the left end untouched and roared 44 yards down the sideline for a score that got Ridgewood on the board at 13-7. Ridgewood stumped Garaway’s offense, and freshman quarterback Gabe Tingle found Smith on a dump off. Smith zipped around the right side and down the sideline for a 55-yard score.

In a matter of a few minutes, a once-confident Garaway team was reeling, and the Generals were soaring with a 14-13 lead.

This possession became a monumental one for both teams, and Garaway proved its mettle, moving downfield before Ley located Peyton Miller on a crossing pattern. Miller grabbed it and ripped up the middle of the field for a score. The Pirates went back on top 20-14.

“That was really important,” Ley said. “We had to keep the pedal to the metal and not get down on ourselves. My offensive line was really great tonight and gave me some time to find guys.”

Garaway got a big stop when Austin Miller recorded a big-time sack on Tingle. Garaway took over, and with three seconds remaining in the quarter, Ley dropped back and lofted a bomb down the right sideline, where Mullen created space and hauled it in, turning in a 35-yard touchdown haul that gave the Pirates some breathing room.

Again Ridgewood’s youthful group wouldn’t fold and put together a nice drive that ate up several minutes of the fourth quarter. They ended up in the end zone when Claxon tip-toed into the end zone after snaring a Tingle offering.

Both teams’ defenses then buttoned down the hatches and dug in, the Pirates missing a chance to move ahead by two scores when a penalty thwarted their drive and the Generals unable to capitalize. Garaway eventually got the ball back but were forced to punt. Dylan Hershberger put the Generals 90 yards away with just under 100 seconds to play. After getting a first down, Tingle uncorked a long heave to Connor Kunze, who already had two nice catches, one of them a stupendous catch on a deflected pass that set up Claxon’s TD.

The damp night proved costly on this pass play, however, as the ball squirted through Kunze’s hands and fell harmlessly to the ground. Had he hung on, it would have been a foot race to the end zone.

Ridgewood did convert a big fourth-down pass play to gain another first down, but time was becoming a significant issue, and the Generals had no more time-outs. Tingle flared a pass out into the flats to Smith, and Smith tried desperately to get out of bounds. However, there was Mullen to pull him down several feet in play, and the clock ticked down to triple zeroes. The Pirates had hung on for the win.

“All I could think about was making a play there to keep him in bounds to keep the clock running,” Mullen said. “The clock was running so slowly at that point. It couldn’t move fast enough for us.”

After the agonizing loss last year, linebacker Kory Stress said the Pirates had no problem getting fired up for this one.

“I think a lot of us still had that bad taste in our mouth, and we really wanted this one,” Stress said. “I thought being at home was a big advantage tonight. Our fans and our sideline were so pumped up all night long, and that made a big difference for us.”

“We basically played a half of football and still had a chance to win it in the end,” Slusser said. “I thought the way we played the first half it would be 30-0. We were that bad, and they were that good. We looked like we didn’t want to be there, and that is on coaching. I have to have our kids ready to play, and we weren’t. We put up a fight in the second half, but you can’t do that against good teams. We ended up not making enough plays. We didn’t play our best game, and they did, and it was a good win for them.”


Player of the Game: Mr. Everywhere

Garaway junior wide receiver Mullen left his fingerprints all over this game. Mullen hauled in seven catches for 110 yards, two of those catches resulting in touchdowns. His monster 35-yard haul-in from Lay in the fourth quarter proved to be the touchdown that was the eventual game-winner. He also burst through the Ridgewood line in the first half and blocked a Claxon field goal attempt, and with the game on the line in the Generals’ final last-second drive, it was Mullen who made the tackle that kept a screen pass near mid-field in-bounds, which in turn kept the clock ticking so that time ran out before Ridgewood could get off another play.

“That kid is an unbelievable player, and it was nice to see him and Dawson really connect tonight,” Wallick said.

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