Pirates ‘defend until the end’ in 14-0 blanking of Braves

Pirates ‘defend until the end’ in 14-0 blanking of Braves

Image Credit: Dave Mast

The Inter-Valley Conference showdown between visiting Garaway and host Indian Valley on Friday, Oct. 1 was predicted to be one of the highlight games in the conference this season.

The two teams didn’t disappoint.

In a defensive slugfest, the Pirates scored a TD early and another one late and escaped town with a 14-0 win that saw Garaway display the fast, aggressive defense head coach Jason Wallick has promoted all season.

Bend but don’t break

Several times in the game the Braves moved the ball inside the red zone, threatening to score. However, every time Indian Valley looked poised to score, the Pirates defense answered the call.

On the Braves’ first offensive series, they moved downfield inside the 15, but Brady Roden wrestled the ball away from a receiver for an interception to thwart the drive. Later in the half, Indian Valley got inside the 25, but on fourth-and-7, Garaway batted away a pass to take over possession. Garaway then systematically drove down the field and scored on an Ethan Miller 2-yard plunge. Kolton Thomas blocked the extra point, and Garaway led 6-0.

It wouldn’t be the last time Thomas made a huge play. Near the half, Garaway threatened, but Thomas sniffed out a deep pass from Yoder in the corner of the end zone, soared and made a sensational juggling interception to stop a promising Pirates’ drive.

In the third quarter, the Braves went on a lengthy drive, moving inside the Pirates’ 5-yard line. On third-and-two from the 4-yard line, the Braves turned to star back Tyson Pryor, who wanted to pursue the right side, but Jarret Wallick stepped into the backfield in hot pursuit, pulling down Pryor for a 3-yard loss. That meant the Braves had to throw the ball to score, and on fourth down Carter’s pass sailed high, with Garaway defending to perfection.

“The guard was sitting back in his stance, and it looked like he was going to pull, and I figured Tyson is getting the ball in that situation because he is a tough back who runs hard. I was fortunate to make a read and make a big play.”

“Our defense was phenomenal,” J.D. Young said. “We talk about bend but don’t break all the time, and that was the case tonight. They had some big pass plays to set up momentum, but we did the job when we had to.”

An opening to victory

Garaway star running back Ethan Miller admitted he was frustrated much of the game. Indian Valley’s defense had put the clamps on him, and Miller said late in the first quarter he came out after a series very frustrated at his lack of success.

“I was upset, but the coaches just said relax and be patient,” Miller said. “They said eventually we would wear down their defense and things would open up.”

It took most of the game, but eventually Miller got his chance to shine. Yoder started to utilize Miller on some bubble screens, and midway through the fourth quarter with the Pirates clinging to a 6-0 lead, Garaway took over in Indian Valley territory. With 4:40 to play, Miller ran for 6 after Yoder had run for 3 and pounded out another yard, setting up fourth-and-inches. On a critical play, Miller took a pitch left out of the diesel package and picked up the first down. That play ran again, and Miller made a sweet cutback move along the left sideline for an 8-yard gain, and on the next play from the same formation, Miller cut back against the flow of play off the right tackle.

What he found when he cleared the initial line of scrimmage was something beautiful.

“It was open from the start,” Miller said. “I cut it back, and there was no one there. My eyes got really big when I saw that, and I knew I had a chance to go the distance.”

Miller sprinted 32 yards to pay-dirt, and a spectacular juggling catch by J.D. Young on a ball that probably shouldn’t have been caught gave the Pirates a 14-0 lead.

“Any time I hear that throw-back play, I get so excited,” Young said. “When he made a play on the ball, I thought it was done, but my eyes never left the ball after he tipped it and I brought it in. I was as surprised as anyone, but after it happened, I was just like, ‘Let’s go.’ It was pretty unreal.”

Indian Valley had to move quickly, but any hope was snuffed out when Wyatt Wallick intercepted Carter’s desperation heave as he was being drug to the ground.

Making a defensive play seemed to be an appropriate way for the Pirates to put the finishing touches on this key victory.

“We game-planned to stop the run because that is their bread and butter,” coach Wallick said. “We’ve got some really good tacklers who fly to the ball, and they did a great job of keeping some talented runners in check tonight.”

The desire to look ahead

Every coach in the world will tell you his staff and team take every game one game at a time, no matter who they are playing.

Wallick and his players talked about not looking past previous opponents on their way to facing Indian Valley, but when everyone around town and in the Inter-Valley Conference was talking about this week-six match-up way ahead of the actual play date, it was difficult not to get pulled into that talk and circle this week on the calendar well ahead of time.

“We’ve said all year we think our defense is really good, and they proved that tonight,” coach Wallick said. “I know we aren’t supposed to look ahead to games because you can’t look past anyone, but we all knew the importance of this game.”

“It was hard not to think about this game before this week,” Miller said. “We all knew it was such a big game for us, but we really did a great job preparing this week.”

Film 101

A number of players and Wallick himself talked about the role watching game film on the Braves played in this contest. Hours and hours in the film room paid off, with Garaway slamming the door on Indian Valley’s huge running game.

I felt like our kids really knew them,” coach Wallick said. “We challenged them this week. They all did their own scouting reports on individual players, so they knew what steps and routes they were running and where they needed to be. All we can do is tell the kids to do something. It’s on them to do it, and they took that challenge to heart and it paid off.”

Sam Page played like there were three of him playing linebacker. Page racked up a whopping 10 solo tackles and said, “We put in many hours of film work preparing for this game. I think we knew our opponent better than we know ourselves, and we had to because that is a talented team.”