Pirates find their magic late in derailing Bellaire

Pirates find their magic late in derailing Bellaire

Image Credit: Dave Mast

Every head football coach wants to see how his team reacts to adversity, to find out who the team leaders are when the chips are down, to find out how their team will rise to the occasion.

The Garaway Pirates didn’t waste time letting their head coach Jason Wallick find out, using opening week to give him a glimpse of who they are.

The Pirates traveled to Bellaire on Saturday, Aug. 20 to face a stiff challenge from a talented Bellaire squad, fell behind by two touchdowns and then rallied hard, with the defense shutting down Bellaire, and then senior quarterback Logan Yoder led the Pirates to a 21-14 win.

It was in the final closing moments of the game, with his team trailing, that Wallick watched his senior-laden offense, led by Yoder, respond with poise and confidence, never getting rattled when the chips were down.

“I’m so proud of these kids for the way they responded to adversity,” Wallick said. “They fought, they persevered and they played like champions for 48 minutes against a quality football team.”

Bellaire quarterback Jake Heatherington got the scoring started with a 2-yard rushing score on the opening possession of the game for an 8-0 lead.

“They came out in a completely different style of play than we had seen in their scrimmages,” Wallick said of Bellaire. “It shocked us, but we were able to adjust defensively.”

Things could have gotten a whole lot worse for the Pirates when they coughed up the ball on the ensuing possession on their own 22. However, the Garaway defenses forced a 34-yard field goal attempt that sailed wide, and the score remained 8-0.

The defenses would then take over, and the first half saw neither team generate a sustained drive that could push the score higher, outside of one Garaway drive that culminated with Logan Yoder connecting with Alexander Roden on a 7-yard scoring strike to trim the deficit to 8-7 at the half.

While the Pirates’ offense was struggling to maintain any sense of flow, the defense was doing everything in its power to keep the Pirates in the game.

However, things got very bleak late in the third quarter when Heatherington found Terrin Frazier from 3 yards out for a touchdown, the failed extra point leaving Bellaire leading 14-7 with 3:14 left in the period.

With Bellaire celebrating a new stadium and a new head coach in a season-opening home game, the odds were not in Garaway’s favor, especially after All-Ohio running back Ethan Miller went down with a knee injury early on.

“That Bellaire team brought a lot of challenges,” Wallick said. “Our kids could have decided it was over.”

The Pirates responded early in the fourth quarter when Yoder hit Alexander Roden, who had got behind the Big Reds’ secondary for a 60-yard touchdown strike. However, jubilation quickly turned sour when the Pirates missed the point after and still found themselves trailing.

Garaway had another scoring opportunity one drive later, but their effort to forge a lead was stuffed on the 1-yard line and led to a turnover on downs. Another disappointment turned into another stellar effort by the Garaway defense.

Late in the final quarter, leading by one precarious point at 14-13, the Big Reds hoped to run the clock out, but Garaway’s defense again came up huge and forced a punt. Garaway took possession on its own 21 with 3:19 to play and one timeout.

That was when Yoder showed all of the poise of a seasoned veteran quarterback who trusts his teammates to make plays. Facing a fourth down early in the drive, Yoder located fellow senior Brady Roden for 12 yards and a first down. He then completed seven consecutive throws, finding Brady Roden, Alexander Roden and Jenson Garber to quickly march the ball downfield.

Yoder’s coup d’etat saw him find an open Brady Roden for the 2-yard touchdown and the Pirates’ first lead of the game, which came with 19 ticks left on the clock. He then connected with Gabe Amicone for the two-point conversion, and Garaway’s defense made it stand, stopping four straight Bellaire pass attempts to seal the deal.

Yoder went a solid 20-of-29 passing for 214 yards and three touchdowns. He added 68 yards rushing. After Miller went down early, in stepped Dillon Soehnlen, who rushed for 55 yards on 11 carries. Alexander Roden grabbed six passes for 107 yards and a pair of scores, Jenson Gaber made seven catches for 73 yards, and Brady Roden hauled in three catches with a score.

The defense was rock solid amid severe heat, with everyone chipping in to make big plays, led by Wyatt Wallick, who recorded five tackles and a sack, and Brady Roden, who stacked up five tackles and recorded a big interception.

“We got challenged, we faced adversity and we saw a lot of things we need to improve on, but we found out who we are pretty quickly,” Wallick said. “Our kids went out and won that game when it looked bleak.”