Garfield’s best season ever ends

Anthony DeNigris (with ball) of Garfield follows Cole Dean, who knocked Gunnar Eberhart of Canton Central Catholic to the ground during a snow storm in the Division V, Region 17 championship game at Uniontown Lake on Saturday night.

HARTVILLE — The current incarnation of the Garfield gridiron warriors stand alone in the history of G-Men football, even if they have something in common with nearly all of the other 224 schools who competed in the 2016 Ohio state playoffs.

Garfield’s improbable run crashed to an end with a 40-13 loss to Canton Central Catholic in the Division V, Region 17 championship game at Blue Streak Memorial Stadium on Saturday night.

The G-Men, seeded eighth, knocked off higher seeds South Range and LaBrae before falling short against the Crusaders. They were the first playoff wins in school history.

“This has been great for us, for the team, the school and the community,” Garfield coach Mike Moser said. “I’m so proud of the guys. The 14 seniors had a pact. They had a goal to get in the playoffs and win a game. They did that. It’s sad that it ends in a loss, but it ends the same way for everyone except the state champion. It’s a tough way to walk off the field when it ends.”

That pact was made in middle school and it was Moser’s job to see the G-Men (9-4) followed through with their talk.

Dalton Fall of Garfield attempts to avoid Gunnar Eberhart of Canton Central Catholic in the Division V, Region 17 championship game at Uniontown Lake on Saturday night.

“They came to me in an eighth-grade social studies class and said they were going to make the playoffs and win a game,” Moser said. “I told them they’d have to prove it. They’ve been reminding me of that for four years. They did it. They stayed true to their words.”

The Crusaders will continue on their chase of a state championship when they battle Milan Edison next Saturday night in a state semifinal.

The tide turned for Garfield, which trailed by just a field goal, 10-7, late in the second period, on a fumble that Central Catholic recovered at its own 35. The Crusaders marched down and took a 17-7 lead on Brady Thompson’s 5-yard touchdown run.It was his second of the game. The first, from three yards out, had given CCC the lead at 10-7 following a Dan Mills field goal.

“We knew coming in we didn’t have a big margin for error in regard to making mistakes,” Moser said. “We made a couple. There in the second quarter we thought we had the momentum and were going in to take the lead at the half. We had a turnover and that let the air out of the balloon a bit.”

The air around the Garfield sideline became a bit thick following that score with 1:30 remaining in the first half and it never really thinned out again.

Anthony DeNigris of Garfield is brought down by Harris Stuffel of Canton Central Catholic in the Division V, Region 17 championship game at Uniontown Lake on Saturday night.

“That’s what you want to avoid when you get this far,” Moser said. “You want to come out and show you can play with them and play with confidence. We had the lead early and things were going our way. We made a mistake and gave them some life. You can’t make mistakes against a team as good as that one.”

The G-Men drew first blood following Seth Morgan’s interception of Central Catholic quarterback Jack Murphy. Morgan later scored to put Garfield up, 7-0, with 7:40 remaining in the first quarter.

“That was huge,” Moser said. “When you’re playing a good team like this, or you haven’t played somebody before, you want things to go your way early. The interception did that. It let us punch that first one in. Unfortunately, we couldn’t continue that momentum.”

Once the G-Men fell behind, it became more and more difficult to stay in the game. The Crusaders’ defense wasn’t allowing much room to operate.

“I told you about their defense coming in,” Moser said. “Their defense hadn’t given up a touchdown yet in the playoffs. You have to make all of your opportunities count. It looked like during the first half we were doing that until the turnover.”

Garfield netted just 147 yards of offense on the night, surrendered a safety after falling on a fumble in their own end zone and gave up a touchdown on Jaret Cummins return of an interception.

Thompson added a third score and Murphy had one of his own in the second half.

Tommy Bissler added a late touchdown for Garfield on a pass from Dalton Fall with just less than two minutes to play in the fourth.