G-Men get home playoff game after near misses

The Garfield football team entered the season with a chip on its shoulder after two consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance.

That chip fueled the G-Men to a 9-1 record, their best regular season since 2005, and they will be hosting the first playoff game in school history on Saturday night.

“It’s a great achievement,” Garfield coach Mike Moser said. “Of course you want to play well and you want to win it. We’ve had some really good teams in the past go on the road come playoff time, so we’re really excited about being able to host one this year.”

In this history-making affair, Garfield welcomes Sugarcreek Garaway (8-2) to Garrettsville for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

“They’re wide open,” Moser said. “They run a lot of empty, they’ve got a real good quarterback and a real athletic team. They have four or five really good wide receivers that have a lot of speed. It’s certainly different from a lot of the stuff we’ve seen so far this year, so they’re going to be a real challenge for us to contain.”

To be able to contain that offense, the G-Men defenders need to focus on a fundamental aspect of the game.

“We have to tackle,” Moser said. “They have some really good athletes and we’re going to get those moments in space, one-on-one. It’s going to take us tackling really well and holding onto the ball offensively and running our stuff and doing what we do.”

What Garfield does is run the ball and run the ball well.

The G-Men aren’t afraid to reach down the depth chart when it comes to their running game and it shows, with 12 backs registering yards throughout the season.

Connor Hrubik led the way with 707 yards on 80 carries and is expected to be a focal point in the team’s offense in the postseason. Hrubik is a dual-sport athlete which provides a mentality perfect for the playoffs.

“Wrestlers are always tough,” Moser said. “They’re good tacklers on defense and they’re hard-nosed kids. When you get into these cold weather, hard-nosed, physical football games like the playoffs are always going to be, I think it’s an advantage to have those kids that are multi-sport athletes that have seen some pressure.”

Austin Lysiak (681 yards) and Anthony Demma (583 yards) also eclipsed the 500-yard mark. Demma and Jarrod Peters each scored nine touchdowns.

Passing hasn’t been a staple of the Garfield offense, but quarterback Brody Swigonski proved to be a valuable weapon for the G-Men, throwing for 12 touchdown passes and 677 yards.

The Pirates will utilize multiple defensive schemes against a high-powered Garfield offense that has averaged just shy of 40 points per game.

“They run a couple different fronts but they really get after the ball well,” Moser said. “They have a really good defensive line and the linebackers play really solid. On both sides of the ball, you can tell they’re well-coached.”

The Pirates’ lone miscue during the 2019 campaign came against football instituion and conference rival Mogadore, a 39-21 loss. After the Mogadore game, Moser chuckled and hoped that the loss to the Wildcats wouldn’t sting as much going into the playoffs.

“If we’re lucky enough to get in the postseason, this will be something we look back on, and hopefully it’s a distant memory,” Moser said after the Mogadore game.

With the G-Men heading into week 11, that Mogadore game becomes a distant memory. Since that loss, Garfield has learned and is ready to keep its season going. The main lesson learned was about red zone efficiency.

“We moved the ball on Mogadore; we had over 300 yards rushing,” Moser said. “We got stopped two times in the red zone and that ends up being the difference in the game. That’s what it’s going to be in the playoffs. You can’t turn the ball over and you can’t commit penalties. You’re going to be going against good defenses every week, so when you get the ball down there, you have to put it in. You have to capitalize on it.