Big plays help Garfield outlast JFK
GARRETTSVILLE — Two crucial plays proved to be the difference in the outcome of a hard-fought non-league contest Friday night.
Garfield made both of the decisive plays as the G-Men held on to beat visiting John F. Kennedy 27-21 in a battle of teams that entered the fray unbeaten.
“I was very happy with the way our defense responded in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter when we needed some big plays,” Garfield coach Mike Moser said. “We had so many guys stepping up defensively, and that was nice to see.”
After beating perennial playoff foes Brookfield and Kennedy in back-to-back weeks, the G-Men will play at Mogadore next week. Mogadore is the bully of the Portage Trail Conference. Although Garfield is an independent this season and will join the MVAC-Gray next season, the G-Men will be pumped for another big non-conference title.
“It’s awesome to be 4-0,” Moser said.
“When you look at our schedule, it’s a bit intimidating when you see weeks 3, 4 and 5. But the kids have been great about taking it one week at a time. JFK is a really good football team. The second half was a slobber-knocker out there. All year long, we’ve been physical and haven’t backed down to anybody, and that’s what we have to do.”
The first of the crucial plays Friday was the final one of the first half. Leading 20-14 and facing third-and-15 at Kennedy’s 24-yard line with 1 second remaining, Garfield quarterback Brody Swigowski took the snap, rolled to his right and lofted a pass into a crowd of receivers and defenders in the end zone. Running back Anthony snared the ball out of the air, seemingly wanting it more than others in the crowd.
Collin Lysiak’s third successful PAT kick in his four tries made it 27-14 at halftime.
“I’ll be honest with you Brody: I didn’t see the ball until the last second,” Demma told his quarterback as the G-Men headed to the locker room. “I kind of couldn’t see it (in the lights).”
It was a big night for Demma, who scored three touchdowns. He rushed for 203 yards on 20 carries, finding paydirt on a 67-yarder on the game’s third play and on a 65-yard gallop on a third-and-14 play in the middle of the second quarter to give his team a 13-7 lead.
Kennedy’s Cameron Hollobaugh, his team’s Swiss-army knife, tried to keep pace. Hollobaugh, who lines up at running back, quarterback and receiver, rushed for 111 yards and all three of his team’s touchdowns. He was 4-for-8 passing for 30 yards and caught a pair of passes from Caleb Hadley for 29 yards.
After his third score, a 12-yard run with 1:54 left in the third quarter pulled the Eagles within 27-21, Kennedy forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff return. The Eagles recovered and Garfield was assessed a 15-yard personal foul penalty as the Eagles took possession on the G-Men’s 22.
Three runs left Kennedy facing a fourth-and-4, and Hollobaugh’s pass to Sejjan Couto was knocked down by Demma, who made plays all over the field. In addition, the Eagles used two timeouts in that sequence, trying to take the lead. That came back to be costly in the fourth quarter.
Kennedy’s final two possessions were three-and-out efforts and the last one resulted in a punt with 3:24 remaining. Garfield then ran out the clock.
“We wanted to capitalize on that opportunity, and we felt it was a key point in the game, where if we punch it in there, it changes the whole complexion and forces (Garfield) to have to do something offensively,” Kennedy coach Dom Prologo said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t make the plays and credit to (Garfield). They made the plays when they needed to. They’re really good football team, and they deserved to win tonight.
“But I couldn’t be more proud of the effort our kids gave in the second half after the way the first half ended. We were kind of flat early, and that hurts because I don’t know if (Garfield) could’ve played a better first half than they did tonight. We regrouped at halftime and played really well in the second half. We were the more physical team in the second half, and that’s what we preach around here. But we dug ourselves too big of a hole in the first half.”
For the G-Men, the quick-change defensive stand was exhilarating.
“Defensively, Jesse Grace has been great, Aaron Craver has played great and Mike Baczkowski has been strong,” Moser said. “Those guys have been solid all year long.
“I thought we were going to need at least one score in the second half,” Moser said. “We got stopped on a fourth-down play, and that kind of took some wind out of our sails and (Kennedy) went on a long drive after that (12 plays, 65 yards) to make it 27-21. We got behind the sticks in the second half, started from our own 1 once and also had a bad snap where we lost eight yards. You can’t keep behind the sticks against a great team like JFK, so we were fortunate and our defense stepped up big.”
Moser credited Kennedy for its physical play, too.
“They come after you and that (Hollobaugh) just wouldn’t go down. He runs hard.”
Demma was surprised to find out he rushed for over 200 yards, but credited his offensive line.
“I got two long ones, but 200?” he asked. “I just know I kept getting three yards a carry because our line was doing the job. JFK is definitely the best defense we’ve played. They’ve got some guys over there who played well and kept us away from getting anything going in the second half. So we played field position and played some good D and it worked out.”