Turnovers spur Pirates’ 42-7 blitzkrieg over Northmor

Turnovers spur Pirates’ 42-7 blitzkrieg over Northmor
Dave Mast

Coming after the quarterback at full tilt, Garaway defensive end Jackson Reifenschneider was able to rise up and snare this bubble screen attempt one-handed, then went untouched the final 30 yards for a pick-six score that led to Garaway’s second touchdown.


Another game, another running clock for the Garaway Pirates football crew.

The Div. VI Region 23 regional semifinal contest between Garaway and Northmor on Friday, Nov. 10 at Swank Field at Heath High School could be defined in each team’s first five possessions.

All five of the Golden Knights’ series ended in a turnover while all five of the Pirates’ efforts produced touchdowns, and that blitzkrieg opened the door for a 42-7 victory that propelled the Pirates into the regional finals.

The highlights of that smokefest were many for Garaway.

Garber more than
just a receiver

Garaway senior wideout/defensive back Jenson Garber has produced a record-setting season at wide receiver like no other Pirate before him. He continues to produce big-time catches, like the one he made on a long third-down play on the Pirates’ opening drive.

However, now he’s decided catching the ball on offense isn’t quite enough, so he figured he’d do the same from his cornerback spot.

On Northmor’s opening game drive, Garber stepped in front of a pass on Garaway’s 46-yard line and hauled in the first of five Garaway interceptions.

The Pirates quickly turned around and converted, thanks in large part to a leaping Garber, who put the Pirates inside the 10, the drive culminating on a 1-yard dive by Wyatt Wallick.

“I’ve got to do whatever I can, where my team needs me,” Garber said of his interception that set the table for the first five possessions. “It’s a nice tone-setter, and our offense went right down and took advantage of it. Our defense kept forcing turnovers, and we kept converting on offense, and you can’t ask for anything better.”

The bubble pass goes
the wrong way

Trailing 7-0, Northmor picked up a first down and was looking to regain momentum. Then senior defensive end Jackson Reifenschneider turned the game on its head with a ridiculous pick six that deflated the Golden Knights.

Northmor quarterback AJ Bauer dropped back, and Reifenschneider came roaring around the left edge. Only a few steps away from Bauer, the senior pass rusher stopped his pursuit, leapt into the air and snared Bauer’s bubble screen with one hand. Without skipping a beat, he stormed down the field for a touchdown.

“That was fun, something special, a lineman’s dream,” Reifenschneider said. “I give our coaching staff credit because they pointed out that play in practice and I recognized it and had the edge but then I pulled up short and the ball was there. I wasn’t even sure what really happened. I saw the pass, stuck my hand up and thought, ‘Hey, I might catch this.’ Then my eyes got big when I saw open grass in front of me.”

27 joins the pick party

Digging themselves a large hole, Northmor took its third possession, and when Bauer got monster pressure from Pirates’ defensive linemen Clayton Downs and Wyatt Hershberger, Bauer had to unleash a wild toss that found the hands of senior linebacker Payton Keller, who returned it to the 30. Dillon Soehnlen powered to the 2-yard line, where quarterback Brady Geibel stormed into the end zone with Gio Colon’s extra point making it 21-0.

Keller wasn’t done with his thievery yet, intercepting a Bauer offering two series later to set up a 47-yard touchdown connection from Geibel to Garber for a 35-0 lead. On that play Reifenschneider and Downs had a meeting of the minds that culminated in the middle of Bauer’s chest, forcing his pass to flutter high and settle into Keller’s waiting arms.

The big hitter hits hard

Wyatt Hershberger has been the heart and soul of this Pirates defense all season. The senior nose guard produced again on Northmor’s fourth possession. With the Golden Knights driving down to Garaway’s 20, Carson Campbell, a 1,000-yard rusher, got through the line, where Hershberger delivered a punishing hit from the right side, driving the ball out of Campbell’s hands and into the mitts of Garber.

“Wyatt has been making those types of plays all year and really throughout his career,” Garaway head coach Jason Wallick said. “He’s got a nose for making big plays.”

The finishing touch on the half

Junior tailback Dillon Soehnlen did a ton of the groundwork in setting the table for some short Pirates’ scores, and Geibel rewarded him by calling his number on a bubble screen from the 50. The running back swept past several defenders and then outraced four more into the end zone to complete Garaway’s scoring with just 1:14 left to play in the half.

A fitting end to the half

After Campbell produced three nice runs totaling 61 yards, Bauer went to the air one more time, and it was one too many. Lucas Swartzentruber stepped in front of the intended receiver and toe-tapped his way to an interception on the sideline at the 2-yard line to send the teams to the locker room with the Pirates in total command.

As has been the case throughout the playoffs, the Pirates forced a running clock throughout the second half, and the game was over almost before fans had a chance to settle back into their seats.

“It’s tough to lose a game when you force six turnovers,” Garber said.

“We set the tone early, gave them a nice little right hand, then a left hand and then an uppercut, and the knockout came pretty early,” Reifenschneider said. “It was great execution from both our offense, defense and special teams.”

The defense was again at the heart of the victory, and the Pirates continued to play stellar, especially in its front seven.

“We all know our assignments, and we just come out and do our job and we play hard for each other,” Downs said. “Play as a team and don’t try to be individually great. We talk about chain links all the time. If one chain link breaks, they all break down, so we all have a job to do.”

Coach Wallick said his Pirates knew the goal coming in was to hit the Golden Knights hard early and get them in a hole.

It was mission accomplished.

“Psychologically, that was devastating when our defense kept making plays, and when we got up 21 early, it had a huge mental impact on them,” Wallick said. “It’s another step in the process for us.”

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