SUGARCREEK (November 22, 2023) – The Garaway High School football team is making history and celebrating history over the next couple of days.
The Pirates have advanced to the state final four for the first time in school history. They play Kirtland Friday night in Louisville for a chance to go to the Division VI state championship game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. That game would be Friday, Dec. 1, at 10:30 a.m.
In the meantime, the football program is inviting all past Pirate football players to a Thanksgiving Day practice at 3:30 p.m. followed by a team meal at the Belden Center.
The team is also celebrating the 60th year of Garaway football. The first Garaway football team played in 1963.
Sixty years later, the Pirates are the most successful team in program history. They have won 14 games – the most in a single season – and are just two wins away from a state title. They have a chance to be the most success playoff team in Tuscarawas County history – no county football team has been to a state championship game.
Standing in the way is Kirtland. The Hornets have been to the last six state championship games, winning three of them. Kirtland has won six state titles in the last 12 years. Garaway Coach Jason Wallick says they are a huge hurdle.
“They’re a phenomenal football team. They’ve been to six straight championships for a reason. They’ve lost the last two so they’re really inspired to get that title back. They don’t make mistakes. They don’t hurt themselves. They run the ball very, very well and throw enough just to keep you honest. It’ll be a huge, huge challenge for our front seven to hopefully slow their running game down. You’re not going to stop it. We know they’re a very good football team, but we feel we are, too.”
Garaway got this far by beating West Jefferson 42-7 this past Friday to win the school’s first football regional championship. Senior Wyatt Wallick scored twice for the Pirates last week – on a punt return and a fumble return.
“Wyatt was all over the field for us defensively. That punt return by Wyatt really jumpstarted us and got us going there to make it 14-0, and he pretty much sealed it with that scoop and score in the third quarter. It’s nice to see Wyatt have just an all-around special game offensively, defensively, and on special teams.”
Junior runningback Dillon Soenlen has had a great postseason, scoring 10 touchdowns in four games.
“Into week nine he just kind of turned that corner for us. He had a really good game against Ridgewood in week 10 and has continued since then to perform week in and week out.”
Garaway gets the home team designation against Kirtland but the game is at Louisville Leopard Stadium Friday at 7 p.m.
“We love playing in Louisville. The last three times we’ve played there we’ve been in the visitors’ locker room. It’s nice to be the home team and have a little more space. We can’t complain about Louisville. We’ve played there before. The outcomes haven’t been what we wanted, but it’s a beautiful, beautiful facility.”