GARBER, Okla. — For many, the 2021 Garber Wolverines were expected to be in a rebuilding year.
Their 7-3 record the season prior was their best since 2014, and a significant improvement from their 4-7 record in 2019. Still, with nine starters returning between the offense and defense it would seem likely that the team would experience some growing pains.
Despite this, Garber has managed to advance to the second round of the playoffs on the heels of its best season in the last decade. With a second-place finish in District B-7, it earned home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs, cruising past Foyil, 52-0.
Its next challenge will be its toughest of the season, though. When Garber (9-1) hits the road to play defending Class B state champion Dewar (11-0), it will try to become the first team to beat the Dragons in nearly two years.
Garber head coach Koy Hughes said Dewar is “as good as advertised” with talent across the board.
“Dewar’s a good team,” he said. “We know they’re going to put some points up and get some stops. We just have to take those first couple of blows, and know that it’s a 12-round fight, not a one-round fight. We’ve just got to keep taking those blows and what’s gonna determine the game is who’s gonna recover from those blows and go forward.”
The Wolverines’ best hope in ending Dewar’s 26-game winning streak will likely be senior running back Tydonte Chester. The 6-3, 225-pound do-it-all back has been the catalyst of the Wolverines’ offensive attack. In recent week’s he’s been slowed down by an ankle injury that he suffered late in the season.
Chester has had his offensive snaps limited the past two games, but played the majority of the Foyil game on defense. Hughes said he thought Chester looked close to 100% in the game, and that he’s continued to have a good week of practice.
“I’d take Ty in a dog-fight against anybody,” Hughes said. “I’d put him up against any player in 8-man football, that’s for sure.”
The play of freshman quarterback Brett Howry could also be a big factor in the Wolverines’ success Friday. For many coaches the idea of entering a road playoff game against the defending state champions with a freshman quarterback would give them reasons to be worried.
Howry has proven to be ready for big moments this season, though, particularly in the Wolverines’ lone loss to Pioneer. Garber’s offense attacked the Mustangs with an all-out air attack to try to neutralize their opponent’s advantage up front.
The freshman quarterback threw the ball 54 times in the game, completing 66% of his passes for 314 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
“If you’d asked me this question about six or seven years ago, I probably would’ve said yes,” Hughes said when asked whether Howry’s youth worried him. “But Brett’s such an even-keeled kid, he doesn’t get too excited, doesn’t get too down, kind of stays that same keel that whole game.
“He didn’t back down against Pioneer, he didn’t back down a bit against Pioneer, he didn’t back down a bit against (Covington-Douglas) — two great teams. I’ve got a lot of confidence in Brett.”
Alongside Chester, seniors Solomon Bishop and David Nagel, and junior Carson Schovanec have been a big part of the Wolverines continued improvement from last season. The majority of the team’s experience coming into the season came primarily from those four players.
“I want to give credit to my four captains — Solomon Bishop, David Nagel, Ty Chester and Carson Schovanec — those guys have been about as good of leaders as I could imagine this year,” Hughes said.