KARNS CITY — It's not that Luke Garing doesn't like scoring touchdowns — 46 times during his high school career he celebrated finding paydirt with his teammates.
But that's not what he relishes most about playing football.
“I really like defense, enjoy playing it more than offense. I remind Zach (Kepple, offensive coordinator) of that a lot,” said the senior running back/linebacker.
Garing's team-leading 91 tackles were a big reason why the Gremlins won a second straight District 9 title this season. So, too, were the 1,031 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns he scored. Twenty-one of those came in the regular season and helped him win the Butler Eagle Scoring Trophy with 140 points.
Garing became the eighth KC player to win the hardware, joining the likes of Billy Graham (2001), Matt Carnahan (2002) and Josh Fiscus (2003-04), among others.
“This school has such a great football program. It means a lot to have my name up there with those guys,” said Garing, who rushed for 375 yards and nine scores in 2020.
The Gremlins averaged 168 yards on the ground per game last year. That may seem like a healthy amount, but KC is used to churning out over 250 yards per contest.
The running game returned to its usual dominant output this season, with a 287-yard average.
“The offensive line did a great job blocking and the receivers, too,” said Garing. “When you pick up those blocks downfield, it can lead to bigger gains.”
Garing, who rarely was brought down by just one defender, didn't shy away from contact with the ball in his hands.
“I'd rather deliver the hit than get hit,” he said.
Garing had company pounding opposing defenses. Teammate Jayce Anderson paced the Gremlins with 1,033 yards and added 10 touchdowns.
The former had no problem with someone else getting almost as many carries.
“There were times when he asked me to get the ball to other guys,” Kepple said. “He wants everybody to get involved and he's as good of a blocker as he is running the ball.”
Aaron Taylor, TJ Vlassich, Josh Griffiths and Austin Brown were KC's mainstays on the line this season. Cole Hilliard, Lucas Wright, Mason McNany, Hunter McConnell and James Jones also threw key blocks for Garing and Co.
“We were experienced and deep on the line this season,” Kepple said. “When you have that kind of play up front, it opens up the whole offense.”
Garing is currently preparing for the high school basketball season. In the spring, he will close his scholastic athletic career by competing on KC's baseball and track and field teams.
“I try to play a sport in every season,” he said. “It makes you a better athlete and keeps you in shape.
“The thing I'll remember most about playing football here was winning back-to-back district titles.”