DeSoto County's Juan Garibay just seems to have a knack for finding himself in the right place to make a key tackle or block.

That talent was on full display Friday night as the senior linebacker had a hand in two of the most important plays of the Bulldogs (1-1) overtime victory against Lake Placid.

After Lake Placid forced OT, the Bulldogs needed to reset and coach Bumper Hay challenged them to come out with a renewed intensity.

On the first play, DeSoto running back Nelson Daniels burst through an  offensive line, anchored by Garibay, for the go-ahead 10-yard score. Lake Placid then faced a fourth-and-long on the ensuing drive, needing a touchdown to tie.

As the quarterback dropped back, he was immediately met by Garibay and another defender, who slung him down to seal the victory for DeSoto.

"Coach sent me on a blitz and I knew the center couldn't block me one on one, so I just bull rushed him," the 6-foot-1, 220-pounder said. "It felt good. I knew going into overtime it was going to be tough, but we needed to stop them and it was there."

But Friday was just a small glimpse of what Garibay has continued to bring to the Bulldog defense for the past three seasons.

According to Hay, the intensity on both sides of the ball is sparked by his attitude and leadership. He's not an outwardly enthusiastic kid, but once he straps on the pads, he vigorously searches for the big play.

"He's kind of the enforcer," Hay said. "His motor never stops. He almost never comes out of the game and yet he plays every play with the same intensity. He brings that fire because everybody feeds off of that. You can't measure what he brings."

Hay has felt that way since he took over at DeSoto before the 2018 season. In fact, it was Garibay that caught his eye immediately in one of his first games as head coach.

"When he blocks, he blocks to the whistle," Hay said. "Last year, the very first game I ever coached him, the very first play he takes the Immokalee kid and blocks him into their sideline on the bench. I thought to myself, 'I guess we found ourselves a pretty good guard here.'"

But it's not all about what he does between the tackles. His presence is felt sideline to sideline, on the bench and in the locker room.

He doesn't get in his teammates' faces and demand respect, rather he earns it with flawless reps during practice, his conditioning and the heart he displays on the field.

"When he's in, I know I have somebody that's gonna block for me," running back William Maybell said. "If he's on defense, I know that he's going to make that tackle. That man just keeps going. He doesn't even step off the field."

A lot of his passion and will to win stems from a gruesome injury suffered as a freshman that took away his first year of high school football.

After having a plate and screws inserted in his leg to repair a broken fibula, Garibay had to be relentless with his rehab to get ready for his sophomore season.

Sitting out that year gave him a greater appreciation for his current opportunity to lead the Bulldogs.

"It took a while. I was on crutches for most of the year," Garibay said. "It was bad because the season was going pretty good and I was a starter. I was really eager to get back. Once they cleared me I went straight to the weight room."

Garibay wants to play beyond his senior year and is still searching for his first college offer. Knowing he only has eight guaranteed games left, he plans to prove all doubters wrong and do whatever it takes to make his mark, not just for himself, but for the next wave of Bulldogs.

Email Jacob Hoag at and follow him on Twitter @ByJacobHoag.


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