Maize turns back the clock on Garden City

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Final Highlights: GCHS vs. Maize

Game Stats: GCHS vs. Maize

Garden City, Kan (westernkansasnews.com)-When the so-called experts saw Maize’s week two showdown with Garden City, most of them gave the Buffaloes absolutely no chance. Those same experts apparently have never been in Brian Hill’s locker room before. 

Garden City gave the second-ranked Eagles all they could handle Friday night, but in the end, Connor Lungwitz torched the Buffs secondary to the tune of a career-high 415 yards and three touchdowns in a 53-37 victory at Buffalo Stadium. 

“Losing exposes weaknesses,” Hill said afterwards. “It also exposes character and team. We’re going to find out what type of character we have.”

The fifth-year Head Coach had to be proud of how his team got punched in the gut early and responded with a brilliant second and third quarters. 

Trailing 15-0 not even six minutes into the contest after two lightning-quick touchdown strikes: one a seven-yard run by Jordan Guerrero; the other a 59-yard hookup between Connor Lungwitz and Kendall Stewart, the Buffs finally found a spark. After a Lungwitz fumble that Garden City (0-2) recovered at their own 30 yard line, Hill’s team marched 70 yards in nine plays-spearheaded by Caleb Tramp’s spectacular 28-yard touchdown reception from Derek Hill to make it 15-7. 

But as Maize (2-0) did all night, they responded in the blink of an eye. Following the Buffs score, Lungwitz went right back to the air-finding Gabe Chavez wide open down the left sideline for a 78-yard catch and run to the house. The Eagles added a two-point conversion to take a 23-7 lead with 1:15 to play in the first. The play epitomized the type of night it was for Garden City. 

That theme continued on the ensuing kickoff when George Ross fumbled and Maize recovered at the Buffalo 28. But the defense stood tall, and back-to-back incompletions on third and fourth down turned the ball right back over to Garden City. 

The Buffs created another opportunity later in the second quarter when Lungwitz took his eye off a snap and fumbled the ball. Gabe Otero scooped it up, and Garden City had it at the Maize 37. Four plays later, they were back in the end zone-this time on the back of Jared Koster’s six-yard scamper to pay dirt. On the two-point try-Jesse Nunez’s pass caromed off the fingertips of Connor Schultz and was caught by Alex Espinosa-pulling the Buffs to within eight 23-15. 

After a Maize field goal extended the lead to 11, Garden City began driving again. As they crossed midfield, Hill’s team was faced with a fourth-and-10 from the Eagles’ 38. Nunez dropped back and lobbed a jump ball down the middle where Tramp climbed the ladder and out dueled Elijah West for the football. Six plays later, Koster blasted in from a yard out. The Buffs added the two-point conversion and trailed 26-23 at the break. 

Christian Coreas put the Buffaloes on top for the first time early in the third-capping off a seven-play, 40 yard drive with his first varsity touchdown: a 3-yard score on a run up the middle. Ezequiel Herrera’s extra point was good, and Garden City had a 30-26 advantage with 6:51 to play in the third. The touchdown put the finishing touches on a 15-minute span where the Buffaloes outscored the Eagles 23-3. 

“These kids fought at times in this game,” Hill said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

They kept fighting. The problem was the boxer in the other corner wouldn’t go away. It took Maize less than 20 seconds to regain the lead after Lungwitz hit Jordan Guerrero up the right sideline and watched the senior cut back across the field and race 70 yards to the end zone. He would add a rushing touchdown minutes later to put Maize up 40-30 with 46 seconds remaining in the third. 

“We need to find out who’s fully committed to what’s going on here,” Hill said. “I don’t want finger pointing.”

Trailing by 10 in the fourth-Hill’s team got a boost when Espinosa returned a punt 28 yards to the Eagle 33. The coach then reinserted (Derek) Hill back into the game. The senior completed 2-of-3 passes for 33 yards on the drive; both to Tramp including a 20-yard strike in the back-left corner of the end zone to pull the Buffs within three. That’s as close as they would get. 

Maize countered with a time-consuming march-driving 77 yards in 12 plays and eating up more than five minutes of the clock. On second-and-12 from the Buffalo 27, Guerreo took a hand off-broke three tackles at the line of scrimmage and stampeded to the end zone. He added another rushing touchdown later in the quarter following a Hill interception-finishing off a night that saw the senior rush for 110 yards on 25 carries and four touchdowns. He also caught six balls for 134 yards and a score-totaling 244 all-purpose yards. 

The Buffs tallied 10 penalties for 66 yards and turned the ball over three times. But one of the bright spots was Koster, who coming off a two-fumble performance against Olathe East, was solid on the ground-hitting 104 yards on 25 carries, which included two scores. Tramp was solid-catching seven passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns but did lose his third fumble of the season. 

Notes: Maize totaled 521 yards of offense-that’s the most given up by Garden City since allowing 557 to Bixby in last year’s season opener (they’ve now surrendered 878 yards in the first eight quarters of the season)…For all the question marks coming in regarding the offensive line-Hill’s squad has yielded just one sack in two games…This is the first time during Hill’s tenure that Garden City has started a season 0-2…The Buffs have been held under 300 yards in back-to-back games; that happened only once last season vs. Great Bend and Hays (those numbers are a bit skewed seeing how the Buffs gained 250 total yards against the Indians, but the game was called at halftime because of lightning).

Next up: Garden City at Great Bend-Friday, September 19-6:30 p.m. pregame; 7 p.m. kickoff on 99.9 FM; kwkrmobile.com and the KWKR mobile app