Photos by Adam Shrimplin
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Wichita, KS-Over the past five years, Garden City has handed Wichita Northwest some gut-wrenching setbacks.
On Friday, the Grizzlies returned the favor in almost the same exact fashion that the Buffaloes did 365 days earlier.
The City League’s leading rushing tandem of Breece Hall and Roy Johnson combined for 218 yards on the ground, Wichita Northwest forced three turnovers, and the Grizzlies enacted revenge from last year’s 27-point collapse, overcoming a 17-point halftime deficit to hand the Buffaloes their first loss of the season 36-23 at Northwest Stadium.
“I learned a lot about my football team tonight,” Garden City Coach Brian Hill said. “Sometimes, it takes a game like this to do that. I’m proud of my kids. This game wasn’t going to define our season. But it will help us, because we will learn from it.”
The Buffaloes absolutely manhandled the Grizzlies over the first 24 minutes. Garret Doll threw two touchdown passes to Tye Davis, and Anthony Flores hit a 33-yard field goal as Garden City (5-1, 2-0) built a 17-6 advantage with 2:34 remaining in the half.
Then, things went from bad to worse for Wichita Northwest (5-1, 3-1) Coach Steve Martin.
With less than three minutes remaining in the second, Grizzlies quarterback Austin Anderson tried to force a slant pass over the middle. Defensive lineman Ethan Crone batted the ball up into the air and intercepted it, giving the Buffaloes great field position at the Wichita Northwest 28.
“That was a sensational play,” Hill said. “Ethan is very athletic, and that definitely showed there.”
Garden City though could not punch it in. On third-and-10 from the Grizzlies 13, Quinton Lapointe was stopped seven yards shy of the first down. That’s when Flores booted through his second field goal of the half: a 32 yarder that pushed the lead to 20-6.
“Anthony was spectacular tonight,” Hill said. “All of his punts into the wind, and his place kicking helped us out tremendously.”
Flores would get one more chance before the half, thanks to the Buffalo defense, which forced the Grizzlies to punt into the wind from their own 7-yard line. After a penalty on Wichita Northwest gave Garden City an untimed down, Flores came through again, connecting on a season-long 36-yard boot that gave the Buffaloes a 23-6 cushion going into the locker room.
“That first half was everything that we expected from these kids,” Hill said. “We knew we were playing a really good football team.”
Garden City nearly outgained one of the most potent offenses in the state in the first half, totaling 185 yards while scoring 20 second-quarter points.
Unfortunately, the second half turned into a nightmare for Hill’s bunch.
Garden City produced just 40 yards and three first downs over the final 24 minutes as the Grizzlies seized the momentum.
On their opening drive of the third period, Wichita Northwest marched 70 yards in 10 plays, converting two third downs, the last of which resulted in six when Anderson found Jaxson Reynolds in the back-right corner of the end zone for a touchdown that cut the Buffalo lead to 23-13.
“We knew they would make a run in the second half,” Hill said. “But I didn’t foresee them doing to us what we did to them last year.”
The way the first half played out, no one did.
Early in the final quarter, the Grizzlies were giftwrapped another opportunity when Doll fumbled the ball, and linebacker Austin Zaring recovered it for Wichita Northwest. Two plays later, Hall found pay dirt, blasting in from five yards out, making it a three-point game with 8:20 to go.
“Give Northwest a lot of credit, they fought back,” Hill said. “But we have to do a better job when teams come back on us like that.”
Following a short Buffalo punt, Wichita Northwest took the lead for good. On third-and-7 from the Garden City 34, Anderson hit Jalen Smith on a bubble screen to the left. The senior, who runs the 100 and 200 meters on the track team, showed his burst, sprinting down the left sideline and carrying David Arteaga the final 10 yards to the end zone, giving the Grizzlies a 27-23 advantage with 2:43 remaining.
“They (Northwest) made a lot of plays in the second half,” Hill said.
Trailing for the first time all night, Garden City still had a chance. First, they converted a fourth-and-10 from their own 20 when Doll connected with Tye Davis for 11. After a pass interference penalty on the Grizzlies, the Buffaloes had the ball near midfield. But on first-and-10, Doll was flushed to his right before tossing a jump pass down the middle that Reynolds snared away from Davis and returned 65 yards for the game-clinching touchdown.
“Garret was just trying to make a play there,” Hill explained. “When you’re trailing, and you’re being rushed, you’re trying to find a spark.”
Doll was pressured all night, as he was sacked three times.
“We’ve got to do a better job protecting him (Doll),” Hill said. “In the first half we did. We didn’t do what we needed to do in the second half.”
Hall notched his seventh career 100-yard rushing game for Wichita Northwest, carrying the ball 17 times for 108 yards and two scores. His first touchdown of the night was absolutely electrifying as he raced 65 yards to the end zone to put Wichita Northwest on the board in the second quarter. Johnson, his backfield mate, rushed for 110 yards-his third game this season where he eclipsed the century mark.
Doll completed 11-of-39 passes for 177 yards, two touchdowns and two second-half interceptions for Garden City, who lost their first regular-season game since 2015. Lapointe totaled 51 yards on the ground, and Davis had six catches for 88 and two touchdowns.
Notes: Garden City was just 3-of-15 on third-down conversions…Wichita Northwest, who broke the single-game, state record two years ago with 100 plays from scrimmage, actually ran two less than Garden City on Friday (66-64)…The Buffaloes went 3-and-out on five of their nine second-half possessions…The Grizzlies now lead the all-time series 15-12
Next up: Garden City vs. Dodge City-Friday, Oct. 13-6 p.m. kpreps; 6:30 p.m. pregame; 7 p.m. kick on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app
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