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Photos by Adam Shrimplin
Wichita, KS-Nearly five years after Wichita Northwest suffered a heartbreaking setback to Garden City in the opening round of the 2013 playoffs in their building, Steve Martin’s team finally got their revenge, even if it was a half-decade in the making.
The dynamic-duo of Breece Hall and Roy Johnson combined for 375 yards on the ground and three touchdowns, the defense limited the Buffaloes to just six first downs, and the Grizzlies hammered Garden City 49-6 in the 6A state quarterfinals at Northwest Stadium on Friday night. With the win, Wichita Northwest advanced to their first semifinal since 1996; they’ll play Derby, who knocked off previously-unbeaten Lawrence Free State in overtime.
“We just ran out of gas,” Garden City Coach Brian Hill said afterwards. “These guys gave me everything they had.”
But against a running tandem as dangerous as Hall and Johnson, the Buffaloes once vaunted defense looked mortal, and it was evident on the third play from scrimmage.
On first-and-10 from their own 39, Johnson sprinted right through the Buffaloes front line, stampeding 61 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead 40 seconds into the game. Most of the fans had not even taken their seats yet.
“We didn’t think we would give up the type of yardage we did tonight,” Hill said. “But they did what they had to, and we couldn’t stop it.”
That opening scoring dash set the tone for the Grizzlies best rushing game of the year, totaling 513 yards on 52 carries, 354 of which came in the first half.
“Northwest is a good football team,” Hill said. “We knew that coming in. But last week’s game took such an emotional toll on these guys that it was evident right from the start.”
Despite giving up the most rushing yards in a playoff game since 2010 when they were gashed for 510 vs. Wichita Heights, the Buffaloes had a chance to tie the score when Hall muffed a punt midway through the first quarter. But after moving the ball to the 2-yard line, the Garden City (8-3, 3-1) offense stalled. Then things went from bad to worse when Anthony Flores pushed a 22-yard field goal wide to the right.
“Maybe it’s a different game if we score there,” Hill said. “But we didn’t.”
Instead, Wichita Northwest (10-1, 5-1) went to work, driving 80 yards in six plays, fueled by a second-and-25 conversion when Austin Anderson hit Jaxson Reynolds on a post for 32 yards to the Garden City 10. Three plays later, Anderson went back to Reynolds, this time on a fade pattern in the end zone for a 13-yard score, pushing the Grizzlies lead to 14-0.
“I can’t say enough about what these guys have given me,” Hill said. “But in the end, they just didn’t have enough in the tank.”
The Grizzlies padded their lead in the second, scoring on Hall’s one-yard plunge early in the frame before David Arteaga’s fumble setup Hall’s second touchdown run: a 15-yard dance that made it 28-0 with 6:12 left in the half. Anderson added a 15-yard touchdown pass to Jaylen Smith, and the Grizzlies had a 35-0 halftime advantage.
“We just never could get anything going,” said Hill, whose team went three-and-out on seven of their 10 first-half possessions and were outgained 454-78 over the first 24 minutes.
Garden City did show a little life on their second possession of the third quarter, when Quinton Lapointe, who notched his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season, galloped 52 yards to the Grizzlies 18. Five plays later, Arteaga took the direct snap and plunged into the end zone from one yard out, making it 35-6 (Flores missed the extra point) with 6:30 to go in the period.
“If you would have told me back four months ago that we would have made it this far, it would have been tough to believe just because of everything that we lost from last year,” Hill said. “That’s what makes what these guys did so special.”
Before it was all said and done, Anderson, who came into the contest second in the City League in passing yardage behind Bishop Carroll’s Braden Howell, added two more touchdown passes to Reynolds: a 29-yarder with 5:04 left in the third and a six-yard toss on the third play of the final quarter that stretched the lead to 49-6.
“I told these guys that it’s not Armageddon; that the sun will come up tomorrow,” Hill said. “For these seniors to do what they did the past four years, they set the foundation for this program.”
One of those seniors, Garret Doll, finished just 8-of-24 passing for 39 yards. Lapointe tallied 147 yards rushing, and Tye Davis had three catches for 18 yards.
Anderson completed 9-of-22 passes for 153 yards and four touchdowns for Wichtia Northwest, who improved to 7-10 in postseason play under Martin. Hall carried the ball 20 times for 215 yards and two scores, while Johnson toted it 12 times for 160 and a touchdown. Reynolds caught four balls for 80 yards and three touchdowns, and linebacker Josh Carter had 12 stops, his fifth double-digit tackle game of the season.
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