Garden City, KS-In the season opener at Derby, the Buffaloes’ special teams was a big culprit in a 43-point loss. A week later, the same problems reared their ugly head again, and dropped the Buffaloes into an 0-2 hole for the first time in four years.
Larry Wilson rushed for 148 yards and two touchdowns while also returning a punt 99 yards to the house as Valley Center stormed past Garden City 41-20 Friday night at Buffalo Stadium.
“Effort is never going to be a question with this team,” Hill said. “And this may sound like an excuse, but at some point experience matters.”
On the opening kickoff seven days earlier, Hunter Igo burned the Buffaloes 82 yards for a score. Against the Hornets, Garden City fumbled the opening kick, and Valley Center recovered.
“Once that happened, we were trying to make up ground all night long,” Hill said. “It just sucked the momentum away from us.”
And while Valley Center (1-1) did not score on their first drive, they set an emphatic tone.
Following a Buffalo punt midway through the first, the Hornets started deep in their own end. Facing third-and-7 from their own 11, Parker Schrater unleased a bomb down the left sideline that Zach Williams reeled in, and outraced Christian Reyes for an 89-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
“We had a lot of miscommunication tonight,” Hill said. “We knew what we had to do, but one guy was out of position, and that was that.”
If Williams 89-yard score was the appetizer, Wilson’s punt return later in the opening period was the main course.
Reece Morss sent a booming kick that bounced over Wilson’s head. The senior, who rushed for nearly 900 yards during a sensational junior campaign, raced back to the 1 before inexplicably picking the ball up.
“It was hard to tell if the ball went into the end zone,” Hill said.
With most everyone in the stadium thinking it was a touchback, Wilson bounced to his right, split through two defenders, and dashed to the end zone down the right sideline as a stunned home crowd watched in awe.
“It was one of those plays where guys were not in their fits,” Hill said. “It was almost like a scramble drill.”
Ethan Crone blocked Hunter Sharp’s extra point, but the damage was already done, and the Hornets had a 13-0 advantage with 3:46 to go in the first.
Garden City eventually found their groove on offense the next time they had the ball. And Morss was the catalyst, carrying the rock three times for 29 yards, the last 19 of which came on a delayed handoff up the middle where the senior broke free for the Buffaloes first touchdown of the game. Carlos Acosta then found Tye Davis in the corner of the end zone for the two-point conversion, cutting Valley Center’s lead to 13-8 with 1:00 remaining in the opening frame.
“Everything that you could ever want in a football player is what Reece is,” Hill said. “He was fantastic in everything he did. He’s a warrior.”
The senior surpassed the century mark on the ground with 140 yards on 21 carries while totaling seven tackles and one sack.
But despite Morss heroics, the Hornets kept coming, driving 56 yards in four plays before Wilson punctuated the march with an 18-yard rushing touchdown to make it 20-8 with 7:09 remaining in the second. Then, after Morss cut the deficit to six with his second rushing touchdown of the first half, the Buffaloes gave up a backbreaking score right before the intermission.
A questionable pass interference call extended the Hornets’ drive. On the next play from the Garden City 29, Schrater floated a pass to a wide-open Amado Carillo, who walked into the end zone, putting Valley Center up 27-14 at the half.
“That was pretty deflating considering we had made it a one-score game,” Hill said. “You can’t let that happen. We just kept giving up big plays.”
In the third quarter, Wilson struck again, this time on a 93-yard stampede to the end zone, outracing 11 defenders to give the road squad a 34-14 lead.
Morss did produce the highlight of the night when he blocked Williams’ punt, and returned it for a touchdown. But even that was a side note once Schrater put the game away in the fourth with a 30-yard touchdown pass to Blayne Hightower.
Schrater finished the night 11-of-18 for 311 yards and three touchdowns for the Hornets, who notched their first 200-yard passing night in 12 games. Williams caught four balls for 127 yards, and Layton Lewis had nine tackles.
Acosta ended the game 12-of-26 for 117 yards for the Buffaloes, who have scored just 26 total points in two games. Davis had six catches for 66.
Next up: Garden City at Hutchinson, Friday, Sept. 14-6:30 p.m. pregame; 7 p.m. kick on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app
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