May 19, 2022

In shock; Derby rolls Buffs in semis

Audio Highlights: GCHS vs. Derby

Derby, Kan (westernkansasnews.com)-On Monday morning, Brian Hill had envisioned his team playing for a championship. At 10 p.m. Friday, Hill was planning exit meetings. 

In a seven-day span that saw the Buffaloes overcome a two-touchdown, second-half deficit against perennial power Wichita Heights, the veteran Head Coach stood on the sidelines in Panther Stadium, baring the sight of a blowout loss. 

University of Florida signee De’Andre Goolsby hauled in five receptions for 151 yards, two touchdowns, and the No. 1 Panthers held the once-vaunted Garden City offense to just 202 total yards en route to a 55-17 win in the 6A state semifinals. 

“We just ran out of gas,” Hill said after the game. “They’re a really good football team. And for the most part, our guys were basically pieced together.”

Injuries have actually made the Buffaloes run seem even more improbable. But in the end, the clock struck midnight on Garden City’s magical season. 

After Derby (11-1) deferred the opening kickoff, things seemed promising for the Buffaloes on their first drive. Greyson Tempel, who came into the game as the program’s all-time, single-season leader in passing yards, hit Caleb Tramp on a third-and-five for 13 yards and a first down. Three plays later, Garden City was faced with another third down, but Tempel’s screen pass for Jared Koster bounced off the sophomore’s fingertips, and the Buffaloes were forced to punt.

It appeared Garden City might get the football back on Derby’s opening possession when they forced the Panthers into a fourth-and-two at their own 47. But quarterback Jeremy Dunham kept it himself, broke a tackle in the backfield and stretched for a first down near the 50. 

“That’s the play that really changed the game,” Hill said. “If we stop them there, who knows what happens.”

Five plays later, Derby senior running back Tyler West, blasted in from five yards out to give the Panthers a 7-0 lead. 

Following a three-and-out, Derby took over at the Garden City 35 after a 14-yard Mitchell Hernandez punt. On the very next play, West found a crease on the left side and raced all the way to the Buffaloes eight before Dozie Ekweairiri bumped him out of bounds. Seconds later, Dunham hit Caleb Arnold on a bubble screen and watched the senior transfer from Garden Plain race up the sideline for a 10-yard touchdown. Tim Williamson booted through the extra point, and the Panthers led 14-0 with 2:30 to play in the first. 

On the Buffs ensuing possession, Hill’s team was staring at a fourth and two at their own 49. Instead of punting it away, Garden City rolled the dice and went for it. But Dusty Tempel was tracked down by David Tullis on a reverse behind the line of scrimmage, and the Panthers took over at the Buffaloes 45-yard line. The decision was a costly one.

It took a single play for the top-ranked team in the state to reach the end zone again. On first-and 10 from the Garden City 45, Dunham hit Goolsby on a slant route, and the senior did the rest-breaking two tackles en route to a touchdown and a 21-0 advantage with three seconds left in the period.

“They’re just a big, powerful football team,” Hill said. “This one is definitely hard to swallow.”

It took a quarter, but Tempel finally injected some life into the Buffalo offense on their next series when he hit his brother Dusty down the middle of the field for a 53-yard catch and run to the Panther 19-yard line. After the drive stalled at the 16, Ismael Hernandez drilled a 34-yard field to cut the Derby lead to 18. 

Momentum swinging? Not even close. 

Dunham’s 64-yard option read touchdown run on the Panthers next drive, quickly doused any thoughts of a Garden City comeback. 

And even after Jared Koster’s 75-yard kickoff return for a touchdown brought the Buffaloes back to within 28-10 midway through the second, the defense could never get the stop they needed. 

The Panthers would add three more scores before the half: A west five-yard rushing td, a 26-yard hookup between Dunham and Goolsby and a seven-yard run by Dunham. 

The nightmare first half mercifully ended with the Buffaloes trailing 48-10 on the coldest night of the year. 

The only thing that changed in the second half was the personnel. But before that, West added one more touchdown scamper-this one from 57 on the Panthers opening possession of the third quarter-extending the Derby lead to 55-10. 

Playing against the second team and with a running clock, the Buffaloes offense finally reached pay dirt when Tempel hit Tramp on an 11-yard slant to make the final score a bit more respectful. 

But in the end, it was the Panthers moving on to their first state championship game since 2002 while the Buffaloes title drought reached 14 years. 

Garden City finished the season 8-4; their first 8-win campaign in more than a decade.

Final Stats: GCHS vs. Derby

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