Audio Highlights: GCHS vs. Wichita Northwest
Wichita, Kan (westernkansasnews.com)-Playoff games are supposed to be exciting, but what fans got a taste of Friday night was arguably one of the best high school football games played in recent memory.
Greyson Tempel threw for a career-best 368 yards and four touchdowns, and the Buffs defense forced five Grizzlies’ turnovers on their way to heart-stopping, 40-36 win in Friday night’s 6A playoff opener at Northwest Stadium.
“It’s unbelievable,” an exhausted Head Coach Brian Hill said afterwards. “The never-say-die attitude of these kids and led again by our senior class, who just continue to fight no matter what’s going on.”
You couldn’t write the second-half script because no one would believe it. The lead changed hands six times; there were drive-killing penalties that only added to the drama, and of course a would-be, game-sealing interception that was called back because of off-setting penalties. All-in all, both Hill and Grizzlies coach Steve Martin aged a good 30 years.
Trailing by three and staring at a second-and 20 at their own 21-yard line following a 10-yard sack with under two minutes to play, the Buffaloes seemed dead in the water. But appearances can be very deceiving.
On the very next play Tempel hooked up with his twin brother Dusty Tempel for a 15-yard strike. Then on third-and six, Tempel raced for 23 yards and first down to the Grizzlies 42.
Following a pass interference penalty that gave Garden City (7-3) the ball at the Northwest 28, Tempel took a low shotgun snap that actually bounced on the turf, fielded it, and then lobbed a jump ball, down the left sideline for Caleb Tramp. The Junior adjusted and made the game-saving catch just inside the pylon. Ismael hernandez’s extra point gave the Buffaloes a 40-36 lead with just 48 seconds remaining.
“It took everybody I brought to get the victory,” Hill said. The fact that you get to move on is all that matters.”
Northwest nearly stole the game in the end-marching the ball all the way to the Garden City 25. But Erin Gaither’s first-down pass was intercepted by Emilio Parr at the 10-yard line, sealing the Buffs first playoff win since 2011.
“They were an awful good football team,” Hill said. “Their quarterback showed tremendous improvement from week one all the way to now.”
The man Hill is referring to became a one-man act in the second half. Gaither carried the ball 21 times for 170 yards, scoring once and setting up another touchdown.
But the senior struggled to get going early.
On the second play from scrimmage, a shotgun snapped bounced off the senior’s chest and Parr recovered. Five plays later Jared Koster blasted in from three yards out to give the Buffs an early 7-0 lead.
Northwest’s second possession mirrored their first after another shotgun snap hit Gaither right in the chest and caromed to Buffs linebacker Jacob Norquest. But Garden City was unable to cash in when Tempel’s second-down pass was picked off by Dylan Brazell, who returned it to the Garden City 48.
The Grizzlies would move the ball inside the Buffaloes 10, but the drive stalled after Christian Sanders was dropped for a three-yard loss. Garden then dodged a huge bullet when Bailey Byrand pushed a 25-yard field goal wide left.
Northwest (5-5) would get another chance when Garden City failed to pick up a fourth down from the Grizzlies 41.
Gaither would take advantage, rumbling 57 yards, setting the Grizzlies up first-and-goal at the Buffaloes two-yard line. On the very next play-Durron Thompson slammed into the end zone and the game was tied 7-7 with 3:01 to go in the first quarter.
Garden City would take the lead right back when the Tempel brothers connected on a 42-yard touchdown strike capping off a five play, 73-yard drive to give the Buffs a 14-7 edge.
The Grizzlies would draw even early in the second-taking advantage of a short, 18-yard punt by Mitchell Hernandez. On the ensuing play, Thompson took a toss sweep 38-yards to the house and the game was tied at 14-14.
It would stay that way until early in the third, when Tempel engineered a 12-play, 78-yard drive that resulted in Koster’s ninth rushing touchdown of the year: A two-yard dive. Hernandez’s extra point was blocked and the Buffalo lead was six.
Northwest would grab their first lead on the ensuing drive when Thompson finished off an eight play, 68-yard drive when he raced 10 yards to the house.
Tempel’s 34-yard touchdown pass to Caleb Tramp just two minutes later put the Buffs back in front. However-Tempel’s two-point pass attempt was intercepted in the end zone-holding the Garden City lead at 26-21.
Hill’s squad had a chance to extend the lead when Sanders fumbled the ensuing kickoff at the Buffaloes 35-yard line. But Tramp was called for offensive pass interference, and the drive eventually stalled.
The Buffs had another golden opportunity to put the game away after forcing a Grizzlies’ three-and-out. But on second-and-three at the Northwest 39, Tempel was stripped of the ball and Jordan Bell recovered at their own 41.
It only took two plays for Northwest to regain control of the game. Gaither ran for 57 yards, moving the ball to the Buffaloes 10-yard line. The next play-Gather scampered right up the middle for a touchdown. Thompson ran in the two-point conversion and Northwest had a 29-26 lead with 8:48 to play in the game.
On the Buffs next drive, the Grizzlies learned the hard way that you can’t give (Greyson) Tempel a second chance. After the senior threw what looked to be a game-sealing pick, the referees nullified it when they called offsetting penalties. The end result: Replay third down.
Three plays later, Tempel unleashed a rope, up the right seam to (Dusty) Tempel, who made the catch in stride at the ten, and split two defenders on his way to the end zone. Hernandez booted through the point after and the Buffaloes had a 33-29 advantage with 7:07 to play in the fourth.
The Grizzlies response: An 11-play, 76-yard drive that chewed up nearly five minutes and was punctuated when Gaither hit Shane Brock in the back of the end zone with 2:22 left.
Notes: The Buffs lost two offensive lineman in the game: RT Alex Frey went down midway through the second quarter; Austin Nichols replaced him…center Humberto Perez was hurt in the first half as well; Cody Worden filled in for half a quarter before Perez returned in the third quarter
Next up: Garden City vs. Wichita Heights-6A 2nd Round Playoffs at Buffalo Stadium on Friday, November 15-6:30 pm pregame; 7 pm kick on Z-98 98.1 FM
Final Game Stats: GCHS vs. Wichita Northwest