June 23, 2024

Buffs show poise, but can’t overcome miscues

Final Highlights: GCHS vs. Olathe East

GCHS vs. Olathe East Final Stats

Olathe, Kan (westernkansasnews.com)-If there’s one thing Garden City learned about their season-opening loss Friday night it’s this: no team in 6A is good enough to overcome mistakes; not even one led by one of the best coaches in the class. 

Olathe East took advantage of four Buffalo turnovers, and  senior quarterback Chase Miller dazzled with two touchdown passes as the Hawks held off Garden City 26-14 at College Boulevard Activity Center. 

“We fought all the way,” Hill said. “We just had too many mental mistakes.”

Those miscues were on display early in the contest, when senior cornerback Akil Love intercepted Miller on the sixth play of the game. But on the very next play, Jared Koster fumbled a screen pass and the Hawks recovered. Seconds later, Miller went up top to a wide open Zac Cahill for a 71-yard catch-and-run score. 

On Garden City’s next possession, the Buffaloes picked up a first down on an 11-yard Koster run only to cough it up three plays later when the junior running back collided with Derek Hill-causing a fumble that Olathe East (1-0) recovered. 

It only took the Hawks six plays to make Garden City pay when Miller called his own number and reached the end zone on a one-yard plunge. All-league kicker Chris Diddle inexplicably missed the extra point and Olathe East led 13-0 with 6:50 to play in the first. 

“With all the youth on this team, I expected there to be mistakes,” Hill said. “But we’ll get better from it.”

When Garden City (0-1) got the football back, Hill made a switch and inserted sophomore quarterback Jesse Nunez. The move paid off. Nunez carefully dissected the Hawks defense, completing all three passes, including a 25-yard touchdown strike to Caleb Tramp. Tramp caught the ball at the nine, spun of a tackle and raced to the pylon. Ezequiel Herrera’s extra point cut the Hawks lead to 13-7.

Everything changed after that. Olathe East Coach Jeff Meyers, who in his 24th year coaching the Hawks has learned a thing or two about strategic play calling, pulled a page right out of Bill Parcells book. On their ensuing possession, the Hawks moved it 65 yards in 16 plays-eating up nearly eight minutes of the first-half clock. And even though they had to eventually settle for Diddle’s 32-yard field goal, the tempo of the game was set. 

Following a Garden City three-and-out, the Hawks got the ball back at their own 40 with one timeout and 3:12 remaining in the half. Once again, Meyers club methodically moved the ball down the field. Miller was 3-for-3 on the drive, completing passes to three different receivers including his 26-yard strike to Harrison Branson that went for six and extended the Olathe East lead to 23-7 at the half. 

At the beginning of the third, Hill reinserted his starting quarterback. (Derek) Hill made the most of his opportunity-driving the Buffs to the Hawks 29-yard line. Facing a fourth-and-6 from there, Hill went to the air and hit Tramp on a fade route for a touchdown. Herrera’s extra point was good and Garden City trailed 23-14. 

The Buffs got the football right back after the defense forced the Hawks first three-and-out of the contest. But the mistakes continued to pile up, and when Garden City reached the Olathe East 22, Hill tried to force a pass to Tramp that was intercepted in the left corner of the end zone by Derek Miller ending the threat. 

The teams played to stalemate until midway through the fourth quarter when Diddle connected on his second field goal of the game: a 47 yarder that split the uprights and extended the Hawks lead to 12. 

Down two scores with under seven minutes to play, Garden City needed an answer. And they thought they found it when Hill connected with Tramp on a slant pattern over the middle on a second-and-16 at the Hawks 40 yard line. But as the senior made his move towards a sure touchdown, he was stripped of the football and Olathe East recovered. 

“All the mistakes were tough to overcome,” Hill said. Asked if his team was tired after being on the field for more than 30 minutes: “Not at all. We don’t use that as an excuse. We’re well conditioned. The other team just made more plays.”

The Haws had the ball for 30:44 and ran 16 more plays than their counterparts. Miller finished 7-of-13 for 141 yards and two touchdowns. Jalen Branson notched his third-career 100-yard rushing game-tallying 116 yards on 29 carries. Zac Cahill caught two balls for 78 yards and a touchdown. 

Hill completed  9-of-18 passes for 113 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Nunez was 3-of-6 for 58 yards and a score, but misfired on his last three passes before giving way to Hill. Ethan yardley ran the ball eight times for 40 yards, while Koster was held to just 15 yards on five carries. He did not play at all in the second half. Meantime Tramp had a workmanlike night, catching seven balls for 137 yards and two touchdowns. But he had a couple of drops and then the costly fumble. 

Notes: This was the first-ever meeting between these two schools and Garden City’s first matchup with Kansas City school since beating Olathe South in the 1999 State Championship Game…The Buffs have allowed 200 yards or more rushing in four straight games dating back to last season…Olathe East ran 66 plays to Garden City’s 50…Garden City was flagged eight times for 65 yards

Next up: Garden City (0-1) vs. Maize (1-0)-Friday, September 12; 6:30 p.m. pregame; 7 p.m. kick on KWKR 99.9 FM; kwkrmobile.com and the all-new mobile app: KWKR

Other Scores

South Central 52, Ashland 6

Scott City 37, Clearwater 0

Maize 20, Derby 13

Leavenworth 19, Great Bend 0

Holcomb 36, Cimarron 0

Minneola 46, Fowler 0

Balko, Okla 40, Moscow 6

Ingalls 58, South Gray 8

Lakin 53, Syracuse 8

Ulysses 38, Liberal 6

Holly, Co 44, Deerfield 0