Hutchinson, Kan (westernkansasnews.com)-Everything about the lead up to Friday night’s pivotal district showdown between Garden City and Hutchinson pointed to a classic; two teams evenly matched-trying to find their footing entering the most important stretch of the season. But by the end of 48 minutes, this game was anything but.
Salthawks senior running back Blaik Middelton notched his third-career 200-yard rushing game-totaling 204 yards on just 10 carries and scoring five times; while the defense shutout the Buffaloes until late in the second half en route to a 62-14 victory at Gowan’s Stadium.
“Soft, that’s how I will describe everything about our effort tonight,” Garden City Head Coach Brian Hill said afterwards. “We weren’t prepared, and that’s my fault.”
All week in practice, Hill’s bunch tried to simulate Middelton’s speed. He even deployed a five-man front for most of the night to try and slow down Hutch’s workhorse. But the plan backfired on the Salthawks’ first play from scrimmage when the senior took a counter hand off and raced untouched to the end zone for an 85-yard touchdown. Devin Luce missed the extra point, but Hutch (3-4, 1-0) had a 6-0 lead five minutes into the game.
“They were big up front,” Hill said. What’s disappointing is all the trust we talked about all week was gone. There was absolutely no trust on defense tonight.”
While Garden City’s (3-4, 0-1) offense sputtered, the Salthawks were just finding their grove. After a Buffaloes’ three-and-out, Hutch was staring at a third-and-18 from their own 35. Turner Wintz dropped back and floated a pass up the middle of the field to a wide- open Middelton, who coasted 65 yards for a touchdown. There wasn’t a defender within 10 yards of the senior, who’s only catch of the night secured a 14-0 advantage.
But Middelton’s antics didn’t seal Garden City’s fate early. It was their next possession that took care of that.
Starting from their own 24, Hill’s team used the ground game, as Jesse Nunez called his own number seven times for 40 yards-directing the offense to a first-and-goal at the Salthawks’ 6-yard line. After an offsides’ penalty inched the Buffaloes to the three, right tackle Alex Frey gave it right back with a false start. Then Nunez fired an incomplete pass in the end zone for Peyton Hill followed up by a fourth-down gaff when Koster was shutdown for a six-yard loss. In all, the drive covered 68 yards; took 4:20 off the clock and netted zero points.
“We need to find 11 guys on offense and defense that want to go out and hit somebody,” Hill said. “We’ll evaluate and probably make some more change this week.”
Hutch’s next score was setup midway through the second when Nunez telegraphed a pass that was intercepted by Colton Fee and returned to the Garden City 9-yard line. Two plays later, Wintz dove in from a yard out and the subsequent two-point conversion gave the Salthawks a 22-0 lead.
That advantage swelled to 28-0 just minutes later when, on second-and-8 from their own 29, Middelton followed his left tackle Jacob Stade-bounced it to the outside and galloped 79-yards for his third score of the first half. He tallied 156 yards rushing on six carries in a dominating first 24 minutes.
Middelton added another touchdown on the opening drive of the third quarter-when he sprinted up the middle from 11 yards out. But it was Jacob Hardenberger’s two previous carries for 64 yards, including a 46-yard scamper on the first play of the second halt that setup the Salthawks’ score. Luce’s extra point made it 35-0.
Not even a quarterback change (Derek Hill for Nunez) in the third quarter could spark the Garden City offense as another drive stalled in Salthawks’ territory. Hutch took advantage of the missed opportunity with a six-play, 66-yard march-culminating in tight end Nathan Hale’s first touchdown reception of the season: a 24-yard strike from Wintz that put the Salthawks up 42-0.
Garden City’s response was too little; too late. Hill’s underthrown heave on the Buffaloes’ next drive was somehow hauled in by Caleb Tramp, who tipped the ball to himself, maintained his balanced and raced to the end zone for a 70-yard touchdown. It was the lone highlight on a night where the offense mustered only 288 total yards.
Middelton though had the last laugh-finding the end zone later in the third from 34-yards out-capping off a four-play, 60-yard drive. The Salthawks added a one-yard plunge by Hardenberger and a four-yard scamper by Lucas Schweigert in the fourth to cap the Hutch scoring. Garden City added a late six-yard touchdown run by Ethan Yardley.
The Hutch offense totaled 578 yards; 490 of those coming on the ground. Hardenberger carried the ball 14 times for 154 yards and a score. Wintz had nine carries for 32 yards and a touchdown. He also was 3-of-4 through air for 88-yards and two scoring strikes.
For Garden City, Koster reached 100 yards rushing for the fifth time in six games-totaling 104 on 24 carries. Hill finished 4-of-7 for 99 yards, a touchdown and an interception, while Nunenz was just 1-of-3 for 14 yards and a pick. Tramp caught three balls for 93 yards and a touchdown.
Game Notes: The 62-points were the most ever scored by either team in this series; the previous high was 56 points by Hutch in 2012 and 2011…The Salthawks rushed for 400 yards or more for the third time this season and the second time in the last three weeks…The 48-point victory is the second most lopsided in this series (Garden City’s 54-0 win in 1989 was the biggest blowout)…Unbelievably the victory was Huch’s first at home since November of last year (they’ve now won 53 out of their last 61 games at Gowan’s Stadium)…Garden City has lost six straight at Hutch (their last victory was a 49-12 win in 1998)…For the sixth time in seven games, the Buffaloes’s defense allowed an opponent to score on their opening drive…Hutch improved to 37-3 in district play since 2000
Next up: Garden City vs. Wichita Northwest-Friday, September 24-6 p.m. kpreps; 6:30 p.m. pregame; 7 p.m. kick on 99.9 FM; kwkrmobile.com and mobile app: KWKR
Listen to the entire game in our archives section