Wichita, Kan (westernkansasnews.com)-Two weeks before the start of the season, Garden City Head Coach Brian Hill made sure to let everyone know to not to be surprised when the Buffaloes ran the ball 30 or 40 times in one game. The change in offensive philosophy came to fruition Friday night, and it was a beautiful work of art.
The Buffs pounded the rock to the tune of 324 yards on 50 carries; Jared Koster tallied 249 of those yards in a 31-14 victory over Wichita East at Carpenter Stadium.
“The offensive line was great tonight,” Hill said afterwards. “I was a little disappointed in the second quarter where we couldn’t punch it in from the two. But overall, they did a great job.”
When your running back isn’t touched for the first five yards all night, the guys up front are doing their job. But their last non-district showdown was anything but a cakewalk.
Trailing 10-7 early in the third, Blue Aces senior quarterback Dominic Webb went for broke. On third-and-1 from his own 40, Webb dropped back and fired a slant over the middle to Joseph Patrick, who made two guys miss en route to a 60-yard touchdown. Tre Thomas booted through the extra point and Wichita East (1-5) had a 14-10 lead.
“There was never any panic in our kids,” Hill said. “There was still plenty of time.”
And Garden City (3-3, 2-1) wasted none of it. On the ensuing drive, Koster and sophomore quarterback Jesse Nunez spearheaded an eight-play, 67-yard march. The junior carried it three times for 14 yards while Nunez’s 16-yard scramble set Garden City up near midfield. As they crossed the 50, Hill’s team was facing a fourth-and-8 at the Blue Aces’ 35. His call: a quick out to Tramp, which was designed to pick up the first down. But the senior spun off of Willie Edwards, somehow maintained his balance and stumbled into the end zone to put Garden City back in front 17-14.
“How he kept his balance, I have no idea,” Hill said. “It’s one of those plays I will enjoy watching back on film.”
It was one of only two catches on the night for Tramp, but the game plan was to stay on the ground. And they did it with vengeance.
Clinging to a three-point lead early in the final quarter, the Buffaloes’ defense made a huge play. As Webb dropped back to pass, he was stripped of the football. Benny Hernandez jumped on it, and Garden City was in business at the Wichita East 33. Then it was ground and pound with Koster and Nunez each toting it three times, including the sophomore’s seven-yard scamper to pay dirt-giving his team a 24-14 advantage with 5:58 to play in the game. Nunez finished the night with 67 yards rushing on 16 carries.
After forcing a Blue Aces’ three-and-out, Garden City went right back to work. Even a 15-yard penalty on first down didn’t deter them as they drove it 54 yards in seven plays with Koster carrying it the final 16 yards to the end zone-giving the Buffs a 31-14 cushion with under two minutes remaining.
“His (Koster’s) confidence level since week one has grown tremendously,” Hill said. “It also helps that the offensive line was great.”
So was the defensive line, which proved early that it was going to be a long night for webb. After Wichita East marched the ball to midfield on their opening possession, sophomore Zeke Herrera made his way into the backfield and sacked the senior quarterback-derailing any scoring chances. It was one of nine quarterback take downs on the night.
The offense followed suit with a five-play, 48-yard drive-capped with Koster’s 30-yard rushing touchdown to give Garden City a 7-0 lead.
“That kid (Webb) is going to spend a week in the whirl pool,” Hill said. “Our defense harassed him all night.”
The Blue Aces responded with an 11-play, 83-yard drive that included a 51-yard pass connection between Webb and Jaylen Dixon that set Wichita East up at the Garden City 19. Four plays later, Webb rolled off left end and sprinted into the end zone to tie the score.
After the teams traded punts, Garden City got the ball back midway through the second in a great field position when Patrick fumbled and Patrick Clifford recovered at the Wichita East 27. But three plays netted only three yards, and the Buffs settled for a 41-yard field goal by Herrera that gave them a 10-7 lead heading into halftime.
Nunez completed 5-of-8 passes for 52 yards and a touchdown. Koster carried it 32 times for a career-high 249 yards and two scores.
On the other side, Webb finished 9-of-15 for 190 yards and a touchdown while Patrick had two catches for 71 yards and a score.
Notes: The 324 yards rushing was the most in a game since week five of 2013 when they put up 414 against Liberal…The 52 yards passing were the fewest in a game since they threw for 62 vs. Woodward in week two of 2012…Koster has now run for 100 yards or more in four out of his last five games…Garden City improved to 4-0 lifetime vs. Wichita East including a 3-0 mark at Carpenter Stadium…It was the first time this season the Buffaloes didn’t allow a touchdown on their opening drive…It was also the first time this season they didn’t turn the ball over-ending a 13-game streak of having at least one
Next up: Garden City at Hutchinson-Friday, October 17-6 p.m. kpreps; 6:30 p.m. pregame; 7 p.m. kick on 99.9 FM; kwkrmobile.com and the mobile app: KWKR
Listen to the entire game in our archives section