Fort Dodge, IA (westernkansasnews.com)-Aesthetically pleasing isn’t always an admiring trait. Saturday’s week 10 showdown at Dodger Stadium epitomized that.
Wide receiver Brandon Snell accounted for two scores, including the eventual game-winning touchdown pass with 3:28 remaining in the fourth as the Busters snagged a come-from-behind, 13-7 victory over Iowa Central Saturday afternoon.
“I love these guys so much,” Miller said afterwards. “It wasn’t pretty, but we’ll take it.”
That was an understatement in a game that saw no points scored for the first 28:51. But it wasn’t for lack of effort. In fact Garden City had their chance to draw first blood late in the second quarter. But Dondre Cooksey was stonewalled for no gain on fourth-and-1 at the Tritons’ five-yard line-giving the ball back to Iowa Central.
The Tritons seized the opportunity after missing on two earlier chances in Garden City territory. After picking up a first down, Iowa Central (4-6, 0-1) was facing a second-and-12 from the their own 15. Quarterback Kendall Jackson called his own number, scooted around left end and galloped 43 yards to the Busters’ 42. Two plays later, Joe Morrow took a reverse pitch up the right sideline 40 yards to the end zone making it 7-0.
“For the most part, our defense played really well,” Miller said. “That was an early breakdown with some missed tackles. But other than that, they were all over the place.”
As his team headed to the locker room down a touchdown, this was Miller’s harsh reality: Iowa Central fumbled the ball five times in the first half resulting in 0 turnovers. Garden City’s one turnover on downs resulted in 7 points.
Not much changed in the third quarter. Garden City took their opening drive across the 50 to the Tritons’ 42. But a holding call and a sack short circuted a drive that eventually saw the Busters punt from their own 38.
The Busters (4-5, 2-4) had another chance later in period after Denarious Graham hit Monterio Burchfield for 19 yards on third-and-10 from their own 23. But a false start penalty and another sack put a halt to another promising march.
But the play of the day came from a unit that has been struggling all season long. Leading 7-0 late in the third, Iowa Central got the ball back at the Garden City 28 after a one-yard punt by Lawyer Davis. Staring at a third-and-15 from the Busters’ 33, Jackson kept it himself and rumbled 18 yards to move the chains. Facing another third down from the 13, Taylor Sanders was stopped a yard shy of the first down. Thinking three points might ice the game, Kevin Twait sent his field goal unit out. But Sam Green knifed into the backfield and blocked the 27-yard attempt.
“That was obviously the jump start we needed,” Miller said. “It was a great play.”
The ensuing drive didn’t result in points, but the special-teams play kept it a one-score game going into the fourth.
In the final period, the Busters persistence finally paid off. Following a 16-yard punt by the one of the nation’s best Jacob Sherman that gave Garden City tremendous field position on the plus-side of the 50, Graham made his finest throw of the day. On third-and-13 from the Tritons’ 21, the freshman took the shotgun snap, pumped left, and then fired a perfect fade up the right sideline to Snell, who hauled in the pretty spiral for a touchdown. But Ismael Hernandez pushed the extra point wide left, and the Busters trailed 7-6 with with 11 minutes to play.
The score stayed that way until late in the fourth, when the Busters got the ball back at their own 42. Graham and Monterio Burchfield, who caught a career high 12 passes for 166 yards, reeled in two balls to move Garden City across midfield. Matt McDonald’s 19 yard run pushed the brown and gold into scoring range at the Iowa Central 30. Then Miller reached into his bag of tricks-making his best call of the day.
“Cinco right over, 19-pitch pass,” Miller said. “We were going to try it the possession before but never got the chance.”
Staring the possibility of a fifth-straight loss right in the face, the second-year coach went with a gut feeling. Graham took the snap and pitched back to Snell, who rolled left. As he made his way towards the sideline, the all-conference receiver morphed into George Blanda-lobbing a wobbly spiral to a wide-open Burchfield, who secured the catch and strolled into the end zone for the go-ahead score. Hernandez added the extra point to make it 13-7 Garden City with 3:28 remaining.
Needing one more stop to complete the comeback, Garden City’s luck nearly went right out the window when Trentan Bledsoe caught the NJCAA version of the immaculate reception when Donald Warren collided with Morrow up the sideline-popping the ball into the air where Bledsoe hauled it in for a 34-yard gain to the Busters’ 38. But sacks by Josh Meis and Tanarious Portress put the Tritons’ in a fourth-and-22. Jackson’s last hail-mary-heave to the end zone was batted away by Trevin Wiens, securing Garden City’s fist victory since September 27.
Graham finished the day 18-of-29, for 234 yards and a touchdown. Snell caught six passes for 88 yards and a score, while the defense held the Tritons to just 197 total yards.
On the other side, Jackson was 5-of-10, for 71 yards. He also ran it 15 times for 64. Morrow carried the ball twice for 46 yards.
Notes: With the win, Garden City improved to 3-1 lifetime against Iowa schools…Graham has now thrown 69 straight passes without an interception…Busters didn’t turn the ball over in a game for the first time since September 28, 2013 vs. Ft. Scott-ending a streak of 14 straight games with at least one giveaway…It’s the second time this season Garden City’s defense held an opponent under 200 total yards (197 vs. Independence was the other)…7 points is the fewest allowed since shutting out Independence on opening night last year…It was the Busters’ first road victory since September 13 vs. Ellsworth…It’s just the second time in their last 10 games the Busters’ defense didn’t force at least one turnover
Next up: Garden City at Coffeyville-Saturday, November 8-6:30 p.m. pregame; 7 p.m. kick on 98.1 FM; z98mobile.com and mobile app: KSKZ
Listen to the entire game in our archives section