Garden City, KS (westernkansasnews.com)-Buffaloes Head Coach Brian Hill watched the final seconds tick off the clock at Memorial Stadium in Dodge City last October. Garden City had thoroughly beaten the Red Demons in a Hatchet game with no playoff implications.
“I’m so proud of these guys; all the work they’ve put in-they deserve this,” Hill said with a huge smile following an 18-point victory over Dodge City. “These guys are putting something together.”
10 months later, those same guys are back at it; back on the practice fields at Buffalo Stadium, hungrier than ever to prove last year’s 4-5 finish was nothing more than an aberration.
“Many of these guys have been with us all summer,” Hill said following Monday’s first practice. “The way these guys worked during the summer, and the way they practiced today, this was definitely one of the best first days I’ve been around.”
Entering his sixth season as head coach, Hill brings back plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. Most notably on offense, where 1,000-yard rusher Jared Koster stabilizes the backfield, while Jesse Nunez, who threw for 700 yards and ran for another 500 last season, returns at quarterback.
“The way he (Nunez) threw the ball over the summer is a vast improvement from last season,” Hill explained. “That’s one area of his game where he has made the most strides. We’d be silly to ignore the fact that we have a 1,000-yard rusher in the backfield. But if teams want to load the box, Jesse can throw it.”
As for some of the weapons Nunez will have at his disposal: don;’t sleep on sophomore receiver Quinton LaPointe, who is considered one of the fastest guys on the team.
Jason Yi, who started the last hand-full of games last season and specialist Ethan Yardley round out a young, speedy group at receivers.
The biggest question mark coming in is the offensive line, especially at center. Derek Cook and Lorenzo Ruiz could be an interesting battle for that spot.
“That position is the leader of the offense,” Hill said. “By the middle of next week, we should have our guy.”
On defense, Hill brings back eight players who started at some point last season. And even better news: the secondary is mostly intact with senior Patrick Clifford anchoring the back end.
“We need to do a better job tackling this season,” Hill said. “We’ve stressed assignment football. Last year, at times, guys were out of position.”
The Buffaloes are back on the practice field Tuesday at 4 p.m. The annual Brown and White scrimmage is set for Friday, August 28.