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Maize, KS (westernkansasnews.com)-After the first day of fall practice, Garden City Head Brian Hill could only smile when asked about his offensive line.
“We can win a lot of games because of our size,” Hill said then. “That’s our bread and butter.”
On Friday night, those five guys up front paved the way for a season-best 311 yard rushing; Jesse Nunez and Jared Koster combined for 248 of those, and the Buffaloes bullied their way to a 21-7 win over Maize at K.T. Woodman Stadium.
“Our lines, on both sides of the ball were incredible,” Hill said afterwards. “They were blowing guys off the ball on offense and getting after the quarterback on defense.”
Hill’s front seven harassed junior quarterback Hunter Lamunyon all night, sacking him four times and holding the Eagles vaunted passing attack to just 67 yards.
“Our guys were flying all over the place,” Hill explained. “I can’t say enough about what those guys were able to do.”
Defensive end Jose Coreas set the tone early in the second quarter, when he hit Lamunyon right as he was throwing the football. It landed incomplete, and the Eagles were forced to punt at the Garden City 34. It was the only time Maize crossed the 50 all night.
While the defense was holding the Eagles’ air-raid attack in check, the Buffaloes offense went to work. Despite being hampered by penalties (12 for 101 yds), Garden City finally cracked the scoreboard with a 13-play, 85-yard drive that produced Peyton Hill’s one-yard touchdown run. Herrera’s extra point gave the Brown and White a 7-0 edge with 5:26 left in the first half.
“He (Peyton) is a load to bring down,” Hill said. “It’s a great weapon to have.”
The defense made the final statement of the first half when Herrera, who registered a team-high six tackles, came charging through the line and sacked Lamunyon for a four-yard loss.
When it was all said and done, Maize ran just 18 plays in the first 24 minutes and held the ball for just 7:54.
Not much changed in the second half.
Garden City extended their lead in the third quarter when Nunez blasted in from a yard out, putting the finishing touches on a six-play, 60-yard drive that made it 14-0.
Following Maize’s fifth punt of the night, Garden City, beginning at their own 22, methodically marched 78 yards in four minutes, sparked by Koster, who carried it five times for 44 yards, including a 16-yarder that moved the ball to the Maize 37.
Eventually, the Buffaloes reached the Eagles’ 10 and were facing a fourth-and-2. The play call was 34 blast, and Maize never stood a chance.
Hill took the carry from Nunez, found a hole up the middle and was gone, carrying Eagles’ safety Chandler Kelley the final three yards to the end zone. Herrera booted through the PAT, and Garden City had a 21-0 lead with 1:37 to go in the third.
“We’ve got a lot of different ways to come at you,” Hill said. “So when you try and shut one guy down, we’ve got two more.”
(Peyton) Hill finished the night with 124 all-purpose yards-reeling in seven catches for 72 yards and carrying the ball 10 times for 52 and two scores.
The Eagles’ lone highlight came in the final stanza, when Koster, who earlier in the game passed Jerrell Phannenstial for fifth on the Buffaloes all-time rushing list, took his eye of a pitch from Nunez. Maize linebacker Jake Karst scooped it up and ran it back 10 yards for a touchdown.
“We still have some things to clean up,” Hill said. “But all in all, this was a great win. I’m so proud of these kids.”
Garden City’s defense held the Eagles to just six first downs (only two in the second half) and 72 total yards.
The Buffalo offense found its groove, rolling up 396 total yards, running 36 more plays than the Eagles (69-33).
Nunez completed 7-of-10 passes for 85 yards and a pick. His lone mistake came in the second quarter when he was victimized by Maize linebacker Jalen Johnson, who intercepted the junior’s fourth-down pass.
Nunez added 144 yards and a touchdown on the ground while Koster carried the ball 18 times for 104 yards. It was the senior’s 10th career 100-yd rushing performance.
Lamunyon was 8-of-15 for 57 yards, while the Eagles totaled just five yards on 15 carries.
Notes: The win was Brian Hill’s 31st of his career-tying Faye Henson for fourth on the all-time list…Garden City is 2-0 for the first time since Mike Smith’s final year in 2009 (Started 3-0 that year before losing five out of their last six)…Maize finished the night 0-for-8 on third down…Garden City is now 5-3 lifetime at Maize…It was the Buffaloes first win at K.T. Woodman Stadium since 2011
Next up: Garden City vs. Great Bend-Friday, September 18-6:30 p.m. pregame; 7 p.m. kickoff on 99.9 ESPN Radio; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and tuneinradio: KWKR