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Independence, KS (westernkansasnews.com)-Sometimes a loss is more than a loss.
Consider this: Entering Saturday night’s conference showdown with Garden City, the last time Independence won a football game, the freshman players for the Broncbusters were juniors in high school.
Now they’re a part of history, or at least on the wrong side of it.
Pirates quarterback Bryce Gemmel, who was originally recruited by former Garden City Head Coach Matt Miller, ran for 97 yards and two scores; the last of those a 63-yard backbreaking touchdown run in the final minute as Independence ended a 20-game losing streak with a 21-7 victory at Emmot Field.
“This is as bad as it gets,” a distraught Jeff Sims said after the game. “We’re just not a very good football team right now.”
And what makes this one even tougher to swallow is that Garden City (1-4, 1-2) had more than enough chances down the stretch. They just fell flat on their face each time.
Trailing 14-7 with 8:30 remaining in the fourth, Garden City methodically drove to the Pirates’ 15. But a false start and four straight incompletions ended the threat.
“We are just not putting our quarterbacks in a position to be successful,” Sims said. “We just make way too many mistakes.”
Garden City was afforded another shot when the defense forced Independence (1-4, 1-3) to punt near midfield. Then on second-and-5 from their own 26, Jayru Campbell, who didn’t start but played the majority of the game after relieving Luke Walstad in the second quarter, connected with Quincy Watts for 33 yards to the Pirates’ 41. Order had been restored or so the Broncbusters thought.
On the very next play, Campbell took the snap and rolled right towards the sideline. With everyone covered down field, the coaching staff screamed for him to throw it away. Inexplicably, the freshman tried to make a play, and his errant pass was picked off by Pirates’ linebacker Jalyen Stephenson.
“We’ve got to be smarter with the football,” Sims said. “And we’re just not doing that right now.”
Now Brian Michalowski’s defense needed to make a play. Gemmel didn’t allow them to, turning a third-and-10 from his own 37 into a 63-yard scoring run that sealed the Pirates first victory since August 31, 2013.
“We had something called and it wasn’t executed properly,” Sims said of that final touchdown run. “That’s been our problem: the guys know what to do, it’s just not translating to the field.”
Gemmel, who was shaky at best throwing the football, misfired on 16 of his 22 pass attempts. But when it mattered most, his legs carried the day.
Garden City’s quarterback play wasn’t much better. And for more than two quarters, the difference separating the two teams was a colossal mistake by Campbell before halftime.
With the game tied at 7 and 1:31 on the second-quarter clock, the Broncbusters got the ball back thanks to Trayvone Blake’s leaping interception inside the Garden City 10. But three plays later, facing a third-and-9 from their own 15, Campbell uncorked a pass just as defensive end Edney Umu unloaded on the freshman quarterback causing the ball to flutter. Kejuan Daniels located it, picked it off and raced 45 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
“Those two guys (Campbell and Walstad) are good dudes,” Sims said. “But it’s more than that. We’re not a very effective team. We’re just 72 guys on a trip to Independence. We’re not there yet.”
The 300-mile trip seemed to hamper Garden City’s attack early on as the Broncbusters ran just three plays in the game’s first nine minutes. But the fire was sparked in the second quarter after Pirates’ running back Tramaine Batten fumbled and Andrew Basham recovered for Garden City.
Seven plays later, Campbell scampered into the end zone from one yard out giving the brown and gold their only lead of the night.
Independence responded with a six-play, 66-yard drive that Gemmel punctuated with a six-yard touchdown run, tying the game with 4:40 left until halftime.
Campbell finished 10-of-31, for 124 yards and two interceptions. He was sacked six times. Walstad completed 8-of-15 passes for 73 yards, while Venus Triplett caught a career-best 11 balls for 93 yards.
Pirates’ freshman back Edwin Thomas became the fourth player this season to hit the century mark on the ground against the Garden City defense, rushing for 100 yards on 25 carries. Deante Ambler reeled in four receptions for 30 yards.
Notes: Garden City has now lost two out of the last three meetings in Independence…It’s only the Pirates third win in the series since 1987 (28 years); one of those games they lost 67-0 to Garden Cityin the season opener in 2013, but that game was forfeited by the Broncbusters…The Pirates ended their 10-game losing streak at home and recorded their first conference win since the opening week of the 2013 campaign (17 straight conference losses)…With three more turnovers, Garden City’s season total now sits at 19…the Broncbusters were just 3-of-16 on third down
Next up: Garden City at Iowa Western-Saturday, October 3, 2015-12:30 p.m. pregame; 1 p.m. kick on 99.9 FM ESPN Radio; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and tuneinradio: KWKR