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Garden City, KS (westernkansasnews.com)-Broncbuster Coach Jeff Sims called it one the biggest games of his career. Not because it was next on the schedule; not because it was back in front of the home crowd.
No. There was a much higher calling on this one.
“This game will prove last week wasn’t a fluke,” Sims said on Thursday. “It will legitimize what we’ve done, and show the progress that we’ve made.”
And while the critics might not be silenced just yet, Saturday was a major step towards revitalizing a program that hasn’t tasted much success in nearly two decades.
Sophomore quarterback Todd Porter continued his resurrection, throwing for a season-best 371 yards and five touchdowns, and the defense held Iowa Central to just 75 total yards in a 54-13 week-10 victory at Broncbuster Stadium.
“The fact that people expected us to win this game shows the progress we’ve made,” Sims said afterwards. “We’re still not even close to where we want to be, but we’re moving in that direction.”
Porter is a prime example of that.
“Todd was brought here to be our starting quarterback,” Sims said. “It just took him awhile to understand what his job was. And he can play better; I can say that because I’m his coach. But he played very well again today.”
The sophomore transfer from Western Kentucky was on full display Saturday, throwing four first-half touchdown passes: two to Ben Phillips (11 and 10 yards respectively); a five-yard score to Jeff Thomas and a 24-yard beauty that Felton Hatcher snagged en route to the end zone. He was even on the receiving end of the best play of the day.
Leading 21-7 after Taylor Sanders’ 26-yard touchdown run got Iowa Central (2-7, 0-1) on the board early in the second quarter, the Broncbusters were setup with tremendous field position at the Tritons’ 42. That’s when offensive coordinator Joel Berry opened up the playbook.
During Monday’s Broncbuster Athletics Association luncheon, Sims stood at the podium and fielded several questions. One of those happened to be in regards to his starting quarterback, and how Jayru Campbell was handling the change.
“Jayru is just fine,” Sims told the crowd. “He has handled the situation as well as anyone. You will see him on Saturday; maybe even at receiver.”
If that same press conference was on ESPN, Sims statement might have resonated louder. Instead, it was brushed aside; almost as if no one heard it.
Saturday, they saw it.
Campbell was split out wide to the left on first-and-10. Porter sent him in motion and gave him the ball. But instead of the true freshman keeping it, he stopped dead in his tracks at the hash marks, wound up and delivered a strike to a wide-open Porter, who streaked 42 yards for a touchdown.
The first one to run down the field and congratulate Porter was Campbell, the same player who’s taken a beating all year long. The same guy who’s gotten up each and every time.
“There is no one happier about what’s happening here than Jayru,” Sims explained. “I wanted to redshirt him this year. He was playing high school football last season. My ideal situation would have been to save his year and get him ready to play next year.”
That didn’t happen, but for everything Campbell has been through off the field, Saturday showed that he’s bought into what Sims is selling.
It seems as if most everybody has.
Meantime for Porter, his afternoon was capped off in the first few minutes of the final quarter, when he connected with Lawyer Davis on a screen pass that went 19 yards to the house. The score gave Garden City a 47-13 lead with 12 minutes to play. It also allowed the sophomore to trade his helmet for a baseball cap.
“It’s important for us to be consistent,” said Thomas, who caught eight balls for 121 yards and a touchdown. “Our offense is moving in the right direction, and it feels really good.”
More dazzling was Davis, who was one of seven holdovers from the Matt Miller era. The former Junction City star caught five passes, for a career-best 127 yards and two touchdowns, including an 89-yard catch-and-run from Luke Walstad that put the Broncbusters up 54-13 with 4:26 remaining.
“In football, you’re only as good as your last game,” Sims said. “That’s why this one was so important. Yes, I’ve played for national titles before, but I’m here now. We’re trying to build this program.”
As for the biggest difference from early in the season to now:
“We’re running the same stuff,” said sophomore linebacker Josh Meis, who recorded a team-best 10 tackles and two sacks. “We’re just in the right spots and doing our job.”
Meis and the defense overwhelmed the Tritons, holding them without a first down until their first series of the second quarter. To that point, Iowa Central had produced minus-28 yards of total offense. Over the final three frames, they totaled just 103.
Porter completed 28-of-46 on the day. Walstad was 2-for-3 for 96 yards and a touchdown. Campbell was also 2-for-3 for 65 yards and a score. Eddie Morris, who was playing with an injured shoulder, carried twice for 59 yards while Phillips caught 10 balls for 136 yards and two sensational touchdowns.
Iowa Central quarterback Corey Bertini misfired on 22 of his 29 throws, totaling just 47 yards. He was sacked 10 times. Abdul Mansaray had three catches for 50 yards. Mark Malm added field goals of 46 and 33. He also had one blocked by Delshawn Phillips from 45 yards.
Notes: Garden City (3-7, 2-4) held Iowa Central to minus-33 yards on the ground (It’s the first time they’ve held a team to minus-yardage on the ground since holding Independence to minus-36 in a season-opening victory back in 2013; the game was eventually forfeited)…Garden City racked up 643 yards of total offense; it’s the most in a game since compiling 725 vs. Coffeyville on October 27, 2012…Todd Porter becomes just the second Broncbuster quarterback in the last four years to throw 5 touchdown passes in a game (2013 Akeem Jones 5 vs. Air Force Prep and Nick Marshall 5 vs. Hutchinson)…Garden City won back-to-back games for the first time since beating Ellsworth and Independence in week’s three and four last year…It was the first time the Broncbusters scored 50 or more points in game since hanging 67 on Independence in week one of 2013…Garden City is now 4-3 all-time vs. Iowa schools
Next up: Garden City vs. Coffeyville-Saturday, November 7, 2015 12:30 p.m. pregame; 1 p.m. kick on 99.9 FM ESPN; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr; mobile app: KWKR and tuneinradio app: KWKR