Photo courtesy of Shrimplin Photography
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Garden City, KS (westernkansasnews.com)-Not since 2009 had the home team in the Garden City-Hays series won a game.
Buffaloes’ quarterback Jesse Nunez made sure that trend ended on Friday night.
The senior threw for 163 yards and a score, while rushing for 75 yards and three touchdowns as Garden City improved to 4-0 with a 34-0 victory over Hays at Buffalo Stadium.
“This was a big win for us knowing that a lot of our key guys were standing on the sideline,” Head Coach Brian Hill said. “We’re hoping to get some of those guys back. But the ones who were out there, covered us very well.”
Without the services of running back Peyton Hill, strong safety Christian Coreas, offensive lineman Benny Hernandez and wide receiver Jordan Herman, the Buffaloes methodically drove the Indians into the ultimate submission.
After going three-and-out on their opening series, the Buffalo defense made their first big stop of the contest.
Following an Indian first down when quarterback Hunter Brown found a gap up the middle for 13 yards on third-and-12, it was Jasper Partin and Rico Cherico sacking the signal caller on third-and-9 from the Garden City 35. That quarterback takedown forced Hays to punt. It was one of only two times on the night where the Indians had a snap on the Buffaloes side of the field.
“Our defense is getting there,” Hill said afterwards. “They still have their moments, and we still gave up some big plays. But for the most part, they made key stops.”
It helped that the offense was in fine form for the rest of the first half.
A 13-play, 80-yard drive that ate up nearly seven minutes of the first-quarter clock ensued. Nunez kept the march alive with a fourth-down conversion from the Hays 40-yard line. Then on third-and-10 from the Indians 23, Nunez floated a beautiful spiral into the back, right-corner of the end zone where Brodie Stable made an over-the-shoulder grab for a touchdown. Quinton Lapointe ran in the two-point conversion, and the Buffaloes had an 8-0 lead late in the first quarter.
“We dominated at the point of attack,” Hill said. “Our offensive line played well. It allowed us to stay balanced on offense.”
Hays (1-3, 0-3) best chance to score came on their next possession, when they reached the Garden City 9-yard line. But Brown was stuffed by Cherico for no gain on second down before his third-down pass to Wyatt Scheve fell incomplete at the goal line. The Indians then summoned Logan Clark for a 26-yard field goal, but the second-year kicker pushed it wide right.
It was a golden opportunity wasted as the Indians gained only one first down the rest of the way.
“We are right where we need to be through this part of the season,” said Hill, who won his 40th game as Garden City’s Head Coach, moving him to within three victories of passing Ed Hall for third all-time on the school’s win list. “But we still have to get better.”
The Buffaloes extended the lead following Clark’s missed field goal, marching 80 yards in 10 plays before Nunez capped it with a one-yard rushing touchdown. Garrett Doll connected with Tye Davis on the two-point conversion, and Garden City led 16-0 with 6:26 to play in the first half.
Nunez was far from finished, and his second rushing touchdown of the first half: a seven-yard scamper to the end zone on the Buffaloes ensuing possession, put Garden City up 24-0.
Zeke Herrera added a 34-yard field goal in the final minute to give the Buffaloes a 27-0 halftime advantage.
Garden City coasted from there.
The Buffalo defense allowed just 20 total yards in the second half and one first down while the offense salted the game away midway through the fourth when Nunez finished off a four-play 20-yard drive with a five-yard rushing td.
“I’m just glad, for the most part, we got out of this game healthy,” Hill said. “That was our main point of emphasis: win the game and don’t have anybody get hurt.”
Lapointe, who started at tailback for the injured (Peyton) Hill, ran it 7 times for 16 yards. Stabel caught six balls for 73 and a score while Jason Yi had four catches for 40 yards. Cherico spearheaded the defense with his second straight 10-tackle performance.
Brown completed just 1-of-3 passes for 31 yards and was sacked five times. Kohlton Meyers ran it 13 times for 63 yards and caught Brown’s only pass.
Next up: Garden City vs. Liberal-Friday, September 30-6 p.m. kpreps; 6:30 p.m. pregame; 7 p.m. kick on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and mobile app: KWKR