May 30, 2024

Buffaloes blow out Wichita East; advance to the second round

Highlights

Game Stats

Scoring Summary

GCHS Offense

GCHS Defense

WE Offense

WE Defense

Listen to the complete game in our archives section

Garden City, KS (westernkansasnews.com)-Garden City Coach Brian Hill’s biggest challenge in getting his guys ready to face 2-6 Wichita East in their playoff opener was the letdown factor.

“Those guys have nothing to lose,” he said during the week.

And true to form, the Blue Aces played inspired defense over the first 30 minutes. The problem: so did Garden City.

The Buffaloes forced a season-best five turnovers, and quarterback Jesse Nunez totaled four touchdowns (two through the air and two on the ground) as Garden City eliminated Wichita East with a 49-14 victory Friday night at Buffalo Stadium.

With the win, Garden City advanced to play Lawrence Free State in the Round of 16.

“We didn’t play very well in the first half,” Hill said. “But I didn’t have to say much to those guys in the locker room. They knew what they had to fix. And we were able to watch some film and make some adjustments.

Those adjustments were forced by a Wichita East defense that held the Buffaloes in check for a good portion of the first half. Garden City (9-0) was limited to just 66 yards and three first downs in the first quarter.

“They (East) were sending two guys through one gap,” Hill explained. “It’s pretty hard to run the football when that happens.”

nunez-run

And the numbers proved that. The Buffaloes ran it 15 times for just 40 yards over the first 24 minutes.

“They dared us to throw it,” Hill said.

Nunez delivered.

The senior tossed two touchdown passes in the first half, the first came on the opening drive after the Blue Aces failed on a fourth down deep in their own territory. Three plays later, Nunez hit Peyton Hill on a screen pass and watched his tailback bulldoze his way 27 yards to the end zone for a 7-0 lead.

“We can throw the football,” Hill said. “So when they loaded the box, we knew what we had to do.”

Nunez was 9-of-15 for 169 yards in the first half, 80 of that coming on their final scoring drive of the second quarter when he completed 3-of-4 passes for 80 yards, including a 12-yard scoring strike to Jason Yi that put the Buffaloes up 21-0.

“Jesse has improved so much this year as a passer,” Hill said. “It really opens up the playbook.”

But as good as Nunez was, East giftwrapped scoring opportunities all night long.

Late in the first quarter, Arturo Chavez fumbled a punt at his own 20 yard line. Lincoln Bierra recovered for Garden City; eventually leading to Nunez’s three-yard touchdown run that gave the Buffaloes a 14-0 edge.

“It was an outstanding performance,” Hill said in reference to his defense. “They made plays all night.”

After Garden City extended the lead to 28-0 following Nunez’s 15-yard sprint to the house early in the third, Dominic Dingle’s unit went to work, yielding just one first down in the third quarter and producing two defensive scores.

correas

Following Dewade Black’s sensational one-handed interception of Nunez that he returned 85 yards for a touchdown, the Buffaloes put the clamps down. (Peyton) Hill’s 42-yard punt pinned the Blue Aces inside their own 2. Two plays later, Juan Ponce jarred the ball out of backup quarterback Jovan Givens’ hands, and Jasper Partin recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.

“We just made plays,” Hill said. “We knew if we got them down, we would be able to do some things on defense.”

But the play of the night was made by Zeke Herrera. Imagine that.

With his team leading 42-7 in the fourth, the senior did something that no other player in program history had ever done. Wichita East quarterback Greg Sousa bulleted a third-down pass over the middle that Herrera brilliantly plucked out of the sky. After darting right, Herrera outraced everyone to the end zone for a 49-7 lead.

“It’s unbelievable how good that guy is,” Hill said in describing Herrera. “He continues to show why he’s the heart and soul of this team.”

Herrera became the first Buffalo to ever return three interceptions for touchdowns in the same season. He also finished the night with a team-high 12 tackles.  

“To return three of those for touchdowns is unheard of,” Hill said. “Just to think that in my first five years we didn’t have any returns. In the last two years we have five. It’s amazing.”

The Buffaloes limited the Blue Aces to just 94 total yards through three quarters before the backups surrendered a 41-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth.

“It feels good to get out of here with a win and have guys healthy,” Hill said.

Nunez finished the night 9-of-20 for 169 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He ran it 19 times for 156 yards while Yi caught two balls for 50 yards and a score.

george-ross

Greg Sousa misfired on 14 of his 18 pass attempts for Wichita East, who still has not won a playoff game since 1983. (Jovon) Givens rushed for 77 yards on 10 carries and Kalis Thomas had two catches for 48 and a touchdown.

Notes: Garden City improved to 9-0 for the first time since 1991…They’re now 12-2 all-time at home in the playoffs…Nunez climbed to within 26 yards of passing Jared Koster for first on the school’s all-time rushing yards list…Nunez did pass Koster on the career rushing attempts list…The five takeaways is the most in a game since forcing five vs. Olathe East in their season opener last year…It was the fourth time this season that Garden City has held an opponent under 300 total yards

Next up: Garden City vs. Lawrence Free State-Friday, November 4-6 p.m.pregame; 6:30 p.m. pregame; 7 p.m. kick on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and mobile app: KWKR