April 15, 2024

Buffaloes WAC Champs; down top-ranked Great Bend


Game Stats

Scoring Summary

GCHS Offense

GCHS Defense

GB Offense

GB Defense

Listen to the complete game in our archives section

Great Bend, KS (westernkansasnews.com)-Friday night’s showdown at Memorial Stadium may not go down as the best high school football game ever played, but there’s no reason why it should not be in the top 10.

However; the Buffaloes defensive stand at the end of the contest is certainly worthy of consideration as one of the best ever.

Peyton Hill scored twice, including the go-ahead touchdown in overtime, and Zeke Herrera’s forced fumble on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line in the extra session preserved Garden City’s 21-14 victory over No. 1 Great Bend.

The win secured the No. 3 seed in the 6A playoffs and at least two home games in the postseason. It also wrapped up Garden City’s first, outright Western Athletic Conference title since 2013.

“It was all heart,” Head Coach Brian Hill said afterwards. “There’s not much else you can say. What a game. Our defense definitely rose to the occasion.”

That defense, which had been up-and-down all season long, played one of its finest games of the Hill era.

But before the jubilation, there were some anxious moments over the final five minutes of Friday night’s slugfest.

With the game tied at 14 and less than three minutes to play, Garden City (8-0, 4-0) began driving from their own 18. As they entered the red zone, the Buffaloes seemed primed to put an end to Great Bend’s perfect season. On first-and-goal from the 3, quarterback Jesse Nunez, who was playing on a sprained ankle, should have waltzed into the end zone. But the senior slipped at the 2, and Garden City called their final timeout.


“Everyone thought he (Nunez) was going to score,” Hill explained. “But those things happen.”

The Buffaloes still had a chance to win it, with arguably the best placekicker in 6A. But Herrera’s 19-yard field goal sailed wide left, pushing the game into overtime.

“With all that kid has done for this program, he (Herrera) could miss 12 more field goals and it still wouldn’t add up to all the good,” Hill said. “He’s our leader, and we had his back.”

Herrera more than atoned for his missed field goal at the end of regulation.

On their first possession in overtime, (Peyton) Hill blasted into the end zone from two yards out, setting the stage for the epic defensive stand.

“I felt pretty good once we scored,” Hill said.

Great Bend’s possession started with quarterback Jacob Murray’s five-yard run that put the ball at the Garden City 5. But those running lanes soon dissipated on the next three plays, setting up a fourth-and-goal from 1-yard line.

“Jacob Murray is one of the best quarterbacks that we’ve faced,” Hill said. “And besides a couple of big plays, we shut him down.”

On fourth down, Murray took the snap and ran to his left. But as he made a cutback move, Herrera punched the ball free. Running back Cal Marshall jumped on top of it, but was down at the 1, preserving Garden City’s first unbeaten regular season in 25 years.

“It says a lot about how dedicated these guys are,” Hill said.

For a game billed as a high-octane, offensive affair, it was the defenses showcasing their stuff early.

But Great Bend (7-1, 3-1) broke through on their second offensive possession, marching 95 yards in 13 plays, thanks to a big fourth-and-1 conversion at the Garden City 39. Four plays later, Murray scampered around left end for an eight-yard touchdown, giving the Panthers a 7-0 lead with 3:13 to go in the first.

Garden City countered with their own long drive, which was extended when freshman safety Dalton Miller was flagged for pass interference on third-and-10 from midfield. Then, on third-and-8 from the Great Bend 34, Nunez hit Jordan Herman for a 10-yard gain and a first down on the final play of the first quarter. Nunez followed that up with two runs for 13 yards before capping the drive with a one-yard plunge that tied the game with 10:24 remaining in the first half.

“We just stayed within the game plan,” Hill said. “It worked out in the end.

Garden City had their chance to take the lead in the second quarter when they reached the Great Bend 24. But Nunez forced a pass into double coverage that Nick Reed intercepted at the 5-yard line.

Great Bend promptly moved the ball 85 yards to the Buffalo 10. But on third down, Murray was sacked by Benny Hernandez before Carlos Franco missed a 32-yard field as time expired.

“We dodged a couple of bullets in the first half,” Hill said.

Penalties derailed Garden City’s first possession of the second half, and they were forced to punt on fourth-and 45 from their own 25.

The Panthers, who were in search of their first unbeaten regular season since 1978, answered the bell when they got the ball back. Murray hit Lytle for 24 yards on a third-and-6 to move the chains. Then on first-and-10 from the Buffalo 22, Murray found Kory Brack wide open in the end zone for a touchdown, and a 14-7 advantage.


“We just kept battling,” Hill said. “We fell behind twice, and came back each time.”

As they did in the first half, the Buffaloes, more specifically Nunez, responded in a big way. The senior quarterback rumbled 44 yards to the Great Bend 19. After converting a fourth-and-1 at the 10, Hill scampered into the end zone from two yards out before Herrera’s point after knotted the game at 14 with 21 seconds left in the third.

“Our focus was to get a home playoff game,” Hill said. “That’s huge to have anyone come out to our stadium and have to play. We got that done.”

With the score tied and Great Bend driving in the fourth quarter, Dominic Dingle’s defense made their first big play of the night. On fourth-and-12 from the Buffalo 28, first-year Panthers Head Coach Erin Beck rolled the dice and kept his offense on the field. The result was disastrous when Murray was picked off in the end zone by David Arteaga.

After that, it was a stalemate, with the two teams combining for just two first downs over the next five minutes.

“I know what this team is capable of,” Hill said. “And we just beat a very good football team.”

Nunez finished the night 5-of-12 for 54 yards while rushing the ball 21 times for 98. Hill totaled 142 yards and two scores-his third straight 100-yard rushing game. Herman, caught three balls for 31 yards but dropped two, sure touchdowns in the first half.

Murray was 15-of-23 for 193 yards, a touchdown and a pick. He ran it 29 times for 96 yards and a score. Lytle caught 10 passes for 103; six of those came in the second half.

Notes: This was Garden City’s first overtime game since October 28, 2011 when they beat Dodge City 18-15…The Buffaloes will host Wichita East in the first round of the playoffs, a rematch from week one…Murray’s fourth-quarter interception was only his second of the season…Garden City has now won five out of their last eight games in Great Bend…Great Bend lost despite holding the ball for nearly 27 minutes and running 10 more plays (65-55)

Next up: Garden City vs. Wichita East-Friday, October 28-6 p.m. kpreps; 6:30 p.m. pregame; 7 p.m. kick on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr; mobile app: KWKR