January 24, 2022

Never say die; Garden City completes major comeback vs. Northwest

All Photos courtesy of Shrimplin Photography

Highlights

Game Stats

Scoring Summary

GCHS Offense

GCHS Defense

NW Offense

NW Defense

Listen to the complete game in our archives section

Garden City, KS (westernkansasnews.com)-When the Houston Oilers built a 35-3 lead in the second half against the Buffalo Bills in the 1992 divisional playoffs, Warren Moon and company were already packing their bags for the AFC Championship game.

But as the famous story goes, backup quarterback Frank Reich engineered the greatest comeback in NFL history, as the Bills knocked off Houston 41-38 in overtime on their way to a third straight Super Bowl appearance.

Friday night at Buffalo Stadium, Garden City cemented their own Wikipedia page with a comeback for the ages. And they did it with arguably the most dangerous quarterback-running back combination in the Sunflower State.

Quarterback Jesse Nunez ran for 172 yards and four scores, Peyton Hill notched a career-high with 220 rushing yards, and the Buffaloes overcame a 27-0 deficit to beat Wichita Northwest 46-34 on senior night.

“I can’t say enough about what these kids just did,” Hill said immediately following the emotional rollercoaster. “To keep fighting after falling down by that much says a lot about who these guys are.”

The Grizzlies sliced through the Buffalo defense, scoring on four out of their first six possessions while rolling up 330 total yards of offense in less than 24 minutes of game action.

“It was hard to watch and very frustrating,” Hill admitted. “But we just stayed the course.”

Jahlyl Rounds gained 123 of his team-best 189 rushing yards in the first half, which also included three dazzling touchdown runs.

“They hit us in the mouth,” Hill said. “No other way to describe it.”

nunez-td

Rounds scored on runs of 18, 13 and 1. Sandwich in a perfectly executed post pattern where quarterback Austin Anderson hit Martese Mullins in stride for a 34-yard touchdown, and the Grizzlies had what appeared to be an insurmountable 27-0 edge with 7:10 left in the first half.

“We had to dig deep on this one,” Hill said.

And it all started with an unbelievable catch by a guy whose career and life were threatened 12 months earlier after suffering a serious neck injury in practice.

It was fourth-and-5 at the Grizzlies 46, and the Buffaloes needed some kind of a spark. Enter Jason Yi, who ran a square in right to the hash marks. Nunez dropped back and delivered a laser that the senior wide receiver gobbled up for a gain of 12 and the most important first down of the night.

“We needed something to happen to get us started,” Hill explained. “Jason was tremendous.”

Then it was (Peyton) Hill rumbling for 27 down to the 7-yard line. Eventually, the Buffaloes were faced with another fourth down; this time from the 6. And again Nunez delivered, hitting Hill on his chest on a quick out in the end zone, ending Garden City’s 21-minute scoreless streak.

“He’s an inspiration to us,” senior wide receiver Brodie Stabel said of Yi. “He makes us get out there when we’re not feeling right. He went through a lot.”

After forcing a three-and-out on defense, the Buffaloes got the ball back with 1:37 to go in the half at their own 42. Hill then proceeded to rip off a 17-yard run that put Garden City at the Wichita Northwest 42. Five plays later, on a third-and-2 from the Grizzlies 24, Nunez hit Yi on the numbers at the 10. The senior caught the ball and in one swift motion, juked defensive back Jorryn Moore out of his cleats en route to the end zone. Zeke Herrera’s extra point was good, and the Buffaloes coasted into the locker room down 27-14.

“That was such an athletic play by him (Yi),” Hill said. “And it was such a confidence boost for us as a team going into the half with points on the board.”

That Garden City (6-0, 2-0) train kept rolling in the second half. But it took a special defensive effort on Wichita Northwest’s opening possession of the third to keep the Grizzlies within arm’s distance.

The Grizzlies marched 55 yards in nine plays to the Buffalo 26. That set up another momentum-swinging play; Wichita Northwest was staring at a fourth-and-12, and they kept their offense on the field.

Anderson took the shotgun snap and lateraled back to Rounds, who was looking to throw downfield. But the Garden City defense didn’t bite, and Jasper Partin wrestled down the City League’s leading rusher for no gain.

“Our goal was to take the ball out of Rounds’ hands,” Hill said. “Our defense did that in the second half.”

Following the stop, the Buffaloes went back to work. It only took them three plays to cover 75 yards, and on second-and-1 from the Grizzlies 45, Nunez picked up a low snap off the turf, darted right and steamrolled down the sideline for a touchdown to pull Garden City to within six 27-21 with 8:11 to play in the third.

hill-3

“Jesse is so complete this year,” Hill said. “All aspects of his game have improved.”

The next time the Grizzlies touched the ball, the Buffalo defense, once again, stood tall. Quinton Lapointe batted away Anderson’s third-down pass to Jalen Smith, forcing a Wichita Northwest punt near midfield.

What ensued was a 12-play, 83-yard drive that saw the Buffaloes convert three third-downs, including the capper: Nunez’s 36-yard touchdown run that tied the game at 27 with 29 seconds left in the frame. But Herrera’s extra point was blocked, leaving the contest in a deadlock.

“Once we got going, it was only a matter of time,” Hill said. “It didn’t matter what the circumstances were.”

When another Northwest drive fizzled out in Garden City territory, it was (Peyton) Hill running into the night.

The senior, who missed the last two games with a separated shoulder, raced 62 yards on a first-down handoff, setting the Buffaloes up at the Grizzles 12. Two plays later, Nunez’s third rushing touchdown of the night from 12 yards out, gave Garden City their first lead 33-27. Although, they missed the two-point conversion with 9:12 to go.

But the Grizzlies, whose offense went into hibernation late in the second, got a spark from their special teams when Hill’s fourth-down punt was deflected up into the air, and recovered by Northwest linebacker Jalin Terrell, who scooped the ball up and raced 20 yards for a touchdown. Joshua Benoit booted through the PAT, and the Grizzlies were back on top 34-33 with 4:17 remaining.

“I still had all the confidence in the world,” Hill said. “We had already done the hard part. We just needed to finish.”

Garden City got major help from Lapointe when he returned the ensuing kickoff 49 yards to the Wichita Northwest 48. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Grizzlies put the ball at the 33.  

It only delayed the inevitable.

After that it was Jack Koehn making an unbelievable sliding grab in traffic on third-down to move the chains before Nunez polished off the seven-play scoring drive with his fourth rushing touchdown of the night: a 1-yard blast that put the Buffaloes back in the lead 39-34 (Lapointe failed to convert the two-pointer) with 1:13 left.

The junior made up for it moments later.

Trailing by five with 50 seconds to go, Anderson dropped back to pass on second-and-15 from his own 17. But his wounded duck to Mullins was intercepted by Lapointe, who returned it 17 yards for the game-clinching touchdown.

“This will go down as one of the finest moments during my time here,” Hill said.

Nunez finished the night by completing 7-of-21 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. Yi added two catches for 36 and a score while Zeke Herrera recorded 16 tackles.

For Wichita Northwest, Anderson, who came in tops in the City League in passing yards, completed 14-of-29 for 226 yards, a touchdown and a costly pick. He hit the century mark on the ground-15 carries for 103 while Jaxson Reynolds caught seven passes for 105 yards.

Notes: Northwest was penalized a season-high 17 times for 146 yards…The Buffaloes rolled up 332 yards of total offense over the final three quarters…Garden City rushed for a season-high 407 yards on 49 carries…The 27-point comeback is the largest during the Brian Hill era…Garden City averaged a whopping 7.5 yards per play on first down…The win snapped a three-game home losing streak to Northwest and was the Buffaloes first victory over the Grizzlies since that epic 2013 first-round playoff game…With the win, the Buffaloes have the high road to host an opening-round playoff game in three weeks…Nunez passed Greyson Tempel for fourth on the school’s all-time rushing yards list

Next up: Garden City at Dodge City-Friday, October 14-6 p.m. kpreps; 6:30 p.m. pregame; 7 p.m. kick on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and mobile app: KWKR