May 27, 2024

Great Bend runs right through Garden City

Photos by Adam Shrimplin

Highlights

Game Stats

Listen to the complete game in our archives section

Garden City, KS-Last year’s Garden City-Great Bend matchup was one of the most memorable games in recent memory. One year later, the same showdown produced one of the most forgettable nights for Brian Hill’s team.

Quarterback Koy Brack ran for 136 yards and a score, Great Bend’s defense forced five turnovers, and the Panthers avenged last year’s overtime defeat with a dominant 20-7 victory over Garden City Friday night at Buffalo Stadium.

Even with the loss, the Buffaloes clinched the No. 6 seed in the playoffs and will host Topeka Washburn Rural on Friday night. Great Bend will be the fifth seed in 5A and will be at home against Goddard-Eisenhower in the first round.

“This was one of the worst performances all around that we’ve had around here in a long time,” Hill said after the game. “It was just a total lack of focus.”

And boy did their night get off to a rocky start.

Following Great Bend’s opening march, where they drove 80 yards in 10 plays, converting two third downs and a fourth down before Brack exploded up the left-side numbers for a 46-yard touchdown and a 6-0 lead (Demarcus Elliot blocked the extra point), the Buffaloes handed it right back when linebacker Gage Fritz knocked the ball out of Tye Davis’s hands, and Dalton Miller recovered for the Panthers.

“This was a frustrating loss because in a lot of ways, we beat ourselves.”

For most of the night, the Buffaloes offense looked nothing like the one that ran right through Dodge City in the second half just seven days earlier. Instead, Doll experienced his worst night as a varsity quarterback.

“We are a good football team that got ran over tonight,” Hill said. “It’s that simple.”

Brack and Miller did most of the damage on the ground, and when Great Bend (5-3, 2-2) got the ball back late in the first, it was that tandem that bullied the Buffaloes once impenetrable defensive front.

“This may have been our worst defensive performance,” Hill said. “Great Bend ran whatever they wanted, and we couldn’t stop it.”

When the Panthers’ drive appeared to stall at the Garden City 16 after Brack threw an incomplete pass on third down, the junior quarterback bounced right back, lofting a perfect pass to Miller in the back-left corner of the end zone for a touchdown on fourth down, extending the Panthers cushion to 13-0 with 9:58 to play in the first half.

“Guys have to understand their roles, and their assignments,” Hill said. “We had guys out of position and just not focusing. They knew what was coming, and they just couldn’t stop it.”

Great Bend not only owned the scoreboard, but they dominated the clock, holding the ball for nearly the entirety of the first quarter. In the end, the Panthers ruled time of possession 30:25 to 17:35.

“That’s the defense’s fault for being out there that long,” Hill said. “They couldn’t get off of the field.”

But even when they did, the offense gave the ball right back.

Midway through the second quarter, the Buffaloes finally crossed midfield. But on second-and-6 from the Great Bend 40, Doll’s pass for Andrew Kreutzer was intercepted by Bryce Brown. It was the first of two picks on the night thrown by the senior quarterback.

“There’s not much that we did right in this game,” Hill said. “That was a perfect example.”

Unfortunately for Garden City, a cataclysmic mistake was looming on the horizon.

Trailing 13-0 late in the first half, Doll dropped back from his own 24. As the senior signal caller glanced to his right, linebacker Brock Blessing put his arms around him and knocked the ball free. Backup cornerback Kody Stapleton picked it up, and the Panthers were in business at the Buffalo 12.

Four plays later, Miller burst into the end zone from a yard out, capping of a one-sided first half that had Great Bend up 20-0 at the break. It was the first time Hill’s team had been held scoreless in the first half since the second round of last year’s playoffs when they trailed Lawrence Free State 28-0.

“Everything we did, we did to ourselves,” Hill said. “And that’s unfortunate.”

The nightmare continued in the second half.

Garden City’s first possession of the third quarter was their most promising of the night. Hill’s bunch moved it 62 yards in 10 plays, setting up shop at the Panthers’ 1. But on first-and-goal, backup tailback Ryan Jarmer, who replaced Quinton Lapointe in the second half after the senior sustained a possible concussion, fumbled the ball just before he crossed the goal line. Alan Miramontes recovered it in the end zone for a touchback, and the Panthers spoiled the Buffaloes’ best scoring chance of the game.

“That was a perfect example of a lack of focus on our part,” Hill said. “We should have scored there, and that would have changed the game. Instead, our defense was right back on the field.”

The Buffaloes were awarded another scoring opportunity a few minutes later when Jarmer blocked Brack’s punt, and David Sandoval jumped on it at the Great Bend 8. Three plays later, Jarmer carried the ball across the goal line for a touchdown from one yard out, closing the gap to 20-7 with 27 seconds left in third.

“Like every game, we had our chances,” Hill said. “But we failed to convert any of them.”

Nothing epitomized that more than a sequence in the final period.

The Panthers had just moved from their own 20-yard line to the Garden City 13. Following Brack’s incomplete pass on third down, second-year coach Erin Beck brought out his placekicker Carlos Franco to salvage the drive. But Elliott blocked the junior’s 30-yard field goal attempt, giving Garden City the ball back with 8:07 to go.

“Our problem was that our offense just couldn’t move the ball consistently all night, regardless of the wind,” Hill said.

Whatever hopes of a comeback that the Buffaloes had dancing in their heads was quickly washed away on Garden City’s next possession. On third-and-7 from their own 35, Doll rolled right and forced a pass across his body that linebacker Blake Penka intercepted.

“Give Great Bend credit because they executed what they had to,” Hill said. “But we didn’t help our own cause tonight.”

Doll finished the night just 5-of-15 for 67 yards and two interceptions for Garden City, who watched their seven-game Western Athletic Conference winning streak come to an end. Lapointe carried the ball 11 times for 95 yards before exiting in the second half, and Davis had three catches for 41 yards.

Brack was 4-of-10 for 32 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions for Great Bend, who won a game in Garden City for the first time since 2013. Miller produced 111 yards on the ground and one touchdown while catching a team-best three balls for 19 yards.

“We still have a lot to play for,” Hill said. “But we have to figure this out.”

Next up: Garden City vs. Topeka Washburn Rural-Friday, October 27-6 p.m. Kpreps; 6:30 p.m. pregame; 7 p.m. kick on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app