May 27, 2024

Buffaloes oust Topeka in playoff classic


Game Stats

Listen to the complete game in our archives section

Photos by Adam Shrimplin

Topeka, KS-The last time a team from the Western Athletic Conference won a state championship, most of the guys on Garden City’s roster weren’t even born yet.

And while the Buffaloes still have a ways to go to reshape history, Friday night was a nice first step. In fact, it was brilliant.

Quinton Lapointe scored two rushing touchdowns, including the go-ahead score with 6:40 remaining as Garden City knocked off heavily-favored Topeka 24-21 in the second round of the 6A playoffs at Hummer Sports Complex. With the victory, Garden City advanced to play Wichita Northwest in the quarterfinals.

“These guys did it,” Head Coach Brian Hill said. “What an unbelievable effort by the entire team. They showed their guts tonight.”

Although the win came with a little dose of déjà vu, and it only added to the drama of one of the best high school games of the year.

Topeka (8-2, 7-1) turned a 16-7 halftime deficit into a 21-16 second-half lead, thanks to Jacqez Barksdale, who scored two, third-quarter touchdowns, including a 14-yard dash to pay dirt on the final play of the period that put the Trojans up five.

“Our guys knew exactly what happened a month ago,” said Hill, referring to his team blowing a 17-point halftime lead against Wichita Northwest. “But these guys responded in a big way tonight.”

Entering the final quarter, the Garden City (8-2, 3-1) offense had yet to pick up a first down in the second half. And they needed a jump start. Lapointe, David Arteaga, and quarterback Garret Doll finally provided it.

First it was Doll converting a third-and-9 at their own 36, connecting with Tye Davis for 10 yards and a first down. Then it was Arteaga, netting 17 yards on back-to-back runs that set the Buffaloes up at the Trojans 14.

“We weren’t messing around at that point,” Hill said. “We needed to run downhill.”

The season-saving drive also caught a break on a fourth-and-3 at the Topeka 7 when defensive end Grant Cooney was flagged for offside, giving the Buffaloes a free first down. On the very next play, Lapointe blasted into the end zone up the middle from three yards out; Doll answered by hitting Davis for the two-point conversion, and Garden City had a 24-21 advantage with 6:40 remaining in the game.

“What a gut-check that was,” Hill said. “These guys had their season on the line and responded. That’s what it’s all about.”

The march that put Garden City in front: 11 plays, 65 yards in 5:21. It was highlighted by a third-down conversion, a fourth-down gaff by Topeka and an offensive line that absolutely manhandled the Trojans front three.

“That line was huge tonight,” Hill said. “We knew this was no small task to go up against this team. Someone had to make a play, and they did.”

What happened over the next six minutes made Friday night’s second-round showdown, one that will leave an indelible mark in Kansas high-school football history.

The anxiety-fueled fourth quarter had Topeka knocking on the doorstep of their first-ever second-round playoff victory. But their first trip into Garden City territory in the final frame ended when Barksdale leaped over the pile on a fourth-and-1 at the Buffalo 26 and fumbled the ball. Brandon Angeles recovered it for Garden City, putting the brown and white in prime position to run out the clock.

“Things happen,” Hill said. “It’s how you respond to them that makes all the difference in the world.”

With Garden City nursing a three-point edge, Lapointe made his only mistake of the night. Barreling into the line on second-and-7, linebacker Carson Klingerman knocked the ball out of the senior’s hands, and nose guard Seth Nelson recovered for Topeka at the Buffalo 27.

“It happened, and our defense needed to step up,” Hill explained.

Boy did ever.

On the Trojans next drive, Demarcus Elliott made two-game saving tackles, one of which dropped Barksdale for a two-yard loss. Then, on fourth-and-11, Topeka quarterback Da’Vonshai Harden fired a laser over the middle that sophomore defensive back Carlos Acosta intercepted at the 7-yard line.

“That guy (Acosta) has a feel for making big plays in the fourth quarter,” Hill said.

But after three plays lost two yards, Garden City was forced to punt, giving the Trojans one more chance to pull off a miracle with less than a minute to go.

On first-and-10 from their own 49, Harden hit Barksdale on a screen behind the line of scrimmage. But instead of letting the ball drop to the ground with no timeouts, the junior caught it and was devoured by David Sandoval for an eight-yard loss. On the very next play, Harden’s desperation heave down the right sideline was picked off by Arteaga, ending one of the most exhilarating fourth quarters in recent memory.

“All of this is a result of what these guys did during the summer,” Hill said. “And it paid off tonight.”

The way the game started, it never appeared that it would end with such fireworks.

Punter Logan Gage gave Garden City their first two points when he stepped on the end line following a high snap in the first quarter. Arteaga then returned the free kick 31 yards to the Topeka 35. Four plays later, Doll hit Andrew Kreutzer for a five-yard touchdown, putting the Buffaloes up 9-0 with 1:16 left in the first.

The Trojans responded with a five play, 74-yard drive that was capped with Harden’s 35-yard touchdown run that sliced Garden City’s lead to two.

“That’s an explosive offense,” Hill said. “We just had to avoid giving up the big play.”

Quinton Lapointe finished off the Buffaloes next drive with an 11-yard scoring dance that put Garden City back up by nine 16-7.

Over the final nine minutes of the first half, Topeka had two chances to score. Their first abruptly ended when Harden’s pass to Barksdale on fourth-and-7 at the Buffalo 36 fell incomplete. After a Garden City three-and-out, the Trojans moved the ball near midfield before Jasper Partin sacked Harden for a five-yard loss on third down.

“Our defense played lights out,” Hill said. “This was one of their biggest challenges of the season.”

Lapointe finished the night with 96 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns for Garden City, who won just their second road playoff game since 2005. Doll was 6-of-15 for 31 yards, a touchdown and an interception, while Kreutzer caught three balls for 13 yards.

Harden, who transferred to Topeka from Highland Park, was just 2-of-10 for three yards. Barksdale totaled 158 yards on the ground, and sophomore Ky Thomas, who has already received an offer from Kansas, rushed 20 times for 107.

Next up: Garden City at Wichita Northwest (6A quarterfinals)-Friday, Nov. 10-6 p.m. kpreps; 6:30 p.m. pregame; 7 p.m. kick on 99.9 FM; and KWKR mobile app