May 21, 2024

Buffaloes hold on for first win of the season

Photo by Adam Shrimplin

Garden City, KS-Someday, when Brian Hill retires, he will write a book. There will be a chapter for some of the best moments of his career, including the 27-point comeback against Wichita Northwest two years ago. There will also be a section for Friday night’s game, one that wasn’t an historic comeback, but one that may serve as a reminder that a game is never over until the final gun.

That book: Brian Hill, the Golden Years may just be a best seller, even if the veteran head coach loses some hair along the way.

Carlos Acosta threw for 96 yards and two touchdowns while adding 140 rushing yards and three scores as Garden City held off a furious Hays’ rally to beat the Indians 35-28. In doing so, the Buffaloes avoided their first 0-4 start since 2003.

“This was definitely a big win for us,” Hill said after the game. “If you came to our practices, you would have no idea that we hadn’t won a game. That’s a testament to these kids, who continue to work.”

The Buffaloes’ offense didn’t resemble the one that struggled to score in their first three games. Instead, it was a flashback to 2013, when Greyson Tempel was throwing darts and running past defenders. It was a firm reminder that as long as Hill is here, Garden City (1-3, 1-0) will always find their footing, even if it takes a few weeks to do so.

Acosta, making his fourth start, looked more comfortable in the Buffaloes’ spread attack. On Garden City’s first possession, he marched his team 40 yards in 10 plays despite a litany of penalties. On fourth-and-2 from the Indians 11, Acosta kept it himself, strolling into the end zone for a 7-0 edge with 3:36 to play in the opening frame.

“They judge good quarterback play at the highest level on what they do on third and fourth down. And Carlos was great in those situations.”

Hays meantime looked like a shell of themselves. An offense that scored 30 points in a loss to Junction City in week one, struggled to gain positive yardage in the first 12 minutes. All while the Buffaloes appeared unstoppable.

Acosta’s 48-yard dime to Tye Davis late in the first quarter, gave Garden City a 14-0 advantage. He added a one-yard touchdown run early in the second period before capping a seven play, 80-yard drive late in the half with a one-yard plunge. Then he threated the needle to Davis for two, putting the Buffaloes on top 28-0 with 22 seconds left before halftime.

“How far Carlos has come in four weeks is tremendous,” Hill said. “We added more quarterback runs to make him feel more apart of the offense. He just looked more comfortable.”

Hays (1-3, 1-2) finally broke through on their first drive of the second half. Palmer Hutchison connected with 6-8 receiver Dylan Ruder for a 12-yard touchdown to make it 28-7. But Garden City answered right back, driving 53 yards in eight plays before Acosta found a wide open Kaleb Lapointe for a 20-yard touchdown and a 35-7 advantage.

“We got up big, and they got some momentum,” Hill explained. “We made some mistakes, but we didn’t expect anything less from Hays.”

On the Indians’ next series, Hutchison scrambled 37 yards to the end zone to cut the deficit to 35-14. When Garden City got the ball back, Keaton Markley stripped Reece Morss, and Gavin Nutting recovered for Hays. On the very next play, Hutchison hit William Sennett on a 32-yard scoring toss to make it a 14-point contest.

“We kept telling our guys that something was going to happen,” Hill said. “Then they did the onside kick. It wasn’t a surprise, but it was well executed on their part.”

That onside kick was recovered at the Buffalo 45. Six plays after that, Hutchison found the end zone again from seven yards out, and all of the sudden, after trailing by 28 points, the Indians were down 35-28 with 11:40 to play in the fourth.

“Hats off to them for the way they fought back,” Hill said. “It’s very easy when a team is down by that many points to give up. They didn’t.”

The Buffaloes had a chance to seal the game with 1:00 to play. Hill kept his offense on the field on fourth-and-5 from the 6-yard line. The call was a quarterback run, and Acosta had no chance. Trey Adams chopped him down after only a one yard gain.

With no timeouts, the Indians needed a miracle. Hutchison found Mason Ibarra streaking up the left sideline for 18. Later in the drive, Hutchison hit Hayden Brown for 20 before going back to Ibarra for nine. From the Garden City 38, Hays had one last chance. But Hutchison’s hail mary sailed just wide of Ruder in the end zone, and the Buffaloes escaped with a seven-point win.

“We’ve got the guys that can do this,” Hill said. “We had a good week of practice, and it definitely paid off.”

Acosta was 5-of-7 for 96 yards and two touchdowns for the Buffaloes, who beat Hays for the fourth straight season. Morss carried the ball 11 times for 91 and Davis caught two balls for 59 and a score.

Hutchison completed 19-of-34 passes for 225 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for the Indians. Brown ran it 11 times for 51 and Sennett caught eight passes for 119 yards and a touchdown.

Next up: Garden City vs. Liberal-Friday, Sept. 28-6 p.m. Kpreps; 6:30 p.m. pregame; 7 p.m. kick on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app