May 30, 2024

Hutch wears down the Buffaloes

Photos by Adam Shrimplin

Hutchinson, KS-Brian Hill expected some growing pains this season. And on Friday night, the Buffaloes did something they hadn’t done in nearly two decades.

Patrick Grabener rushed for 159 yards and one touchdown, Darian Garrett added 99 on the ground, and Hutchinson beat Garden City 28-24 at Gowans Stadium. The loss, dropped the Buffaloes to 0-3 for the first time since 2003.

“It’s not because of a lack of effort, and I’ll keep saying that,” Head Coach Brian Hill said. “But our youth and inexperience has definitely shown up.”

As youthful as Hill’s squad may be, their opening drive told a different story. Carlos Acosta hit Kaleb Lapointe for 32 yards on the first play of the game. Three plays after that, Acosta kept it himself, sprinting nine yards to the end zone for a 6-0 lead (Miguel Ramos missed the extra point) less than two minutes into the contest.

But Hutchinson (1-2), who had scored a combined 14 points in their first two games, set the tone for the rest of the night with their first drive. Quarterback Trevor Rhoades, son of Hutchinson Community College coach Rion Rhoades, engineered a 12-play, 60-yard drive that featured 11 straight runs. Then on third-and-goal from the seven, Rhoades executed a perfect play fake, rolled to his right, and hit Grabener in the right corner of the end zone for a touchdown and a 7-6 lead with 5:29 to go in the opening period.

“Our defense was on the field a lot tonight,” Hill explained. “Eventually that just wears on you.”

Garden City (0-3, 0-0) appeared to be driving for the go-ahead score the next time they had the ball. But Reece Morss fumbled, and Leland Stanford recovered for the Salthawks. 11 plays later, Hutchinson was back in the end zone, this time courtesy of Rhoades, who used an option keeper to completely fool the Buffalo defense en route to a three-yard rushing touchdown and a 14-6 advantage.

“We keep making mistakes that are putting our opponents in great situations,” Hill said. “We can’t continue to do that.”

Things went from bad to worse on the ensuing kickoff when Lapointe fumbled and Caleb Serbin snatched it up for Hutchinson. On the following possession, Acosta severely underthrew Tye Davis and was intercepted by Eastin Heneha. All told, Garden City turned the ball over three times in the first 24 minutes.

“What we are doing in practice is not transferring over to the games,” Hill said. “But I’m still proud of how these guys kept themselves in it.”

The Buffaloes fought through the adversity, and Acosta dropped a dime to Davis for a 49-yard score on a post pattern that pulled Garden City to within two, 14-12 (they missed on the two-point conversion) with 1:15 left in the half.

“Credit these kids, because they gave us a chance,” Hill said.

Leading by two, Hutchinson reestablished themselves on their first possession of the third. A 14-play, 83-yard march, was polished off with Rhoades second touchdown pass of the night: a 15-yard strike to Grabener that put the Salthawks up 21-12.

The score stayed that way until the Buffalo defense made a play later in the period. Ethan Crone punched the ball out of Garrett’s hands, and Jacob Partin recovered at the 5. On the next play, Acosta zigged and zagged his way for 45 yards. Eventually the road squad reached the red zone where Morss finished things off with a one-yard plunge to make it a three-point contest with 8:56 remaining in the game. But another two-point conversion failed, leaving the score 21-18.

Hutchinson answered right back.

On second-and-6 from their own 35, Grabener found a crease and galloped 65 yards for a backbreaking touchdown. It was the only play of 20 yards or more that the Buffaloes allowed all night.

“We’ve given up a lot of big plays this year,” Hill said. “But credit these guys because when you’re on the field that much, it wears you down. And I thought, for the most part, they held up pretty well.”

The Buffaloes had their own response: a 13-play, 69-yard drive that included two fourth-down conversions and a 13-yard rushing touchdown by Morss that cut the Salthawks lead to 28-24.

Now it was up to the defense.

“We were in the game at the end,” Hill said. “So despite the mistakes, we gave ourselves a chance to win.”

The game came down to one play: a fourth-and-1 at the Buffalo 41. After a series of timeouts, first-year Hutchinson coach Mike Vernon decided to go for it. The move paid huge dividends when Rhoades kept it himself for a two-yard gain to move the chains. They ran out the clock from there.

Rhoades finished the night 3-of-8 for 38 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for Hutchinson, who avoided their first 0-3 start in 22 years. As a team, the Salthawks rushed it 63 times for 372 yards.

Acosta was 5-of-10 for 119 yards, a touchdown and an interception for the Buffaloes, who have lost four straight games dating back to last season. Acosta added 111 yards on the ground, and Davis had three catches for 72 yards and a touchdown.

Next up: Garden City at Hays-Friday, Sept. 21-6:30 p.m. pregame; 7 p.m. kick on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app