February 29, 2024

High School Football Preview: Garden City vs. Wichita Heights – Buffs hope to take week one win over Falcons

Well, we did it. It’s finally here the KSHSAA football season is finally around the corner with kickoff set across the state as we await one more sleep and the wait will be over.

The Garden City Buffaloes have worked hard in fall camp to perfect their Flexbone offensive package that Head Coach Brian Hill hopes in year 2 will help take this team from a 5-4 record last season, to hosting a playoff game and winning an outright WAC title this season.

Goals are nice to have but the product on the field has to match up with those goals. In a season with sights set on the prize a week one win would go a long way into solidifying those chances. 

As Garden City welcomes Wichita Heights to town on Friday night it will be the first time since 2013 that these two teams have faced off. Back then it was a 35-28 Garden City win in the second round of the state playoffs. 

Things have changed since then though. At the time former Garden City defensive coordinator Dominick Dingle was working the sidelines for the Buffaloes, now in his fifth season as head coach at Wichita Heights, he will enter Buffalo Stadium for the first time as an opponent. 

It’s bound to be an emotional night for the whole Dingle family. Dominick’s son and Heights quarterback DJ’s dream was to run onto the field at Garden City and he will have every opportunity to do so but after the pregame pleasantries, the Buffaloes hope to win the first game of the season and make it difficult on their former coach. 

So let’s break down the opponent and see what Garden City will need to do to come away with a week 1 victory. 

The Opponent

Heights is coming off of a 5-4 record last season and returns a good part of their team but now with some more Friday night experience, they bring back 7 offensive starters and 6 defensive starters. Last season on offense the Falcons averaged 37 points a game and return two of their top playmakers. DJ Dingle will make it his 3rd season starting games behind center for the Falcons and have one of the top running backs in the state to line up behind him. 

John Randle Jr. who was an all-state selection last season put up 1400 yards total. Randle Jr. will be the focus of the Garden City Defense who will have to limit his space because the senior can score from just about anywhere on the field. Randle Jr. holds offers from many of the top programs in the country but the Buffs will try to limit him and make another Falcon beat them.

On defense, they return 7 starters to a team that gave up 22 points per game on average. Coach Dingle believes that this side will be much improved in 2022 and thinks it’s the best defense he’s had in his now fifth season at Heights.  Linebacker Nate Campbell is a name to watch for Heights on Friday, a team captain and deemed the leader of the defense by coach Dingle. He had 37 tackles a year ago for the Falcons. Campbell and the Falcon’s defense will have their hands full trying to read the assignments of the triple option that the Buffaloes run.

Keys to the Game

So, with all of that said what are some things Garden City will need to do to start the season off on the right foot?

  1. Win in the Trenches

Heights return a good core of their offensive line and the Buffaloes can’t let them settle in and create holes for John Randle Jr. or it could be tough to slow the Falcon’s offense. Inversely the Buffaloes bring 3 new starters to their offensive line and will quickly look to find their identity to protect the likes of Quarterback Caleb Wiese and running back Zack Keosengphet. If they can do this the Buffaloes should have a pretty good night up front.

      2. Handle the Pressure

First-game jitters will be prevalent for both teams and how each team will handle that pressure could go a long way into who comes out on top. Cutting down on things like false starts, holding penalties, and any extra contact after the whistle could be a factor. It will be important for the Buffaloes to rein it in and play clean, disciplined football.

      3. Time of Possession

Keeping the high-scoring Falcons offense off the field will be important for Garden City. What better way to do this than by using that Flexbone offense to control the ball and wear out the Heights defense? If Garden City comes away with a win it wouldn’t be shocking to see them winning a lopsided time of possession battle.

Final Thoughts

This game could go many ways, we could see a high-scoring shootout and offensive execution or it could be a defensive battle as both teams look to find their footing. That’s the beauty of week one we really just don’t know sometimes. 

With a week one victory on the line both coaches are hoping their teams can answer the call and deliver a win.

Make sure to listen on 99.9 The Rock as Aaron Elam will have the pregame tailgate live starting at 5 pm and will take you all the way until kickoff from Buffalo Stadium. Baylen Hite, Aaron Elam, and Dalton Janousek will call the game as Garden City goes for the win.