WICHITA, KS. – Head Coach Brian Hill warned Garden City of “controlling the controllable” in week one of their 2023 season.
The Buffaloes did exactly that in the first half, holding the Wichita Heights Falcons to just one first down, committing zero penalties, and storming ahead to a double-digit lead.
The script completely flipped in the second half.
The Garden City Buffaloes dropped their first decision of the season, falling to the Wichita Heights Falcons, 20-19, at Heights Stadium.
The game started almost perfectly for the Buffaloes, with the offense surging down the field for a 65-yard touchdown drive, finished off by an 11-yard score by Mario Ruiz.
Garden City (0-1) led, 6-0, after that touchdown going into the second quarter. Ruiz rushed for over 60 yards in the opening 12 minutes.
Disaster struck for the Buffs on the opening play of the second quarter. A failed option pitch was deflected and picked up by Wichita Heights (1-0) linebacker Cale Milleson, who returned the fumble 48 yards to tie the ballgame at six. Heights would fail their point after.
From there on in, it seemed to be all Buffaloes. Garden City marched down the field on the ensuing drive, with Ruiz scoring his second touchdown of the game to give Garden City a 12-6 lead.
Ruiz finished with two scores, winning the A&A Body Shop Player of the Game honors.
Garden City got their biggest chunk play towards the end of the first half. Senior captain Ethen Allen took a pitch from quarterback Ethan Gomez to the house, scoring a 50-yard touchdown to give GCHS a 19-6 lead, which they would take into halftime.
Straight out of the half, WHHS head coach Dominick Dingle seemed to push all the right buttons. Heights surged down the field for a 70-yard touchdown drive, capped off by a one-yard score by junior running back, Lucas Meyer. Another failed extra point meant the game stayed at 19-12.
Garden City’s defense held as strong as they could, but they failed to control the controllable on special teams. A muffed punt set Wichita Heights up at the 12-yard line, scoring three plays later on a quarterback run by senior, Tavion Johnson.
Dingle, a former assistant under Coach Hill, rolled the dice. The Falcons converted a two-point conversion on a run by senior Jameson Holland to take their first lead of the game, 20-19, with under 10 minutes to play.
Garden City got the ball back after a Heights punt with the chance to win it, having to drive roughly 50 yards to get into potential game-winning field goal position.
Despite some key chunk plays by senior captain Emilio Zundt, the Buffs fell short. Gomez’ Hail Mary as time expired was intercepted by Avante Scales, giving the Falcons the win.
Garden City will open their home season at Buffalo Stadium next Friday at 7:00 P.M. against Wichita North. Coverage on KWKR 99.9 “The Rock” begins at 5:30 P.M. on Buffalo Game Day with Aaron Elam.