HAYS, KS. – Garden City had been looking for their killer instinct all season long.
Down to overtime at Lewis Field, Eddy Rodriguez’ stepped forward from 20 yards, swing his left leg through it, and gave the Buffaloes an incredible come-from-behind effort.
The Garden City Buffaloes defeated the Hays Indians, 24-21 after overtime, from Lewis Field in Hays. A game that featured two lead changes, both teams leading in the second half, the Buffaloes won their conference opener.
“The hats go off to the kids and my coaches for the way they prepared,” said 14th-year head coach, Brian Hill. “These are the ones why we coach. These are the ones that make me so proud to be a Buffalo.”
Hays took the early lead in the game after a great punt return by Jarek Purdy set the Indians up at the Buffaloes’ 15-yard line. Six plays later, replacement running back Zane Viegra slammed into the end zone from four yards out to give HHS a 7-0 lead.
Garden City (3-1, 1-0 WAC) responded with a perfect nine-play, 69-yard touchdown drive. Brayden Sneath ignited the Buffs’ offense with a 43-yard reception off a ricochet, and junior Mario Ruiz found the end zone from one yard out to tie the ball game.
Sneath finished with two receptions for a game-high 63 yards.
Immediately, the Buffaloes defense kept the momentum flowing. GCHS forced a fumble at the 40-yard line, giving the offense plus field position.
The Buffs marched down routinely, with Ethan Gomez finding Ruiz for a 10-yard TD reception to give the Buffaloes a 14-7 lead going into halftime. Gomez was clinical in the first half, going 6-for-6 with 111 yards and a touchdown.
“He really has shown a lot of guts, moving around in the pocket, leading the way a quarterback should,” Hill said. “He really has grown up a lot in the last few weeks.”
The second half, similarly to GCHS’ first road game, took a swing for the Indians. Garden City failed a fourth down try in their own territory, leading to Carter Graham to find Braeden Mockel for a 24-yard touchdown grab to tie the game.
The Indians (2-2, 1-1 WAC) special teams came up in a huge way, with linebacker Wyatt Kirkpatrick blocking and recovering a punt in the end zone with 4:24 to go, giving Hays a 21-14 lead. It’s the second time this season Garden City had surrendered a second-half lead.
Yet, the Buffaloes showed no panic as they drove down the field again. Emilio Zundt took a carry for 28 yards, Ruiz followed up with a 33 yard run. On third and goal, Gomez found Ethen Allen for a 9-yard touchdown grab to tie the ball game with 2:04 to go.
Allen finished with his fourth touchdown of the season and second interception in the win.
Neither team could get down the field again, leading to overtime. Yet again, Justin Reich’s defense stepped up, with Brayden Dibble recovering a fumble in the end zone.
Four plays later, Rodriguez strided forward for his first field goal attempt on the season. With two strides forward and a swing with his right foot, he sent the Buffaloes home winners.
The Buffaloes will return home next weekend to take on 4-0 Liberal in week five. Coverage from Buffaloes Stadium begins at 6:30 with the American Implement Pregame Show, 7:00 kickoff between the Redskins and Buffaloes on KWKR 99.9 ‘The Rock’.