GARDEN CITY, KS. – Last year’s week five and this year’s week five feel like lightyears away.
Last season, Garden City was bundling up in 50 degree weather against Liberal, cruising to a 35-14 victory. This year, the Buffaloes are practicing for this game in 90 degree heat for their next opponents.
Fitting, with how hot Liberal has been through the first half of the season.
Friday’s homecoming game will be a massive one for the Garden City Buffaloes as they host the Liberal Redskins in a battle for first place in the WAC.
This is the best record the Redskins have had going into Garden City in Hill’s 14-year tenure. Liberal (4-0, 1-0 WAC) is off to their best start since 1998 after their 14-point win over Dodge City last Friday.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Buffaloes head coach Brian Hill said. “I think it’s a good thing for our conference. It shows the strength and the kind of players that are in this conference.”
LHS’ senior quarterback Brooks Kappelmann missed last season’s matchup with a lower body injury. He’s torn KSHAA defenses apart this season, throwing for a WAC-best 943 yards, and rushing for 401 yards. His lead target, senior Zayden Martinez, also leads the WAC with 571 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.
“He’s averaging roughly five catches per game, and in a game of 55 to 60 snaps, that’s a small portion that’s going to him,” Hill said. “The ones that he’s making for big plays and touchdowns are the ones you’re most concerned about.”
The Buffaloes (3-1, 1-0 WAC) have hit on some big plays as well. Quarterback Ethan Gomez passed for 110 yards in GCHS’ 24-21 win at Hays, with junior Brayden Sneath recording a team-best 51 yards.
“I trained with Gomez and Michael [Villalobos] in the summer. Gomez has been my quarterback since I was five,” Sneath said. “We worked on the pass plays that we started with earlier in the season, catching the ball over people.”
Sneath has scored in each of Garden City’s two home games against Wichita North and Wichita West.
The five-foot, 11-inch receiver has been one of Garden City’s big-play threats all season long, leading the Buffaloes with 115 receiving yards. Sneath and Gomez connected for a 31-yard pass last week to set up GCHS’ first touchdown.
“[Last week], when we needed a big play, I had to make it no matter what,” Sneath said. “We’ve always had that chemistry, we always know where we’re going to be.”
This week, the Buffs will need plenty of big plays to take down high-flying Liberal. Coverage begins at 5:30 P.M. with Buffs Game Day with Aaron Elam on KWKR 99.9 ‘The Rock’. The American Implement Pregame Show goes live from Buffalo Stadium at 6:30, with kickoff between the Redskins and Buffaloes is set for 7:00.