FOOTBALL: Monday, Oct. 26, 2020
For the second straight week, the Garden City Buffaloes football team found the formula for success.
Establish a strong running game, complemented by timely big-play passes and a stingy defense. Those were the ingredients on Friday night, Oct. 23, as the Buffs pounded Western Athletic Conference opponent Great Bend, 45-0, at Buffalo Stadium.
The victory put together a mini, two-game winning streak for the Buffs allowing them to finish the 8-game regular season with a 3-5 record. They ended with a 2-2 WAC record, tying Dodge City and Liberal for second to unbeaten league champion Hays’ 4-0 mark.
Friday’s victory put the Buffs into the Class 6A Week 9 Play-In bracket at the No. 11 seed and they will hit the road to No. 6 seed Manhattan (5-3), a team they played in the season opener and came up short in a 21-7 decision that was much closer than the score indicates.
The running game was in high gear behind senior back Josh Janas, who had 23 carries for 229 yards and 4 touchdowns. Caleb Wiese and Jerry Arteaga hooked up on an early 81-yard TD pass and run that put the Buffs on top early and got Old Man Momentum on their side.
“Slowly, we’ve improved in many areas through the early schedule,” a pleased head coach Brian Hill said. “We’re gaining more confidence and continuing to grow as a team. We’re doing a much better job of playing together.”
The Wiese-to-Arteaga pass was the second long one in the last two games and gave the Buffs a 7-0 edge with 4:11 to play in the first quarter after Issac Rivera booted the first of his six PAT kicks while also tacking on a 24-yard field goal late in the second period.
“The big pass to Jerry was a great way to start the game,” Hill said. “When good things happen, it just lifts your confidence and we’ve been able to do that in these last two games.”
Christian Reyes picked off a Great Bend pass at the 2:30 mark of the opening stanza and returned it 25 yards for a TD to lift the Buffs into a 14-0 lead. Janas’ 1-yard plunge at the 9:04 mark of the second made it 21-0 and Rivera’s field goal upped the lead to 24-0 with 4:16 left before intermission.
“We’re doing a much better job of securing the ball than we did early on,” Hill said of having just one turnover in the win. “We’re not trying to do too much. It was really nice to send this group of seniors out with a win on their final game at Buffalo Stadium.”
Janas then added a trio of TD runs in the third, with those going for 49, 22 and 5 yards. That capped off the scoring at 45-0 with 0:52 left in the third.
Wiese attempted just 8 passes, completing 4 with no interceptions and the Buffs had just one lost fumble. Defensively, the Buffs dominated as Ryan Heiman picked off 3 Panther passes, giving the Buffs 4 turnovers in the game.
Reyes finished the game with 15 solo tackles to lead the Buffs while Joel Bellows added 9.
While both teams finished with 15 first downs, the Buffs ended with 247 rushing yards on 33 carries and 153 passing yards for a total output of 400 yards. They limited the Panthers to 189 total yards (117 passing and just 72 rushing on 25 attempts).
“We’re doing a much better job of understanding who we are,” Hill said. “It’s good to play as well as we have the last two games heading into the playoffs. We’ve built up some momentum and gained a lot of confidence.”
The shutout was the first since late October of 2017 when the Buffs blanked Topeka-Washburn Rural 7-0 in the play-in game for the 6A playoffs. It also marked the first shutout in the Great Bend series since 2000. Garden City now leads the series with the Panthers, 39-29, and it ended a three-game Panther winning streak.
“The defense has played well all year long,” Hill said. “The offense and special teams have put them in some tough situations, but overall, they’ve done a good job. The two wins saw us play better in all three phases of the game.”
Hill said the takeaway from the season-opening loss at Manhattan is one that the Buffs were in position to tie the game in the fourth quarter, but a turnover stopped a drive inside the Indians’ 5-yard line and Manhattan scored in the final seconds of the game for the 14-point margin.
“We know the things that happened in that first game,” Hill said. “We know if we eliminate those mistakes we have a good chance to be in the game at the end.”
Great Bend 0 0 0 0 — 0
Garden City 14 10 21 0 — 45
GC: Jerry Arteaga 81 pass from Caleb Wiese (Issac Rivera kick), 7-0. 4:11
GC: Christian Reyes 25 pass interception return (Rivera kick), 14-0. 2:30
GC: Josh Janas 1 run (Rivera kick), 21-0. 9:04
GC: Rivera 24 field goal, 24-0. 4:16
GC: Janas 49 run (Rivera kick), 31-0. 11:38
GC: Janas 22 run (Rivera kick), 38-0. 10:14
GC: Janas 5 run (Rivera kick), 45-0. 0:52
RUSHING: Great Bend 25-72; Garden City 33-247.
FIRST DOWNS: Great Bend 15, Garden City 15.
PASSING YARDS: Great Bend 117, Garden City 153/
PASSES (Com-Att-Int.): Great Bend 15-37-4; Garden City 4-8-0.
PENALTIES-YARDS: Great Bend 0-0; Garden City 5-40.
FUMBLES-LOST: Great Bend 0-0; Garden City 1-1.
PUNTS-AVG.: Great Bend 5-23.2; Garden City 3-36.3.
POSSESSION TIME: Great Bend 29:52; Garden City 18:08.