The Garden City Buffaloes find themselves in a familiar spot entering Friday’s game vs. the Hutchinson Salthawks.
A year ago, the Buffs were 0-2 heading into a game at 0-2 Hutchinson, and lost a back-and-forth heartbreaker, 28-24. This year, both teams are again 0-2, except this time Hutchinson is coming to Buffalo Stadium for Homecoming at 7 p.m. Friday.
And the Buffs are hoping the result is flipped in their favor, as well.
“You’ll see two teams that are desperate to win that first game because it can change the course of the rest of your season,” GCHS head coach Brian Hill said Tuesday.
Ironically, Hutchinson followed last year’s win with a three-game losing streak and the Buffs followed with their only two wins of the season — both teams finished 2-7. But getting a win, particularly for the younger Buffaloes, may help provide some confidence moving forward.
“I try to show them how close they are, continually show them it’s a penalty here, it’s a turnover here, it’s one block here or one mistake on defense,” Hill said of keeping his team’s spirits up despite the two big losses to begin the year. “We’re close. It’s not that we’re doing a whole bunch of things wrong, it’s just we’re not finishing. We’re not completing drives. When we get them to third and long, we’re not finishing and making them punt — we’re giving up big plays.”
Against Valley Center, a week ago, the Buffs gave up a 64-yard touchdown pass on the Hornets’ first offensive series, and then fumbled it on the kick-off return, and then promptly gave up another Hornet touchdown.
“We had more penalties, more turnovers, more blown assignments against Valley Center than we did in Week 1 against a far superior opponent, which makes zero sense when it’s all said and done,” Hill said. “The only thing I can tell you the difference was we got in the bus, drove 200 miles and wore a different color uniform.”
Whatever the reason, the Buffs never recovered from the early big hole, and dropped to 0-2.
“I think at 0-2, you find out a lot about yourself,” Hill said. “We’re going to find the ones who are committed to what’s going on here.”
Hill said the Buffs have made some personnel changes since the Valley Center game, as well as some schematic changes.
One of the highlights of the changes — and of the Valley Center game — was the naming of Josh Janas as the starting running back for the Buffs. The junior running back had 99 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries for the Buffs against the Hornets.
That comes out to a 5.5-yard-per-carry average, well above the Buffs’ current average of 4.0 as a team.
“There’s a lot of things he naturally has that you just can’t teach,” Hill said of Janas. “His aggressiveness, his toughness — I bet he runs 15 pounds harder than what he actually weighs. He’s a hard tackle. I’m extremely happy and excited we got him to come out. He’s been a big blessing for us these first two weeks.”
Janas had not played high school football as a freshman and sophomore, opting to focus on wrestling and track and field. However, he was convinced in the offseason he should give football a shot, and he’s hit the field running.
“I was a little timid at first to go out, just worried because wrestling is my sport at first,” Janas said. “But I figured, if I had something the football team could use, then I should go out … I tried my best to pick it up quick.”
He has picked it up quick, and now he figures to be a focal point of the Buffs’ offense going against a Hutchinson defense that has given up 38 and 55 points, respectively, in the Salthawks’ first two games of the season — 38-14 loss to Wichita West and 55-14 loss to Maize.
“They’re a lot better than the points they’ve given up — they’ve given up four non-offensive touchdowns,” Hill said. “They’ve been put in some bad situations with some short fields, as well.”
But with the Salthawks offense looking to control the ball with a triple option offense.
“We’re going to have to score points and keep our defense as much as we can off the field,” Hill said.
That means the Buffs need to control the ball, as well, and not turn the ball over like the did against Valley Center (six turnovers).
“I think it’s personnel — make sure you’ve got all the right guys in the right position,” Hill said. “If that requires a change, you make it. Also, making sure it’s coaching schemes and putting the kids we feel can make those plays in the right position.”
If they can do that, perhaps a season-first win will come next.