Just when it looked as though the Garden City Buffaloes football team might pull off the upset of the season in western Kansas and Class 6A, things took a southward turn and the Dodge City Red Demons escaped with a 17-7 victory in the 122nd meeting of the two rivals and the 82nd meeting in the coveted Hatchet Game.
It was the second straight year for the Demons to grab the Hatchet, and they will have possession of it until the 2020 game in Dodge City.
For now, it will be a game of what might have been as the Buffs, with just two wins this season, had gone head-to-head with the unbeaten Demons for the entire game, taking a 7-3 lead early in the fourth quarter following a 3-yard run by junior Josh Janas and the PAT kick by Isaac Rivera at the 9:30 mark.
Having the stiff north wind at their back in that pivotal final stanza, the Buffs were looking at keeping Dodge’s offense under wraps as they had done nearly the entire game up to that point.
But things didn’t turn out the way the Buffs’ wanted, as Dodge senior quarterback Beau Foster engineered two scoring drives, both coming on big pass plays to score a pair of final quarter TDs to finish with the 10-point, 17-7 triumph.
“I thought we played with a lot of heart and great effort,” said Buffs’ coach Brian Hill. “Considering we were playing an undefeated team, and we were down to a freshman quarterback for most of the game, I thought our kids battled as hard as they could.”
Foster’s first TD strike came from 33 yards to Alden Knedler and Jose Valverde’s PAT kick made it 10-7 Demons with 6:32 left in the game. After forcing the Buffs to punt, the Demons once again took possession going into the stiff north wind (40-45 mph) yet was able to hook up with De jon Delgado on a screen pass that covered 62 yards with 2:54 remaining, and another Valverde PAT boot made it 17-7 with just 2:54 remaining.
The Buffs made a gallant effort on their final possession, but couldn’t come up with the key play to make one final run at the Demons.
“I thought the defense played outstanding, with the exception of those two pass plays,” Hill said. “We just made a couple of mistakes in coverage that cost us.”
After sophomore QB Zane Burns went out with an injury in the first quarter, freshman signal caller Caleb Wiese was thrust into a tough situation, but performed admirably, Hill said.
“For a freshman to come in with no true preparation, I thought Caleb did a good job of managing the game for us,” Hill said. “The moment was not too big for him.”
The game had been delayed for nearly 90 minutes due to lightning in the area, so kickoff didn’t occur until just before 8:30 p.m. That didn’t seem to affect the Buffs as they came out and gave the highly-favored Demons all they wanted and more.
“Just a couple of plays with a different outcome and we could have won the game,” Hill said. “I’m proud of the way the kids performed.”
While the Buffs’ offense produced 240 yards rushing (Janas had 42 carries for 191 yards), the passing game was limited to just 2 of 11 for 17 yards. Dodge, meanwhile, could muster only 22 rushing yards on 14 attempts but Foster did complete 7 of 16 passes for 130 yards and the two strikes.
The Buffaloes fell to 2-1 in the Western Athletic Conference and 2-5 overall while Dodge City improved to 3-0 and 7-0. The Buffs will close out their regular season on Friday, Oct. 25, with a Senior Night game against Great Bend at Buffalo Stadium, with kickoff set for 7 p.m.
Dodge City 3 0 0 14 — 17
Garden City 0 0 0 7 — 7
Dodge–Jose Valverde, 37 field goal, 8:33
Garden–Josh Janas, 3 run (Isaac Rivera kick), 9:30
Dodge–Alden Knedler 33 pass from Beau Foster (Valverde kick), 6:32
Dodge–De jon Delgado, 62 pass from Foster (Valverde kick), 2:54
Team Statistics/Individual Leaders
Rushing: Dodge City 14-22 (Foster 12-23); Garden City 60-240 (Janas 42-191).
Passing: Dodge City (Foster 7-16-0–130); Garden City 2-11 (Burns 1-3-0–14; Wiese 1-8-0–3).
Receiving: Delgado 1-62; Knedler 3-42; Friess 2-28; Garden City Reyes 1-14; Biera 1-3.