Buffs come up just short against No. 4 Manhattan in 2020 football opener

BUFFALOES FOOTBALL: Monday, Sept. 7, 2020

All along in the preseason, Garden City High School football coach Brian Hill had put special emphasis on an improved offense and playing better defense after going through a pair of 2-7 seasons in 2018 and 2019.

In Friday night’s season opener, on the road against No. 4-ranked Class 6A Manhattan, Hill got a portion of that emphasis.

But it wasn’t enough to overcome as the Buffaloes left Manhattan after absorbing a 21-7 setback to the Indians in a game that was just one touchdown apart with 33 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

“We got off to a slow start offensively and made a few mistakes,” Hill said of the Buffs’ offensive struggles. “They put a long drive together and scored early in the second quarter.”

The Indians did the damage in the early portion of that second stanza, getting a 1-yard plunge by quarterback Dayne Aschenbrenner and a 4-yard run from Vinny Smith at the 11:52 and 8:14 marks to go up 14-0 with Grant Snowden getting a pair of PAT kicks.

The Buffs would garner their lone score of the game at the 4:07 mark of the second period on a 3-yard run by Zane Burns and Isaac Rivera’s kick made it 14-7 and that’s how it stood at halftime.

“We lost the big moments in the game and that turned out to be the difference,” Hill said. “Take away a few plays and we’ve got a great chance to win the game.”

The biggest of those big moments came early in the fourth quarter when the Buffs had driven inside the 5-yard line of the Indians and were on the half-yardline, but Burns fumbled going in on a QB sneak. The teams traded possessions, but the Buffs would not threaten again.

Manhattan got the ball back in the late stages and drove for an icing on the cake TD with just 0:33 showing on another Aschenbrenner short run from 1-yard out.

Hill had taken his team into the opener fully expecting his defense, which returned 9 starters from 2019, to be the strength of the team early on. They didn’t disappoint.

“The defense gave us an opportunity to win the game,” Hill said. “We’d give up a little yardage on a play, but then we’d make a good stop on the next. It’s the best we’ve played defensively since last year’s Hays game, and considering our opponent, probably even much better.”

The Buffs’ defense had to be on the field for just under 30 minutes (29:45) and Manhattan ran 68 plays from scrimmage compared to 46 for the Buffs. The Indians totaled 315 yards of offense, an average of just 4.6 yards. The Buffs, meanwhile, managed just 184 yards of offense, 131 through the air on three Burns completions. Josh Janas led the runners with 36 yards on 12 attempts.

“It was exciting to see how our younger kids who had to step up a year ago and play varsity as sophomores and how much they’ve grown up since then,” Hill said. “I think early we saw the issue of not having any team camp or jamboree and how we didn’t handle the physical side of the first quarter. But after that, I thought we stood toe-to-toe with them.”

Hill said the offense is going to need more efficiency and rhythm to stay on the field longer, citing many 3-and-out possessions during the opener.

“There were times where we actually blocked the right places, but Manhattan’s defense was just better in some places,” Hill said. “We fumbled the ball away three times and that’s three missed possessions. We could have tied the game had we scored from the half-yardline.”

Christian Reyes led the defense with 11 unassisted tackles and had one of the three interceptions. Joel Bellows and Caleb Wiese also each had a pick. Trey Nuzum had 9 solo tackles and 3 assists. Bellows had 7 unassisted stops while Micah Perez and Oscar Yanez each had six solo tackles.

The Buffs will now prepare for Week 2 opponent Hutchinson, which will come to Garden City for a 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11 non-league encounter at Buffalo Stadium. Fans and students will need to check with the GCHS Athletics department for specifics on attendance, social distancing guidelines to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.

Hill said he expected another tough battle from the Salthawks, a team that defeated the Buffs 20-12 a year ago.

“They have a lot of the same people we’ve seen the past couple of seasons,” Hill said of Hutch, which won its season opener, 21-13, over Valley Center. “They’ve got a big QB who has moved in (6-7, 230), who is a good athlete. They’ve got a couple of smaller backs who are quick. Defensively, they’re not as big as they’ve been, but they run to the ball well. It will be a big challenge. We know they are always tough and athletic.”

WAC Notes: The Week 1 was not kind to the five teams of the Western Athletic Conference. In addition to the Buffs loss at Manhattan, Liberal lost to Goodland (43-32), Dodge City was blanked by Wichita Kapaun-Mt. Carmel (42-0) and Maize South blitzed Great Bend (56-0). Only Hays came away a winner, squeaking out a 19-10 win over Goddard-Eisenhower.

‑‑‑‑‑‑

Garden City  0    7  0  0  —    7

Manhattan   0  14  0  7  —  21

Scoring Summary

Second Quarter

MNH—Dayne Aschenbrenner 1 run (Grant Snowden kick), 11:52. 0-7.

MNH—Vinny Smith 4 run (Grant Snowden kick), 8:14. 0-14.

GC—Zane Burns 3 run (Isaac Rivera kick), 4:07. 7-14.

Fourth Quarter

MNH—Dayne Aschenbrenner 1 run (Grant Snowden kick), 0:33. 7-21.

Team Statistics

Stat                         GC                           MNH

First downs             8                              21

Rushes-Yds             32-53                       50-188

Passing Yds.            131                          127

Passes (At-Com-In) 14-3-0                     18-6-3

Total Yards              184                          315

Penalties-Yds          8-75                         4-60

Fumbles-Lost          4-3                           0-0

Punts-Avg.               6-29.8                      3-36.3

Possession              18:15                       29:45

Individual Statistics

Rushing: GC—Janas 12-36, Dominguez 6-15, Burns 14-2.

Passing: GC—Burns 3-14-0-131.

Receiving: GC—Arteaga 2-102, Metzen 1-29.

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