FOOTBALL: Monday, Nov. 2, 2020
In a season of what ifs, or might have been’s, the Week 9 Class 6A Play-In game Friday night for the Garden City Buffaloes football team was a microcosm of the entire nine-game campaign.
With 1:49 remaining in the game at favored Manhattan, the Buffs scored on a 13-yard run by Cooper Ramsey to pull within a point of the Indians at Lew Lane Stadium in Manhattan.
On the ensuing extra point kick attempt, the Indians blocked Issac Rivera’s boot, thus ensuring the Indians’ victory following an unsuccessful onside kick by the Buffaloes.
That 21-20 loss ended the Buffs’ season with a 3-6 record, but only served to add to the frustration of a season of what ifs.
What if: The Buffaloes had scored from 1-yard out in the fourth quarter of the season opener at Manhattan that would have potentially tied the game at 14-all rather than resulting in a 21-7 loss.
What if: The Buffaloes had not let a 20-7 lead in the fourth quarter slip away in a 21-20 loss at home to Hutchinson, a team that is now 8-1 and playing in the second round of Class 5A.
What if: The Buffaloes had not suffered 5 turnovers in a 20-6 road loss at previously winless Liberal.
Potentially two additional wins, possibly three or four, and the Buffs could have finished 6-3, 5-4 or 4-5 at worst.
In Friday’s game, Manhattan running back Vinny Smith scored on a pair of TD runs covering 9 and 6 yards in the first and second quarters, sandwiched around a 56-yard pass from the Buffs’ Caleb Wiese to Jerry Arteaga. That made it 13-7 at halftime. Josh Janas’ 1-yard plunge in the third quarter and the ensuing Rivera PAT put the Buffs up 14-13 at the end of the third quarter.
Manhattan then went down the field to take the lead on a 1-yard Dayne Aschenbrenner run followed by Smith’s 2-yard PAT conversion run. That put the Indians up 21-14 with 6:49 remaining. The Buffs then came up with a scoring drive capped off by the 13-yard reverse run by Ramsey only to have the potential tying PAT blocked. The Buffs were unable to successfully complete an onside kick and the Indians ran out the clock to preserve their win.
Brian Hill, finishing his 11th season and now owning a 56-40 won-loss record, said that is was perhaps one of most perplexing seasons during his tenure at GCHS.
“You can honestly say that a few plays here and there, just like Week 2 vs. Hutchinson, if we could have won the big moments, the season would have looked differently,” Hill said over the weekend following the loss to Manhattan. “It was certainly a struggle because it’s disappointing by those events that it shattered our confidence levels, yet you walked off the field knowing that you’re good enough to win some of those games.”
The loss to Manhattan was the final snapshot of a season that saw the Buffs utilize so many sophomores and juniors in the starting lineup. Another small senior class, the third in a row for Hill and the Buffaloes, will graduate and the Buffs will return 17 players who started at the end of the 2020 season when the 2021 campaign rolls around.
“We did find a way to get better at the end of the season,” said Hill of the 38-8 and 45-0 wins over Ulysses and Great Bend. “All you can ask of kids is to work hard and get better. I think we grew up a lot this season.”
The bright outlook for the future is that the Buffs will have a 2021 senior class of 33 and a junior class of 26, the highest numbers since the 2013 to 2016 years when the Buffs played in the 6A semifinals (2013) and 6A quarterfinals (2017), while posting a 36-15 with three years of advancing to at least the second round of the state playoffs.
“The sophomores and juniors can see how close they are to becoming a team that can win games and be competitive in the playoffs,” Hill said. “They’ve been forced to play in some tough situations where you’ve got 15 and 16-year-olds playing 17-18-year-olds. That’s a big difference.”
In the latter stages of the season, the Buffs’ defense, which had been pretty solid all season, stepped up even more by creating turnovers.
“We created more turnovers than we did the last couple of years and I thought our defensive line played well,” Hill said. “Joel Bellows had never started at inside linebacker and became one of our best players. Our young guys in the secondary really stepped up.”
Nine starters will return on defense and eight will be back on offense. The freshman class, Hill said, is good-sized in numbers.
“We grow that freshman class a little more and I believe we’ll be back to where we were a few years ago to be competitive in all the games and make runs in the playoffs.”
In Class 5A and 6A, Hill believes, it is imperative to have juniors and seniors on the field as opposed to sophomores and an occasional freshman thrust into play.
“To compete, you have to have the older kids play,” Hill said. “There’s just a big difference of the 15-16 year-olds vs. the 17-18 year-olds. There’s a big physical gap in those early teen years. I think next year you’ll see where we have the depth and the kids ready to play at that level.”
Garden City 7 0 7 6 — 20
Manhattan 7 6 0 8 — 21
MNH—Vinny Smith 9 run (Grant Snowden kick), 4:02. 0-7.
GC—Jerry Arteaga 56 pass from Caleb Wiese (Issac Rivera kick), 2:41. 7-7.
MNH—Vinny Smith 6 run (Grant Snowden kick failed), 6:20. 7-13.
GC—Josh Janas 1 run (Issac Rivera kick), 0:00. 14-13.
MNH—Dayne Aschenbrenner 1 run (Vinny Smith run), 6:49. 14-21.
GC—Cooper Ramsey 13 run (Issac Rivera kick blocked), 1:49. 20-21.
First downs 13 17
Rushes-Yards 43-152 44-263
Passing Yards 65 31
Passes (Com-Att-Int) 4-11-1 4-9-1
Plays-Total Offense 54-217 53-294
Penalties-Yards 5-30 6-40
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 2-1
Punts-Avg. 3-33.0 3-40.0
Possession Time 23:23 24:37
PASSING: GC-Wiese 4-11-1-65; MNH-Aschenbrenner 4-9-1-31.
RUSHING: GC-Wiese 14-65, Janas 19-36, Kleysteuber 7-33, Ramsey 1-15, Arteaga 2-3; MNH-Smith 23-126, Aschenbrenner 19-91, Newby 2-46.
RECEIVING: GC-Arteaga 2-57, Ramsey 1-11, Kleysteuber 1-(-3); MNH-Hall 2-12, Brown 1-12, Smith 1-7.