By BRETT MARSHALL
Call them the Cardiac Kids and you won't get any arguments.
Call them the Never-Say-Die team, and most will now readily agree.
But no matter what one wants to call the Garden City Buffaloes football team, there's one thing for sure, you can never count them out of a game.
Once again, for what has been a month-long of Fridays of what coach Brian Hill has called "one-game seasons," his senior-laden Buffaloes came up with the improbable of improbable victories on Friday night at Buffalo Stadium.
This time, the Buffs scored 14 points in the final 2 minutes, 21 seconds to knock off perennial power Wichita Heights, 35-28, and now find themselves in the unlikely position of playing in the Class 6A state semifinals next Friday at No. 1-ranked Derby, a 55-20 winner over Manhattan in the other west quarterfinal matchup.
"It's just unbelievable," an exhausted and stunned Hill said minutes after the game. "It just goes to the leadership of these seniors. They're never out of the game. It all comes from playing at home and getting energy from the crowd."
In a game of multiple big plays, it would be nearly improbable, if not impossible, to select just one.
But the biggest of the plays down the stretch went like this:
The game-winning TD came on Greyson Tempel's 9-yard run as he scooted around left end, cut back inside and then darted into the end zone with just 49 seconds left in the game.
Less than two minutes earlier, Tempel had used his arm to pull the Buffs into a 28-all tie after Ismael Hernandez booted the tying PAT at the 2:21 mark.
After a short kickoff, Heights fumbled the ball away when Tre King had the ball stripped and Kelton Uthe pounced on it near midfield. An unsportsmanlike penalty set the Buffs back 15 yards, but their game-winning drive began on their own 36 with only 1:23 remaining.
On first down, Greyson Tempel threw deep and found his brother, Dusty, for a 43-yard gain to the Heights 21. Two plays later Tempel went to Caleb Tramp (10 catches, 160 yards) for 12 yards and a first and goal at the 9-yard line. Tempel took it the distance from there.
Heights' final effort to tie the game was snuffed out on the next possession when the Buffs' defense once again forced the Falcons to cough up the football, with Angel Gonzales falling on the ball with 37 seconds left on the clock. Two kneel downs later, and the clock ran out, leaving the fans in Buffalo Stadium in a frenzy and the Buffs jumping for joy.
Down 28-21 heading to the fourth quarter, after trailing 28-14 early in the third, the Buffs took advantage of deferring to the second half when they won the opening coin toss.
That allowed them to have the wind, which had been nearly non-existent early, but was blowing at about 12-13 mph from the south at that time. That forced Heights into two punting situations, resulting in boots of 26 and 18 yards to put the Buffs in good field position for the late-game heroics.
The tying drive only had to cover 27 yards following an 18-yard punt by Heights' Trenton Autry. It was the Greyson Tempel to Tramp march, with 27 yards coming on four completions.
"The inside routes were working well because we had success on the outside early, and they were trying to play us to the outside," Tramp said. "Catching the TD felt amazing. I'm just so proud of everybody. The blockers and the other receivers, just everybody stepped up big. I knew we'd go far, but honestly I didn't know if we could do this when the season started."
Things didn't look good for the Buffs early in the third period when they had their first drive stall and were forced to punt.
The Falcons, who had pile-drived and optioned the Garden City defense to death in the first half (271 yards rushing), picked right back up and used a 62-yard scamper by Jermaine Wiley to put the ball at the Buffs' 3-yard line. Three plays later, they finally nosed the ball into the end zone on a 2-yard sneak by Forlanda Parker. When Luis Rodriguez booted the point-after, Heights was up 28-14 and appeared to have all the momentum.
But the Buffs had other ideas.
They answered with their own scoring drive, this one of 80 yards in seven plays, with the air game once again taking center stage. Greyson Tempel completed passes of 10 and 22 yards to Tramp, and a 22-yarder to Mitchell Hernandez on 3rd-and-7 moved the chains. Three plays later, Greyson hit Dusty with a 22-yard rope on a post pattern in the middle of the field.
"I've said it all along that putting the ball in Greyson's hands, he somehow will find a way, and he did that time after time tonight," Hill said of his senior quarterback, who is re-writing all the GCHS passing and total offense records this year. "I can't say enough for the toughness of our kids. The line blocked and protected. The defense came up with big plays. It's just one of those collective efforts that has typified this group."
Still up 28-21 following Garden's TD, Heights went on a protracted drive, moving the ball 51 yards in 15 plays, where the Falcons faced a 4th-and-7 and an incomplete pass from Parker to Grant Smallwood put the ball back in the Buffs' hands less than a minute into the fourth.
From there, it was an exchange of two punts by each team that set up the final drama over the last 4 minutes, 50 seconds.
And if that wasn't enough, there was the start of the game.
Five plays into the game, Heights scored on a 30-yard scamper by King for a 7-0 lead.
It took the Buffs just four plays to tie it up when Jared Koster (12 carries, 113 yards) scored on a 20-yard run.
Then it was Heights' turn. Another five-play, 79-yard drive was capped off when Armond McCray took a pitch from Parker and raced 59 yards for the TD.
But that wasn't the best.
On the Buffs' first play from scrimmage following the kickoff, Koster broke through the middle and sprinted his way 74 yards for the tying score. Less than six minutes into the game, there had been four touchdowns and just under 300 yards of offense.
The only turnover by the Buffs, a fumble by Koster on the Falcons' 35, set up Heights' next score, this one through the air on a 33-yard fly pattern from Parker to King. That came with just 2:02 left in the half, providing Heights with a 21-14 halftime lead.
Greyson Tempel finished the game with 289 passing yards (17 of 32, no interceptions). Tramp topped the receivers with his 10-catch, 160-yard effort. Dusty Tempel had six catches for 107 yards, and Hernandez the one reception for 22 yards. Greyson was limited to 46 rushing yards on 10 carries. Heights, meanwhile, finished with 411 yards rushing and 64 yards passing on two completions. McCray led the Falcons' rushers with 89 yards on just four carries.
Notes: Game time for the state semifinal has been tentatively set for 7 p.m. on Friday at the Derby High School stadium. In the east side of the bracket, Olathe North upset Lawrence-Free State, 22-18, and Shawnee Mission East squeezed past Olathe East, 20-13.
Wichita Heights 14 7 7 0 -- 28
Garden City 14 0 7 14 -- 35
WH--Tre King 30 run (Luis Rodriguez kick), 9:55.
GC--Jared Koster 20 run (Ismael Hernandez kick), 8:54.
WH--Armand McCray 59 run (Rodriguez kick), 6:36.
GC--Koster 74 run (Hernandez kick), 6:20.
WH--King 33 pass from Forlanda Parker (Rodriguez kick), 2:02.
WH--Parker 2 run (Rodriguez kick), 9:09.
GC--Dustin Tempel 22 pass from Greyson Tempel (Hernandez kick), 6:57.
GC--Caleb Tramp 7 pass from G. Tempel (Hernandez kick), 2:21.
GC--G. Tempel 9 run (Hernandez kick), 0:49.
First downs 20 17
Rushes-yards 58-411 21-157
Passing yards 64 289
Passes (Com-Att-Int) 2-7-0 17-32-0
Fumbles-lost 3-2 1-1
Punts-avg. 3-27.0 4-39.5
RUSHING--Wichita Heights: Parker 14-70, McCray 4-89, King 15-68, Wiley 6-75, Autry 11-42, Whitten 8-67. Garden City: G. Tempel 10-46, Koster 12-113.
PASSING--Wichita Heights: Parker 2-7-0--64. Garden City: G. Tempel 17-32-0--289.
RECEIVING--Wichita Heights: Wiley 1-31, King 1-33. Garden City: D. Tempel 6-107, M. Hernandez 1-22, Tramp 10-160.