By BRETT MARSHALL
HUTCHINSON — They came. They saw. They played.
Taking on Hutchinson's No. 1-ranked Salthawks, the Garden City High School Buffaloes simply were overmatched by a team that has produced seven state championships in Class 5A and 6A over the past eight years, with the final score 56-14 on Friday night at Gowans Stadium.
Yep, it was one of those games where you might simply put the tape of the game in the drawer and never look at it.
And while it was to be a long trip home for the Buffs, they will now re-focus on The Hatchet Game at Dodge City next Friday to conclude the regular season. A win will assure the Buffs of a runner-up district finish and their third straight playoff appearance under coach Brian Hill.
"Going forward, I told the kids this is the kind of program we want to have," Hill said afterward. "That's the focus to our younger players. I wanted them to understand how Hutchinson conducts itself, how they prepare, how they play each and every down. "
If ever so briefly, the Buffs held a lead on the state's No. 1-ranked team after the Salthawks coughed up the ball on an errant pitch from quarterback Trevor Turner to Jamison Likes on their first possession of the game.
It did take the Buffs five plays to cover the 18 yards, but Brady Bean's 3-yard run capped it off with 8:04 to play in the first.
After that early Garden City lead, Hutchinson did what it does best — run, run, run — and then strike with big-play passes.
The Salthawks had five possessions after that and put it into the end zone each time.
It took the Salthawks three minutes to tie the game at 7 when they marched 59 yards in seven plays, with Turner sneaking in from 1-yard out. Kassidy Lemons' point-after was perfect.
Following a short drive that ended with a 41-yard Mitchell Hernandez punt, the Salthawks went right back to work. This time it was Colby Turner's 1-yard run that capped off a seven-play, 50-yard drive at the 1:28 mark to make it 14-7 at the end of the first.
After that, it was like watching a runaway freight train that could suddenly convert itself into a speeding jet.
Colby Turner's 4-yard score midway through the second made it 21-7 with 6:55 to play. Hutchinson, which had entered the game averaging only 78 yards passing, hit the airwaves, as Joe Dower took a 21-yard pass from Trevor Turner, and Emilio Tafolla hauling in a 25-yard halfback pass from Tanner Higgins with just under a minute left before intermission.
Mercifully, after a quick three-and-out for the Buffs, the half ended with Trevor Turner taking a knee.
There wasn't anything in the second half that went any better for the Buffs.
The Salthawks scored two touchdowns in the first 1:51 without having run a play from scrimmage.
First, Higgins returned the opening third-quarter kickoff 90 yards, and then when the Buffs got the ball back, Greyson Tempel was intercepted by Colby Turner, who returned it 41 yards untouched. Before one could comfortable in a seat, it was Hutchinson, 49-7, and 10:09 to play in the third.
Garden got a consolation TD at the 5:22 mark of the third quarter when Taylor Foley, the hero of the 31-26 victory the week before over Maize, made a diving catch of Tempel's throw.
Hutch would close out the scoring with its backups playing, as Braydon Wells scampered 21 yards with 5:53 remaining in the game.
"That's a good football team we beat tonight," Hutchinson coach Randy Dreiling said. "We just happened to hit on all cylinders. They're a better team than people give them credit because of the score."
Hill said that the plan was to try and stop the run and force Hutch to beat them through the air, something they had not shown an ability to do all season. But Friday night was not one of those.
"We were going to dare them to throw the ball, and we got caught looking into their backfield," Hill said. "They were able to get behind us. Credit to them, they performed just like you'd expect from a team that is used to playing in big games. They didn't make any mistakes, except the one early fumble and the other one late."
By halftime, and eventually for the game, Hutch had completed 6-of-7 passes for 184 yards and a pair of TDs and they finished the game with 271 rushing yards on 42 attempts, well below their season average of 397.
For Bean and Tempel, two of the springboards of this 2012 season, it was a tough pill to swallow. But both of them vowed the Buffs would be ready for the grudge game with Dodge City.
"You look at it (the score) and it feels like a blowout, but I feel like we played them tough a good part of the game," Bean said. "They just come out and play every snap, they execute perfectly and we didn't. We made mistakes that cost you big against a team like Hutch. For the future, that's the team that we want to be."
Tempel, harassed all night by the Salthawk defense, finished with just 49 yards rushing on 12 carries and was 12-of-23 for 78 yards and two interceptions.
"We just didn't execute on some of the plays and we've just gotta get better," Tempel said. "We're disappointed in the outcome, but we'll get back after it this week and we just need to have a good week of practice."
The Buffs got a few players banged up and their status will be unclear for the Dodge game. Bryce Bickett and Ivan Vivanco both left the game with undetermined injuries. Logan Dechant never suited up because of an injury sustained in the Maize win, forcing Hill to utilize sophomore Zac Finch and freshman Jared Koster at running back.
"Considering what we were up against, I thought they did a very good job," Hill said of his two young backs. Koster was the leading rusher for the Buffs, getting 61 yards on 14 carries, while Finch, playing just in the second half, had 19 yards on 5 carries.
The Buffs are now 5-3 overall and 1-1 in District 8. Hutchinson improved to 6-2 overall and 2-0 in the district, and will be on the road at Maize. Maize won a wild and wooly shootout with the Red Demons, 54-51. Maize is 1-1 in the district and Dodge is 0-2.
Garden City 7 0 7 0 -- 14
Hutchinson 14 21 14 7 -- 56
GC--Brady Bean 3 run (Rudy Chavez kick), 8:04. 5 plays, 18 yards, 2:13.
HUT--Trevor Turner 1 run (Kassidy Lemons kick), 5:04. 7 plays, 59 yards, 3:00.
HUT--Colby Turner 1 run (Lemons kick), 0:30.8. 4 plays, 85 yards, 1:28.
HUT--Colby Turner 4 run (Lemons kick), 6:55. 8 plays, 87 yards, 2:42.
HUT--Joe Dower 21 pass from Trevor Turner (Lemons kick), 2:27. 5 plays, 79 yards, 1:25.
HUT--Emilio Tafolla 25 pass from Tanner Higgins (Lemons kick), 0:55. 5 plays, 58 yards, 1:03.
HUT--Tanner Higgins 90 kickoff return (Lemons kick), 11:47.
HUT--Colby Turner 41 pass interception return (Lemons kick), 10:09.
GC--Taylor Foley 5 pass from Greyson Tempel (Rudy Chavez kick), 5:22. 8 plays, 25 yards, 4:43.
HUT--Braydon Wells 21 run (Lemons kick), 5:53. 8 plays, 54 yards, 4:23.
First downs 12 16
Rushes-yards 40-163 42-271
Passing yards 78 184
Com-Att-Int 12-23-2 6-7-0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 2-2
Penalties-yards 6-50 4-21
Punts-avg. 6-38.5 1-29.0
RUSHING: Garden City--G. Tempel 12-49, Koster 14-61, Bean 9-34, Finch 5-19. Hutchinson--T. Turner 6-82, Higgins 2-6, Smith 4-47, C. Turner 6-17, Brower 3-8, Likes 2-9, Hardenburger 6-40, Wintz 5-23, Wells 3-25, Cushinberry 2-6, Garcia 3-8.
PASSING: Garden City--G. Tempel 12-23-2--78. Hutchinson--T. Turner 5-6-0--159; Higgins 1-1-0--25.
RECEIVING: Garden City--Banner 4-48, D. Tempel 1-0, Foley 2-13, Bean 2-7, Finch 1-(-1), Smith 1-11. Hutchinson--Brower 1-80, Tafolla 2-60, Dower 1-21, Gaines-Grissom 1-4, Likes 1-19.