By BRETT MARSHALL
WICHITA — If oxygen masks were on the market at the end of Friday night's Class 6A bi-district championship game between Garden City and Wichita Northwest, there would have been plenty of takers.
Especially for both the Buffaloes and Grizzlies.
When the final buzzer sounded, it was the Buffaloes who were breathing with a big sigh of relief, surviving a wild shootout, 40-36, and will now get to return home next Friday to face perennial 6A power Wichita Heights, a 55-48 winner over Topeka High.
But this one was not one for the meek or the timid — or one without guts and heart.
The latter was what the Buffs said finally sealed the victory with just nine seconds left when senior Emilio Parr intercepted an Erin Gaither pass to seal the 4-point triumph.
The Buffs had rallied for what seemed like the umpteenth time when Greyson Tempel somehow found Caleb Tramp for a 27-yard TD for the winning score. That came with just 49 seconds left in the game.
Northwest, which pummeled the Buffs for 417 yards of offense (311 rushing, 106 passing), had retaken the lead with 2:22 showing when Brendan Johnson, wide open deep in the end zone, caught a 9-yard strike from Gaither. Bailey Bryand's PAT boot made it 36-33 Northwest and the Buffs were looking down the barrel of elimination.
"They (Northwest defense) took away the run and I just had to find Dusty (Tempel) and Caleb to make plays," said Greyson Tempel. "It's a great win. Certainly it was a wild one. The receivers just made great plays. I was a little impatient with myself, so we just had to hang tough at the end."
If there was a roller-coaster or a yo-yo, either would have been an apt description of how back-and-forth this game evolved.
Garden had taken a 33-29 lead at the 7:07 mark of the fourth when Greyson found brother Dusty on a 50-yard bomb on a second down play at midfield.
Earlier, the Grizzlies went up 29-26 when Gaither raced 22 yards untouched after he had just ran 37 yards to finish a quick, two-play, 59-yard drive. Bryand booted the PAT and it was 29-26 Northwest.
After the game had been tied at 14-all at intermission, the third quarter was every bit as wild.
The Buffs got a 1-yard run by Jared Koster midway through the quarter and Ismael Hernandez' PAT kick was blocked, leaving Garden up 20-14.
Speedster Deron Thompson gave the Grizzlies back the lead when he rumbled 10 yards and Bryand's extra point made it 21-20 at the 4:09 mark.
Then it was the Greyson Tempel to Tramp act once again as the two hooked up on a nifty 34-yard pass with 24 seconds left in the period to put the Buffs back up 26-21 heading into the final quarter.
"It was really tough trying to get the running game going, so we just had to be the ones to make plays," Tramp said. "Greyson did a great job of getting the ball to us. On the final TD, I just was able to get behind him, and it was then an easy catch. We had to fight it out. It doesn't matter how we did it, the only thing that matters is that we won."
Defensively, the Buffs were trying to hold down a potent Grizzly running game that saw Gaither rush for 193 yards on 24 carries, while Thompson finished with 90 yards on 16 attempts.
Turnovers were pivotal as the Grizzlies turned it over five times — three lost fumbles and two interceptions. The Buffs returned the favor with two of their own — one lost fumble and one interception, both by Greyson Tempel.
The Buffs' defense, which seemingly was on the field for much of the fourth quarter, somehow managed to hang in there at the end.
"We just battled and tried not to let our emotions get to us," said sophomore linebacker Nalen Rincones. "We were just trying to focus on our keys. That last play, I was on a blitz, so I didn't see the interception."
For GCHS coach Brian Hill, it was all about somehow finding a way. Especially when it looked bleak.
"It's a tribute to the seniors," Hill said of 26 upperclassmen. "They kept fighting. This was about kids making plays. We came up with big third down plays, and the TDs were just great plays by everybody."
Hill said the Buffs had to turn to the air game when Northwest virtually shut down their running attack (85 yards, 42 carries).
"They were all over us on the run," Hill said. "But that exposed them to the pass, and we just always say we'll take whatever the other team gives us, and do our best with that."
Indeed, Tempel came up big with his arm on a night when his legs were slowed (29 yards, 21 carries) by completing 20-of-33 passes for 366 yards and the four TDs (two each to his brother Dusty, and Tramp).
"The line did just enough to give him some time," Hill said of a group that got hit by injuries during the game that sent Alex Frey to the sidelines and Humberto Perez limping while still playing. "We'll just assess everything on Monday and find somebody to put in there and do the job for us. I'm just ecstatic that the seniors get to go back home and play one more time in Buffalo Stadium."
Miscues played a major role in the first-half scoring as Northwest opened its first series of the game with a fumble on the second play from scrimmage.
It took the Buffaloes five plays to get it into the end zone as sophomore Jared Koster eased his way in from 4 yards out on a nice cutback as he went around right end. Ismael Hernandez booted the PAT and it was 7-0 Garden.
That lead didn't last long, however.
Two possessions later, including an interception of Greyson Tempel, and the Grizzlies made their way onto the scoreboard when Jordan Bell bulled his way in from the 2-yard line. That came after a 57-yard scamper by quarterback Erin Gaither. Bailey Bryand booted the extra point to tie it a 7 with 3:01 in the first.
Back came the Buffs on the next possession, going 72 yards in just five plays, taking only 2 minutes, 20 seconds. The TD came on a 42-yard bomb from Greyson Tempel to brother Dusty on a deep post pattern. Hernandez was perfect on the PAT, making it 14-7 Buffs with 40 seconds left in the first.
The only score in the second came from Northwest when speedster Deron Thompson broke through and raced untouched 37 yards, and when Bryand knocked the PAT through the uprights, it was 14-all with 9:09 to play in the half.
Dusty Tempel and Tramp each had eight receptions — Tempel for 149 yards and Tramp for 168 yards.
The Buffs (7-3) will now play a 7 p.m. Friday game against the Falcons from Heights, who have twice beaten the Buffs in the playoffs in 2010 and 2011.
Garden City 14 0 12 14 -- 40
Wichita Northwest 7 7 7 15 -- 36
GC--Jared Koster 4 run (Ismael Hernandez kick), 9:59.
NW--Jordan Bell 2 run (Bailey Bryand kick), 3:01.
GC--Dusty Tempel 42 pass from Greyson Tempel (Hernandez kick), :40.
NW--Deron Thompson 37 run (Bryand kick), 9:09.
GC--Koster 1 run (kick blocked), 6:55.
NW--Thompson 10 run (Bryand kick), 4:09.
GC--Caleb Tramp 34 pass from Greyson Tempel (run failed), :24.
NW--Erin Gaither 22 run (Thompson run), 8:48.
GC--Dusty Tempel 50 pass from Greyson Tempel (Hernandez kick), 7:07.
NW--Brendan Johnson 9 pass from Gaither (Bryand kick), 2:22.
GC--Caleb Tramp 27 pass from Greyson Tempel (I. Hernandez kick), :49.
First downs 20 22
Rushes-yards 42-85 45-311
Passing yards 366 106
Passes (Com-Att-Int) 20-33-1 7-18-2
Fumbles-lost 2-1 3-3
Punts-avg. 4-24.0 2-37.5
RUSHING--Garden City: G. Tempel 21-29; Landgraf 1-(-3); Koster 18-59; Rincones 1-1. Northwest: Sanders 2-0; Williams 2-26; Gaither 24-193; Thompson 16-90; Bell 1-2.
PASSING--Garden City: G. Tempel 20-33-1--366. Northwest: Gaither 7-18-2--106.
RECEIVING--Garden City: D. Tempel 8-149; Koster 2-40; M. Hernandez 2-(-1); Tramp 8-168. Northwest: Beckner 3-34; Thompson 1-20; Williams 2-43; Johnson 1-9.