By BRETT MARSHALL
There are some football statistics that tell the cold, hard truth.
There are other stats that fabricate what is actually taking place on the field.
But there is one compelling stat — turnovers — that rarely if ever gets misinterpreted on their impact to the outcome of a football battle.
Just ask Gary Guzman, Maize High's third-year football coach.
As his Eagles prepare to host the Garden City Buffaloes at 7 p.m. Friday at Maize High Stadium, Guzman knows turnovers can either make or break a team's success.
He needs to look no further than last year's game at Buffalo Stadium where his team was guilty of five, count 'em, turnovers as the Buffs rallied in the final minute for a dramatic 31-26 triumph in the opening week of Class 6A-District 8 play. Friday's game once again opens the critical district schedule for both teams.
And if last year's stinging loss to the Buffs wasn't enough on the turnover front, then the Eagles' week 3 drubbing at the hands of No. 1-ranked Derby (62-13) was reinforcement enough. Guzman watched his team commit five miscues in that fiasco as well.
"We had turnovers there that have not been usual for us and we had a lot of penalties," Guzman said of their loss to Derby. "It's one of those games I simply cannot explain what happened. We definitely didn't play well in all phases of the game."
His fellow coach across the sidelines — the Buffs' Brian Hill — also can attest to how pivotal turnovers can be.
As they have produced a 4-2 overall record, the Buffs have gone from a minus 4 in turnover margin to a plus 4 following a positive 8 on the miscue side of things in their current 3-game winning streak.
Both coaches readily expect a close, hard-fought match-up come Friday night. Hill, for one, knows that the current Eagles' squad is the toughest they will have seen in the three seasons he has played them as head coach.
"They run the football with great consistency and they have a power back, who has the speed to take it in from anywhere," Hill said of Maize senior tailback Chase White. "He's the key to their offense. He's the best back we've seen. Their offensive line has played well."
It took a newly-designed play into the Buffs' offensive scheme to score the winning TD against the Eagles when Greyson Tempel found tight end Taylor Foley on the far left sideline and Foley sidestepped a couple of would-be tacklers and made it into the end zone with just 40 seconds left in the game. It was the last of three lead changes in the final quarter.
The Buffs had to hold their breath, though, as then sophomore QB Connor Lungwitz brought the Eagles down the field before Brady Bean iced the game with an interception on the game's final play.
"Turnovers were a big problem for us in that game, too," Guzman said of the 2012 thriller. "After the Derby loss, though, the kids have bounced back. You never know how kids will respond to something like that. They've stayed focused and I'm pleased with their progress. We're not where we would like to be, but we're certainly better than we were early."
The Eagles use a spread offense with primarily one running back in the backfield. But that runner is senior Chase White, who has rushed for 1,230 yards in 102 attempts and scored 14 TDs. He's averaging a whopping 12.05 yards per carry for the Eagles. Lungwitz, meanwhile, has been steady, connecting on 70-of-121 passes for 981 yards with 15 touchdowns while throwing five interceptions, three against Derby and two in a win over Salina Central.
"Their quarterback is more mature, he handles the pressure better and he's more confident," Hill said of Lungwitz. "He's matured, and it shows in his decision-making."
Guzman, who is in the middle of his third year of a reconstruction of the Eagles' program, has watched his team gradually improve, from a 3-6 season in 2011 to 5-4 a year ago to the now 5-1 start. The offense has put up an average of 42.2 points while the defense is yielding 25.3 points.
"The kids are starting to figure out the system we've put in and have just continued to improve," Guzman said. "The offensive line is doing their job, stepping up each week and that has allowed our backs and wide receivers to do their jobs."
Kendall Stewart and Kavan Jobe are the top receivers, having snared 21 and 24 passes, respectively, for 366 and 330 yards and six and three TDs.
Garden City, meanwhile, has been on a roll over the past three weeks — all impressive wins. First, it was a 35-0 half-game thrashing of Hays, which was followed up by a 61-20 dismantling of Liberal and then a methodical 35-7 grounding of Wichita East a week ago.
"They've got a really good quarterback (Greyson Tempel), and they've got some really good receivers (Caleb Tramp/Dusty Tempel). Somehow we've got to contain him (Greyson Tempel). By what I've seen, he's a good leader and runs their offense really well."
Tempel has been the ignition switch to the Buffs' offense, which is averaging 36.3 points. Tempel has passed for 1,110 yards and 13 touchdowns, while being intercepted four times. Tempel also is averaging 151.3 yards on the ground, with 908 yards and 13 TDs. Trampe has caught 24 passes for 498 yards and eight touchdowns while Dusty Tempel has 20 receptions for 364 yards and three scores.
But Hill acknowledges that the district is wide open, with Hutchinson and Dodge City having suffered three losses each.
"We've done a good job in the last few games with the turnovers, both getting them and not giving them away," said GCHS' Hill. "It's the first game of the district, and you want to get off to a good start."
Hill said he expects Maize to play its usual aggressive-style of defense, too.
"They play hard, and they like to bring pressure," Hill said. "They like to dictate the tempo of the game. You can talk about the star positions, but this game, like most, will be won in the trenches. We have to match their intensity and be better."
The last two weeks of the district will be at Buffalo Stadium, with the Buffs hosting Hutchinson on Oct. 25 and Dodge City on Nov. 1.
Know the Foe
What: Garden City at Maize High
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Maize High School, 11600 W. 45th N, Maize.
Last Meeting: 2012, Garden City, 31-26, at Buffalo Stadium.
Last Game in Maize: 2011, Garden City, 27-0.
Series Record: Garden City leads 10-3.
Mascot: Buffaloes (Brown & White)
Class: Kansas 6A, District 8 (Maize, Hutchinson, Dodge City)
League: Western Athletic Conference
Head Coach: Brian Hill (4th year, 21-14, .600)
Projected Starting Lineup
WR—Dusty Tempel, 5-10, 170, Sr.; Mitchell Hernandez, 5-8, 160, Sr.; Caleb Tramp, 6-5, 205, Jr.
T—Alex Frey, 6-4, 290, So.; Austin Nichols, 6-0, 215, Sr.
G—Montana Fuller, 6-3, 250, Sr.; Cesar Felix, 5-8, 240, Sr.
C—Humberto Perez, 6-0, 230, Jr.
QB—Greyson Tempel, 5-11, 175, Sr.
TB—Jared Koster, 5-11, 155, So.
FB—Clay Woydziak, 5-10, 175, Sr.
PK—Ismael Hernandez, 5-7, 140, Sr.
T—James Nguyen, 6-2, 210, Sr.; Quinton Mead, 5-11, 220, Sr.
E—Cody Worden, 5-11, 180, Sr.; Andrew Brom, 5-8, 170, Sr.
LB—Trenton Chiddix, 5-8, 170, Jr.; Kelton Uthe, 5-10, 215, Sr.; Nalen Rincones, 5-10, 180, So.
CB—Alex Espinosa, 6-0, 160, Jr.; Dusty Tempel, 5-10, 170, Sr.
S—Emilio Parr, 6-2, 175, Sr.; Dozie Ekweariri, 5-9, 140, Sr.
P—Mitchell Hernandez, 5-8, 160, Sr.
(4-2, 2-1 WAC)
Sept. 6—at Bixby, Okla., L 32-27
Sept. 13—WOODWARD, OKLA., W 35-34
Sept. 20—GREAT BEND*, L 28-25
Sept. 27—at Hays*, W 35-0 (game called at halftime, lightning)
Oct. 4—at Liberal*, W 61-20
Oct. 11— WICHITA EAST, W 35-7
Oct. 18—at Maize#
Nov. 1—DODGE CITY*#
*—Indicates WAC game; #-Indicates Class 6A-8 district game.
Mascot: Eagles (Red & White)
Class: Kansas 6A, District 8 (Garden City, Hutchinson, Dodge City)
League: Ark Valley Chisholm Trail Div. I
Head Coach: Gary Guzman (3rd year, 13-11, .542)
Projected Starting Lineup
WR—Kendall Stewart, 5-9, 151, Jr.; Kavan Jobe, 5-9, 173, Sr.; Tevin Davis, 6-0, 176, Sr.; Colton Helm, 5-9, 164, Sr.
OL—Gage Morgan, 5-9, 200, Sr.; Tyler Marrero, 5-7, 190, Sr.; Konner Swenson, 6-2, 211, Fr.; Blair Summers, 6-1, 267, Sr.; Jared Luebbe, 6-3, 282, Jr.
QB—Connor Lungwitz, 6-3, 199, Jr.
RB—Chase White, 6-0, 192, Sr.
B—Justin Queen, 5-9, 153, Sr.; Elijah West, 5-6, 155, Jr.; Corrigan Bartlett, 5-10, 193, Jr.; Kory Haught, 5-9, 151, Sr.
LB—Garrett Thompson, 5-9, 192, Sr.; Clayton Norrod, 6-0, 196, Sr.; Dalton Rupp, 5-8, 206, Jr.
L—Nick Benford, 6-1, 265, Sr.; Mason McCreath, 6-0, 173, Sr.; Dominique Perez-Sutton, 5-10, 256, Sr.; Emiliano Orozco, 5-11, 238, Jr.
(5-1, 4-1 AVCTL-1)
Sept. 6—NEWTON, W 42-22
Sept. 13—SALINA SOUTH, W 40-28
Sept. 20—at Derby, L 62-13
Sept. 27—GODDARD, W 54-12
Oct. 3—at Salina Central, W 34-28
Oct. 11—HAYSVILLE CAMPUS, W 70-0
Oct. 18—GARDEN CITY#
Oct. 25—at Dodge City#
Nov. 1—at Hutchinson#
1998—Garden City, 61-0
1999—Garden City, 56-7
2000—Garden City, 21-0
2001—Garden City, 21-6
2004—Garden City, 13-10
2005—Garden City, 10-6
2008—Garden City, 13-10
2010—Garden City, 28-10
2011—Garden City, 27-0
2012—Garden City, 31-26