By BRETT MARSHALL
By now, every football expert will say two things about Friday night's 7 p.m. Class 6A sub-state championship game at Derby between the Garden City Buffaloes and the Derby Panthers.
One, few expected the Buffs to make their first semifinal appearance since 2005, when they lost to Hutchinson.
Second, everybody within shouting distance of Derby did expect the Panthers to be right where they are when they host the Buffs.
And while both teams are senior-dominated teams — Garden City has 27 on its roster with 17 of those starting, and the Panthers counter with 33 upperclassmen, of which 20 are starters — the matchup provides one of the more compelling of the Class 6A postseason playoffs.
The Panthers (10-1 and ranked No. 1), as expected, have roughed up Wichita North (56-7) and Manhattan (55-20), while the Buffs (8-3 and unranked), have had two heart-stopping, come-from-behind wins against Wichita Northwest (40-36) and Wichita Heights (35-28).
At stake is a berth in the state championship game, which will be played on Nov. 30 at Washburn University's Yager Stadium in Topeka. In the other semifinal, it will be Olathe North (8-3) taking on Shawnee Mission East (10-1).
For the Buffs and coach Brian Hill, the game presents an opportunity to return the program to its glory days of the 1990s, when they played in multiple state championship games, winning the school's only title in 1999.
Some similarities exist between that team and this one. First, each was 4-3 at one point and the '99 squad won its final five games en route to the crown. The Buffs are two wins away from the same accomplishment.
Standing in their way, however, is one of the elite teams in Kansas.
Derby is big, brash, powerful, fast and experienced.
"It's exciting to be in this position," Hill said after Wednesday's practice. "To have this opportunity and play in a game of this magnitude is what you work for as coaches, and as players."
Hill said the Buffs will have their stiffest challenge of the season in the Panthers.
"They're extremely well coached, and they have great athletes at every skill position," Hill said of the Panthers. "We've got our hands full."
The Panthers are high-scoring and at the same time have a stingy defense. They average 48.3 points while giving up just 12.2 points.
"They're very opportunistic on offense and they're defense has created a lot of turnovers," Hill said.
Through the nine-game regular season, in which the Panthers lost only its opening game to Salina South (35-21), Tyler West has been the team's leading rusher with just under 700 yards. Quarterback Jeremy Dunham has added 641 yards on the ground, and two others have compiled more than 290 rushing yards. Dunham also has completed more than 60 percent of his passes for nearly 1,000 yards. His favorite target is a good one, and a big one — 6-4, 225-pound senior DeAndre Goolsby. He is the No. 3-rated tight end by rivals.com and has committed to the University of Florida. Through the nine-game regular season, Goolsby had 26 catches for 393 yards and six touchdowns.
"He's an excellent tight end and presents a lot of coverage problems for defenses," Hill said. "They'll lull you with the run and then hit him big down the middle. You've always got to know where he is."
Derby coach Brandon Clark also likes his team's defense, which has been tough to score on, yielding a mere 34 points in the first half all season and only 47 through three quarters. By the time the fourth quarter has arrived, in all but the South loss, the Panthers have safely tucked the game away.
"We've played very aggressively and have been fundamentally sound," Clark said of his team's defense. "We knew we had speed, but their biggest asset is understanding the game, being able to get their checks. They're a very smart group and that allows them to play without thinking."
Clark, though, expects a tough fight from the Buffs.
"When we've seen Garden City teams in the past, we know for sure that they are going to go hard," Clark said. "It's always nice to have a lead, but that's not gonna happen against Garden. We expect it to be a shootout."
For the Buffs, it means making sure the offense is put in position where it can score. And that has been happening a lot of late.
Since their last loss, in week seven of the regular season at Maize (40-24), they have beaten perennial power Hutchinson (35-24), Dodge City (41-20), before heading into its 2-0 playoff start. Senior quarterback Greyson Tempel is the trigger man for the Buffs' offense, now having compiled 2,442 passing yards and 1,271 rushing yards, while accounting for 25 TDs through the air and 19 on the ground. His two favorite targets are brother Dusty Tempel (55 catches, 909 yards, 9 TDs) and Caleb Tramp (52 catches, 1,073 yards, 11 TDs). In addition, sophomore Jared Koster has come into his own since the second half of the Maize game, and now has rushed for more than 100 yards in four of the last five Buffs' games.
"Not very many have picked us to be this far, but these kids believe in themselves, and they know what they need to do," Hill said of his squad. "They do a great job of focusing on the game and not on the other things."
The weather looms to be a major factor, as well, with the forecast calling for temperatures to be in the upper 20s to low 30s with wind and a chance of precipitation.
"Both of us have to play in it, so I don't see it as a factor favoring either team," Hill said.
Know the Foe
What: Garden City High School at Derby High School
Class 6A Sub-State Championship
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Derby High Stadium
Last Meeting: 2007 (Garden City, 35-28)
Mascot: Buffaloes (Brown & White)
Class: Kansas 6A, District 8 (Maize, Hutchinson, Dodge City)
League: Western Athletic Conference
Head Coach: Brian Hill (4th year, 25-15, .625)
Projected Starting Lineup
WR--Dusty Tempel, 5-10, 170, Sr.; Mitchell Hernandez, 5-8, 160, Sr.; Caleb Tramp, 6-4, 210, Jr.
T--Austin Nichols, 6-0, 215, Sr.; Alex Ortiz, 6-3, 285, Jr.
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--Zach Landgraf, 5-10, 160, 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--Kelton Uthe, 5-10, 215, Sr.; Jacob Norquest, 5-8, 170, 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.
2013 Schedule/Results (8-3)
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#, L 40-24
Oct. 25--HUTCHINSON#, W 35-24
Nov. 1--DODGE CITY*#, W 41-20
Nov. 8--at Wichita Northwest-&, W 40-36
Nov. 15--WICHITA HEIGHTS-&, W 35-28
*--Indicates WAC game; #-Indicates Class 6A-8 district game; &-Indicates Class 6A playoff game.
Class: Kansas Class 6A District 6 (Wichita Heights, Wichita East, Wichita Southeast)
League: Ark Valley Chisholm Trail Division I
Head Coach: Brandon Clark (8th year, 62-35, .639)
Projected Starting Lineup
WR--Tim Williamson, 5-9, 181, Sr.; Luke Palmer, 5-9, 155, Sr.
TE--DeAndre Goolsby, 6-5, 225, Sr.
OL--Quentin Cox, 5-10, 230, Sr.; Matt Kissinger, 5-10, 230, Sr.; Tanner Anderson, 6-4, 248, Sr.; Cole Hansen, 6-4, 284, Sr.; Kohl Yoder, 6-3, 236, Sr.
RB--Caleb Arnold, 6-0, 205, Sr.; Tyler West, 6-0, 210, Sr.
QB--Jeremy Dunham, 6-1, 167, Sr.
PK--Tim Williamson, 5-9, 181, Sr.
DL--Chase Branstetter, 6-0, 201, Jr.; Noah Packard, 6-0, 218, Sr.; Kavan Mark, 6-3, 200, Sr.; Jordan Hill, 5-9, 235, Sr.
LB--Jose Delgado, 5-11, 190, Sr.; Daniel Conner, 6-0, 164, So.; Brice Merz, 5-8, 161, Sr.
S--Travis Young, 6-1, 191, Sr.; David Tullis, 5-11, 178, Sr.
CB--Alec Martin, 5-10, 155, Sr; Shane Fowler, 6-3, 191, Sr.
P--Kavan Mark, 6-3, 200, Sr.
Season Results (10-1)
League Record: 4-1 - Ark Valley Chisholm Trail - I
Sept. 6--SALINA SOUTH, L 41-35
Sept. 13--at Andover Central, W 55-7
Sept. 20--MAIZE, W 62-13
Sept. 27--at Salina Central, W 45-14
Oct. 4--at Haysville-Campus, W 35-7
Oct. 11--HUTCHINSON, W 36-0
Oct. 18--WICHITA SOUTHEAST, W 76-13
Oct. 25--at Wichita East, W 49-6
Nov. 1--WICHITA HEIGHTS, W 28-6
Nov. 8--WICHITA NORTH-##, W 56-7
Nov. 15--at Manhattan-##, W 55-20
##-Indicates 6A playoff game.
Season Team Statistics
Points-avg. 392-35.6 532-48.3
Defensive points 253-23.0 134-12.2
First downs 180 169
Rushes-yards 317-2100 420-2283
Passing yards 2482 1032
Passes (Com-Att-Int) 144-262-9 68-105-2
Fumbles-lost 9-7 7-7
Penalties-yards 53-491 59-763
Punts-avg. 37-34.1 19-32.6
Note: Derby stats (except points scored, yielded are through 9 games)
Series History (Garden City leads 11-2)
1955--Garden City, 41-7
1956--Garden City, 34-0
1974--Garden City, 28-7 (State quarterfinals)
1981--Derby, 14-7 (First round playoff game)
1990--Garden City, 27-14 (First round playoff game)
1991--Garden City, 38-28
1995--Derby, 30-17 (First round playoff game)
1998--Garden City, 19-7 (State semifinals)
1999--Garden City, 20-11 (First round playoff game)
2004--Garden City, 24-14
2005--Garden City, 31-7
2006--Garden City, 38-7
2007--Garden City, 35-28