By BRETT MARSHALL
If one were a superstitious person, it could easily explain why there were a multitude of reasons for the Garden City Buffaloes to lose Friday night's football game at Buffalo Stadium against the Woodward, Okla. Boomers.
First, it was Friday the 13th.
Second, the Boomers' colors are black (as in cat) and gold (as in striking it rich).
Third, the Buffs committed four unsightly turnovers, had 11 penalties totaling 105 yards, and had several breakdowns on special teams.
But in the end, the Buffs had enough to produce a breathtaking 35-34 victory to even their record at 1-1 and insure that coach Brian Hill won his Week 2 contest for the fourth consecutive time after losing the season opener.
"It wasn't pretty, but I'll take an ugly win anytime over a pretty loss," said a relieved Hill afterward. "We had a lot of little things that hurt us, and a lot of big things that cost us. But in the end, we made a lot of big plays that helped us win the game."
The fact the game turned into a barnburner could not have been conceived with the way the game started.
Two minutes, 29 seconds into the opening quarter and the Buffs were ahead 14-0.
After Woodward cut the lead in half less than two minutes later, the Buffs' offense went right back to work, scoring on a 52-yard circus catch by Caleb Tramp from Greyson Tempel, pushing the Buffs into a 21-7 lead that eventually grew to 28-7.
It had taken the Buffs only three plays to get on the board as Tempel found Mitchell Hernandez on a crossing patter for an 84-yard bomb just 45 seconds into the game. Three players later, following a fumble recovery, the Buffs struck again when Tempel raced 31 yards. Ismael Hernandez booted his second PAT and the Buffs were up 14-zip.
But one thing proved to be true about the Boomers — they weren't going down without a battle.
The Boomers had scored their first TD on a 1-yard run by Micah Kee with 7:04 left in the first.
Garden City seemingly put itself in position to make this one a walk in the park when sophomore running back Jared Koster made a double cutback run around right end from 11 yards out with 4:58 left before intermission and when Ismael Hernandez was perfect on his fourth PAT kick, the Buffs were cruising at 28-7.
And if the Buffs were indeed on cruise control, then their wheels came off for the remaining minutes of the second quarter.
Woodward took the ensuing kickoff, marched 80 yards, with quarterback Kale Hixon plunging over from the one with just 39 seconds left in the half. Jason Alexander's point-after kick made it 28-14. But that wasn't the end of what can only be described as one of many weird plays on the night of the 13th.
Dusty Tempel bobbled the kickoff, tried to elude a would-be tackler but was run down inside his own 5-yard line and fumbled it away to the Boomers.
Two plays later, Hixon was in the end zone and a stunned Buffaloes' crowd watched as the PAT kick was good, cutting the once-safe lead to 27-21 at the break. But that came only after Ismael Hernandez' 45-yard field goal attempt as time ran out went wide left.
"I think maybe we just took the pedal off the gas," Hill said when describing the first-half meltdown. "Woodward's got a good team and their quarterback (Hixon) is a terrific player. He's hard to get a clean hit on."
Then, when the second half began, it seemed like the game turned into a tragic comedy of errors.
The Buffs had a touchdown nullified by a holding penalty and then they botched a field goal attempt that resulted in holder Emilio Parr throwing an interception which was followed by a personal foul penalty.
Woodward took the turnover and marched 78 yards, scoring on a 12-yard pass from Hixon to Lane Reazin with 1:12 left in the third, but what proved to be the deciding play came when Alexander hooked the extra point kick left, leaving the Buffs up 28-27.
The next costly mistake by the Buffs came on the ensuing kickoff when Dusty Tempel likely thought the ball was rolling out-of-bounds, but instead it died and he watched as Woodward recovered the free ball on the 5-yard line.
One play was all it took for the Boomers to score when Dakota Taylor rumbled his way in. The Boomers elected to kick the point-after and it was 34-28 with 1:33 left in the quarter.
But this is where the Buffs' resolve came up big.
Koster got a 20-yard gain and then Tempel and Mitchell Hernandez hooked up on another big TD strike, this one from 45-yards out and Ismael Hernandez' extra point kick provided the Buffs with its eventual one-point margin with 1:09 to play in the period.
The early fourth, like much of the third, was played in a light rain that made things miserable along with a stiff 15 mph southerly wind.
A comedy of errors followed, with Greyson Tempel throwing an interception but Woodward returned the favor with a fumble on the next play. With just under seven minutes left, the Buffs went on a clock-killing drive that stalled on the Boomers' 35-yard line with two minutes remaining.
Mitchell Hernandez then nailed the punt into the southwest coffin corner and Dusty Tempel downed the ball at the Woodward 1-yard line.
But the Boomers had one last herculean effort as Hixon, from his own end zone, found Kaleb Roach on a 48-yard pass play to near midfield. Two pass plays and one penalty later, Hixon saw the Boomers' chance for victory dashed when Dozie Ekweariri stepped in front and intercepted a pass with 37 seconds left on the Buffs' 32-yard line. Two drops to the knee by Greyson Tempel ran out the clock and the Buffs' narrowest of wins was preserved.
"I saw his (Hixon) eyes roll out to the side and he had to bail out and throw it," Ekweariri said. "I just ran to the nearest space where I knew he'd throw it and grabbed it. We had to face a lot of adversity, but this shows how tough we are. We made some mistakes, but that's part of football. It's how you face the adversity that counts."
In addition to Tramp making the circus catch for his early touchdown, the 6-5, 205-pounder, found himself playing defensive end for much of the latter stages. He harassed Hixon many times and it was his pressure that led to the late Ekweariri theft.
"I knew it was important to get pressure on their quarterback, and I got a sack to help out the team tonight," Tramp said. "It feels great to get the win here at home. On the TD catch, I just went up and stretched out my hands as far as I could. I barely got my fingers on it and when I did, I was able to get away and find the end zone."
Mitchell Hernandez had a big night on the receiving end, grabbing 9 passes for 218 yards while Greyson Tempel was 15-of-20 for 302 yards and three TDs. Tempel also rushed for 127 yards on 17 carries while Koster finished with a solid 71 yards on 10 attempts.
The Buffs will open Western Athletic Conference play on Friday when they host Great Bend in a 7 p.m. game at Buffalo Stadium.
Woodward, Okla. 7 14 13 0 -- 34
Garden City 21 7 7 0 -- 35
GC--Mitchell Hernandez 84 pass from Greyson Tempel (Ismael Hernandez kick), 11:15.
GC--G. Tempel 31 run (I. Hernandez kick), 9:31.
W--Micah Kee 1 run (Jason Alexander kick), 7:04.
GC--Caleb Tramp 52 pass from G. Tempel (I. Hernandez kick), 3:40.
GC--Jared Koster 11 run (I. Hernandez kick), 4:58.
W--Kale Hixon 1 run (Alexander kick), :39.
W--Hixon 1 run (Alexander kick), :19.
W--Lane Reazin 12 pass from Hixon (kick failed), 1:43.
W--Dakota Taylor 5 run (Alexander kick), 1:33.
GC--M. Hernandez 45 pass from G. Tempel (I. Hernandez kick), 1:09.
First downs 17 16
Rushes-yards 49-169 36-220
Passing yards 231 326
Passes 16-25-1 13-20-2
Fumbles-lost 2-2 3-3
Penalties-yards 10-90 11-105
Punts-avg. 2-34.0 3-35.3
RUSHING--WOODWARD: Ferguson 5-27, Hixon 25-118, Vo 5-(-4), Marlatt 1-(-3), Kee 6-20, Taylor 7-11.
GARDEN CITY: G. Tempel 17-135, Howard 6-21, Koster 10-72, Woydziak 1-(-6), Team 2-(-2).
PASSING--WOODWARD: Hixon 16-25-1—231.
GARDEN CITY: G. Tempel 13-19-1--326, Parr 0-1-1-0.
RECEIVING--WOODWARD: Alexander 2-66, Reazin 1-12, Kee 5-95, Roach 2-55, Ferguson 5-20, Marlatt 1-6.
GARDEN CITY: Tramp 3-65, D. Tempel 2-19, M. Hernandez 8-219.