First, and foremost, understand that I'm not comparing the competition of a football game to warfare.
Football players are not soldiers, and there should be no mistake about that.
However, for the sake of some interesting comparisons, I would like to draw the following analogies on this year's Garden City Buffaloes football team.
With the recent 35-28 come-from-behind victory on Friday night over Wichita Heights in the Class 6A quarterfinals, the Buffs now find themselves preparing for their second trip to Wichita in two weeks, and the third to the area this season (including Maize), where they will face powerhouse Derby in the sub-state championship game, and on the line is a berth in the Nov. 30 6A state championship game in Topeka at Washburn University.
So, here's the way I see the Buffs (after discussions with coach Brian Hill) and how they would present themselves if they indeed were soldiers heading into warfare.
The Buffs, quite honestly, don't have a tank to smash through the front lines, unless you think in terms of the offensive line. They don't have a big, powerful, punishing running back.
They do, however, have a multi-purpose weapon in quarterback Greyson Tempel. The passing/running skills that he possesses has created more than 3,700 yards of offense for the Buffs' attack. Through the air, or on the ground, Tempel can do some major destruction to opposing defenses.
Wide receivers Caleb Tramp and Dusty Tempel are the stealth bomber and cruise missile attackers for the Buffs. Tramp, a 6-5, 205-pounder, has created match-up issues for defensive backs all season on both short and deeper pass routes. All he's done is catch 52 passes for 1,073 yards and 11 touchdowns. Dusty is the long-distance threat for his brother, having caught 55 passes for 909 yads and 9 TDs. Mitchell Hernandez, the third wideout for the Buffs, is something akin to artillery being lobbed in from short distances. Once he catches a ball, mostly on short to mid-range routes, he can scurry, twist and turn his way to bigger gains.
Then, you've got running back Jared Koster, the Tomahawk missile of this offense. He can strike quickly, penetrate deeply and reach long-range targets. He's rushed for more than 700 yards and scored 11 TDs, and has had four 100-yard rushing games in the past five weeks.
According to Hill, the resultant weapons have been effective because of that offensive line that gets down in the trenches, digs the ditches and does all the dirty work.
"They take a lot of beating, but that's just fine with them," Hill said on Sunday, 48 hours after that dramatic victory over Heights. "They do their own business. It's a pretty special group."
Hill said that the group has been able to effectively block for both the run and the pass, due in part to their athleticism.
"Their football IQ is pretty high, and they've really begun to come off the ball and play more physical," Hill said. "They're athletic in their own way. They're not the tallest and they're not the heaviest, but they're physically strong. They're big, nimble and can move their feet."
Hill had more trouble coming up with descriptions of his defense, so he just went back to basic descriptions.
The linemen, he says, play with great technique and have worked hard to do the things that the coaching staff has asked of them.
"What they do frees up our linebackers to make plays," Hill said of his linemen. "The linebackers are a multi-skilled group. They're very good against the run and in their own right, can move side to side. They've been tackling macheines and have done a great job of clogging the middle."
The Buffs' secondary has been the team's great equalizier, Hill said.
"From run to pass coverage, they're getting the people lined up," Hill said. "They're kinda like the secret forces. They're able to do everything, dissect things and they are the last line of defense for us."
Hill has said all along that this team will go as far as the 27 seniors on the team take them. And by most standards, they have gone further than anyone may have been willing to wager. It hasn't stopped this team from becoming high achievers.
"They fear no one, respect everyone," Hill said. "They will go out and play hard for four quarters. They've learned how to handle success, and they don't get too high or too low. They don't see themselves as not belonging. They're not intrinsically motivated by what other people think. That doesn't bother them. The commitment that they've made through their four years has made them battle-tested. The way we win, everybody knows we've got a chance. They expect to win, no matter who they're playing."
One of the things that has made that mindset possible is that when Hill became head coach in 2010, he began taking his squad to 7-on-7 camps and team camps during the summer, where they've faced teams from eastern Kansas, Wichita and out-of-state.
"They've been exposed to a lot of things, a lot of teams, and they've competed very well with those groups," Hill said. "They don't feel they don't belong. They believe they belong. They now have a greater understanding of their opponents and what to expect. "
So when the Buffs march out onto Derby's field on Friday night, Hill's squad will be ready to do battle with the Panthers. And they expect to come home victors.
Sports Editor Brett Marshall can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org