By BRETT MARSHALL
Two seasons ago when Wichita East made the four-hour trip to western Kansas to face the Garden City Buffaloes in a non-league football game in early October, coach Brian Byers and his Blue Aces went home with an empty feeling.
On Friday night, with homecoming looming, the Buffs will host the Blue Aces in a 7 p.m. kickoff at Buffalo Stadium.
The 2011 outcome had nothing to do with suffering a loss to the Buffaloes, which the Blue Aces did do a year ago, 34-13, at Wichita South Stadium.
Mother Nature intervened in the form of lightning and light rain, eventually forcing the game to be cancelled and not rescheduled primarily due to the fact the Blue Aces had a Class 6A district game the following Thursday in Wichita.
It left a sour taste for both Byers and Garden City coach Brian Hill, who had to go through another near-cancellation/postponement two weeks ago at Hays in which the Buffs eventually prevailed 35-0 in a game called at halftime, also due to rain and lightning.
"We hope not," Hill said when asked about possible weather interruptions. "We need to play a game. Not playing a game like two years ago is the worst thing you can go through. You get home at 9:30 (p.m.), full of energy and nothing to show for it. You can't get rid of it."
Playing with that proverbial chip on their shoulder, the Buffs have won their last two outings in convincing fashion after opening Western Athletic Conference play with a thud.
After falling to Great Bend, 28-25, in their last home game, the Buffs rattled off that impressive shutout over the previously unbeaten Indians and then raced past Liberal a week ago with a 61-20 thrashing of the Redskins. They are now 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the WAC and have only Dodge City remaining on their league schedule.
East, meanwhile, is coming off a 28-14 loss to Wichita Kapaun-Mt. Carmel and has a 2-3 record.
The Blue Aces of coach Brian Byers have posted wins against Wichita North (33-7) and Wichita South (23-6) while absorbing losses to Wichita West (20-16), Wichita Northwest (16-8) and Wichita Kapaun-Mt. Carmel (28-14).
"They're a typical Wichita East team in that they have a lot of good athletes," Hill said of the Blue Aces. "They are good up front on the defensive side, their linebackers are pretty active and they've got some good cornerbacks who defend the pass really well. They don't give up a ton of points."
Offensively, the Blue Aces are predominantly a running team that runs out of multiple sets, Hill said.
"They are committed to the run and they try to shorten the game and keep the football," Hill said. "In that respect, they're very much like Great Bend. Their offensive line isn't particularly tall, but their players are thick. They come off the ball pretty well and like to play a lot of different guys."
Quarterbacking the Blue Aces is backup George Bousfield, a 6-1, 170-pound senior, who has shown the ability to make key decisions for the Aces.
"He's been able to make some plays, so we've got to do a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage," Hill said. "We've done a good job of that in the last six quarters we've played. We'll need that same effort on Friday night."
With the distractions of Homecoming, Hill is focusing his efforts to keep his team razor sharp after the two impressive road wins.
"The kids have responded and they've practiced and prepared properly and the results we've seen on Friday night," Hill said. "We've had great senior leadership and the others have fallen in line."
The improvements have been dramatic in the offensive and defensive lines, Hill said, and the result has been the reemergence of Greyson Tempel's running skills. That opened big holes for the Buffs' senior quarterback, who rushed for 297 yards on 23 carries against Liberal, scored five rushing touchdowns and then passed for four more TDs.
"We've been doing a better job of executing and being more physical than the other teams," Hill said. "Greyson's done a great job of being patient and letting the game come to him. His decision-making has been better and he's not been turning the ball over. We've been able to control the game and dictate more heavily what we want to do and have been able to put points on the board."
The game will be the final tune-up for the Buffs before entering Class 6A-District 8 play the following week at Maize. They host Hutchinson on Oct. 25 and then close out the regular season with Dodge City for the Hatchet Game on Nov. 1.
Know the Foe
What: Wichita East at Garden City
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Buffalo Stadium, Garden City
Last Meeting: 2012, Garden City, 34-13, at Wichita South Stadium.
Last Game in Garden City: 2011, Game cancelled due to lightning.
Series Record: Garden City leads 2-0.
Mascot: Buffaloes (Brown & White)
Class: Kansas 6A, District 8 (Maize, Hutchinson, Dodge City)
League: Western Athletic Conference
Head Coach: Brian Hill (4th year, 20-14, .588)
Record: 3-2, 2-1 (WAC)
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.; 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.
(3-2, 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
Oct. 18--at Maize#
Nov. 1--DODGE CITY*#
*--Indicates WAC game; #-Indicates Class 6A-8 district game.
Mascot: Blue Aces (Blue and White)
Coach: Brian Byers (7th season, 26-32)
League: Wichita City League
Projected Starting Lineup
FB--Deonta Thomas, 6-0, 180, Sr.
WR--Willie Edwards, 6-1, 170, Sr.; Jonathan McCarty, 6-1, 170, So.; David Kaufman, 6-1, 200, Jr.
QB--George Bousfield, 6-1, 170, Sr.
TB--Andrue Hisken, 5-9, 175, Jr.
G--Griffin Nuss, 6-0, 265, Jr.; Jared Jones, 6-0, 265, Sr.
T--Tyler Thomas, 6-4, 285, So.; Lavontai Dukes, 6-0, 240, Sr.
C--Logan Bartlett, 6-3, 315, Sr.
PK--Tre Thomas, 5-6, 140, Jr.
CB--Joseph Patrick, 5-10, 160, Jr.; Willie Edwards, 6-1, 170, Sr.
S--Ernest Caldwell, 6-0, 180, Sr.; Frey Pankratz, 5-9, 170, Sr.
LB--Elijah Shelite, 6-1, 200, Sr.; Jesus Viera, 6-0, 180, Sr.; Audie Burrows, 5-10, 180, Sr.; Detuan Adams, 5-10, 170, Sr.
E--Carlos Brown, 6-0, 220, Sr.; Xavier Kelly, 6-5, 215, So.
NG--Lavontai Dukes, 6-0, 240, Sr.
P--Justis Wimes, 6-0, 195, Sr.
(2-3, 2-3 in Wichita City League)
Sept. 6--at Wichita North, W 33-7
Sept. 13--at Wichita West, L 20-16
Sept. 20--WICHITA NORTHWEST, L 16-8
Sept. 27--WICHITA SOUTH, W 23-6
Oct. 3--WICHITA KAPAUN-MT. CARMEL, L 28-14
Oct. 11--at Garden City
Oct. 17--at Wichita Heights#
Nov. 1--WICHITA SOUTHEAST#
#--Indicates Class 6A-6 district game.