Busters try to spoil Conqs' magical season
By J. LEVI BURNFIN
Garden City has dominated the rivalry against Dodge City, winning 34 of the last 35 meetings, but at 7 p.m. on Saturday in Dodge City, it's the visiting Broncbusters that are the underdog.
Led by new coach Gary Thomas, the No. 11-ranked Conqs have rebounded from a winless 2012 season to now be 6-1 and alone atop the Jayhawk Conference standings at 5-1. On the opposite side of Memorial Stadium will be the Busters, who are coming off two straight KJCCC losses and are now relegated to the role of spoilers, trying to deny the rival Conqs their first regular season conference title in program history.
"Their motivation is taking a conference title away from their rival," Thomas said about the Busters' ability to play well at Dodge City after being effectively eliminated from the playoffs after a 20-17 loss to Highland that came down to the last minute of play.
The difference in Dodge City's and Garden City's seasons comes down to the difference in close games. Dodge City has been proficient at winning games late, coming out on top of all five games that were decided by 10 points or less this season. Meanwhile, all three Buster losses were by 10 points or less, leaving Garden City on the outside looking in.
"It's a lot of things," Thomas said about the Conqs' apparent ability to pull out the close games. "It's nothing that we practice by any stretch of the imagination. We've just had close games where we did make plays at the end to win."
The Conqs beat Kilgore (Texas) 27-16, Highland 41-35, Hutchinson 40-34, Fort Scott 37-36 and Coffeyville 32-27 last week.
Thomas noted the Conqs' style of play that may lead to so many close games. Dodge has leaned heavily on the run so far this season, averaging nearly 200 yards per game, as 6-foot, 205-pound sophomore running back Tyreis Thomas had led the way with 141 rushes for 914 yards.
But it's also that style of play that gives the Conqs an advantage at the end of games. Thomas, along with 6-2, 220-pound freshman runner Keymonne Gabrial, who's added 263 yards on 59 carries, wear down opposing defenses throughout the game.
Taking out the Conqs' first game of the season against Butler — in which the Grizzlies took control in the second half — the Conqs have outscored opponents 67-21 in the fourth quarter or overtime this season, including overcoming a 9-point fourth quarter deficit at home against Coffeyville last week.
"We're in a situation where we've found ways to win," Thomas said.
In contrast, the Busters have seemingly found ways to lose the last two weeks at home, falling to Butler 20-10 — despite seven takeaways — and then to Highland by a field goal.
But Thomas still sees the good aspects of the talented Buster team.
"Just because they've lost the last two doesn't mean they're not capable of beating anybody on any given day," he said. "You watch them on film and they've got a bunch of team speed."
That speed has translated on the defensive side of the ball for the Busters, as they are ranked 10th in the nation in opposing yards per game, allowing only 246.7. The 4-3 based Conq defense on the other hand, led by freshman linebacker Josh Williams — who is leading the team in tackles with 60 — is giving up 332.9 yards and 29.4 points per game.
The struggling Buster offense will have to take advantage of the match-up if they want to pull the upset. After starting the year scoring over 30 points in four of five games, the Busters have only been able to manage 10 and 17 in the last two, leading to the switch from original starter Akeem Jones to Jake Curran. Despite the loss, Curran acquitted himself nicely, going 22-for-39 for 210 yards, and also rushing for a team-high 63 yards. Still, the Busters were only able to put up 10 offensive points against Highland — the other 7 came on a pick-6 by Wonderful Terry.
For the Conqs, freshman signal caller Deondre Ford has manned the helm, providing enough of a passing threat to keep defenses honest, Thomas said.
He's completing 57 percent of his passes for 1,340 yards and eight touchdowns.
On Saturday, he'll face perhaps the best back eight in the country against the Busters' 3-4 scheme. With Tim Hill returning from a one-game suspension, the Busters' talented ball-hawking secondary should be whole again. The Busters have picked off 12 passes this season, tied for 13th in the country.
Buster head coach Matt Miller was unavailable for comment.
Know the foe
Who: Garden City C.C. at Dodge City C.C.
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: Memorial Stadium
Last Meeting: 2012, Garden City 61, Dodge City 20
Series Record: Garden City 50-24
First Meeting: 1946, Dodge City 32-6
Garden City (4-3, 2-3)
League: Jayhawk Conference
Mascot: Broncbusters (Brown and White)
Coach: Matt Miller, (1st year)
Probable Starting Lineup:
T--Dontavious Blair, 6-7, 275, So.; Ryan Johnson, 6-5, 330, So.
G--Mitch Moore, 6-2, 275, Fr.; Colby Hamel, 6-3, 305, So.
C--Jason Carreon, 6-2, 295, So.
TE--Alan Kramer, 6-2, 215, So.
WR--Nile Daniel, 6-2, 200, So.; Brandon Snell, 6-1, 205, Fr.
HB--Tyreek Hill, 5-9, 190, So.; Mike Gerst, 5-11, 205, So.
QB--Jake Curran, 6-3, 200, So.
PK--Tyler Peterson, 5-11, 180, So.
E--Richard Obi, 6-3, 255, So.; Ralphael Bernard, 6-1, 290, So.
N--Dondre Elvoid, 6-4, 315, Fr.
MLB--Errol Clarke, 6-3, 240, Fr.; D'vonta Derricott, 6-2, 235, So.
OLB--Dalton Gantz, 6-0, 210, Fr.; Darius Jones, 6-2, 230, So.
CB--Wonderful Terry, 5-10, 180, So.; Tim Hill, 5-11, 185, Fr.
S--Sam Green, 6-2, 210, Fr.; Makail Grace, 6-3, 205, Fr.
P--Tyler Peterson, 5-11, 180, So.
KR--Tyreek Hill, 5-9, 190, So.; Nile Daniel, 6-2, 200, So.
PR--Nile Daniel, 6-2, 200, So.
Aug. 24--INDEPENDENCE, W 67-0*
Aug. 31--at Cisco, Texas, W 35-21
Sept. 7--at Hutchinson, L 34-24*
Sept. 21--AIR FORCE PREP, W 35-34
Sept. 28--at Fort Scott, W 33-14*
Oct. 5--BUTLER, L 20-10*
Oct. 12--HIGHLAND, L20-17*
Oct. 19--at Dodge City*
Oct. 26--at Coffeyville*
*--Denotes Jayhawk Conference game
Dodge City (6-1, 5-1)
League: Jayhawk Conference
Mascot: Conquistadors (Purple and Gold)
Coach: Gary Thomas (1st year)
Probable Starting Lineup:
T--Quamaine Jones, 6-3, 280, Fr.; Marcos Gutierres, 6-3, 270, So.
G--CJ Walker, 5-11, 285, Fr.; AJ Grady, 6-3, 290, Fr.
C--Manny Castillo, 5-11, 265, So.
WR--Michael Thomas, 6-2, 190, So.; William French, 5-9, 170, Fr.; Charlie Wilson, 6-3, 215, Fr.; Kyle Foster, 6-4, 215, So.
RB--Tyreis Thomas, 6-0, 205, So.
QB--Deondre Ford, 6-2, 190, Fr.
PK--Shane Brittain, 6-0, 180, Fr.
E--Jacob Brashers, 6-2, 235, So.; Chris Herise, 6-4, 225, Fr.
DT--Vinton Harris, 6-0, 295, So.; Terrell Clinkscales, 6-4, 310, So.
OLB--Ted Taylor, 6-0, 200, Fr.; Logan Orso, 6-1, 210, So.
MLB--Josh Williams, 6-0, 225, Fr.
CB--Danzel McDaniel, 6-0, 205, So.; Darvell Harris, 6-2, 185, So.
S--Tyrone Wright, 6-0, 205, So.; Ross Coomes, 5-11, 200, So.
P--Steve Knoche, 6-1, 180, Fr.
Aug. 24--Butler, L 41-6*
Aug. 31--KILGORE (TEXAS) COLLEGE, W 27-16
Sept. 7--Highland, W 41-35*
Sept. 14--HUTCHINSON, W 40-34
Sept. 21--FORT SCOTT, W 37-36
Sept. 28--Independence, W 42-17
Oct. 12--COFFEYVILLE, W 32-27
Oct. 19--GARDEN CITY*
OCt. 25--Air Force Prep