Ignore the number that was lit under “visitor” on the Garden City High School football scoreboard at the end of Friday night’s home opener at Buffalo Stadium.
Because despite the seven that showed on the board, the Buffs defense pitched its second consecutive shutout to begin the season, with visiting Castle View’s (Colo.) only points coming on a pick-6 as the Buffs held on for a 16-7 victory, starting the season 2-0.
“Just tremendous,” GCHS head coach Brian Hill said of his defense, which held the Sabercats (1-1) to just 94 total yards. “The way they run to the football, the preparation, the leverage they play with play after play is really tremendous.”
That defense allowed Castle View into the red zone just a single time, which resulted in a missed field goal, and forced three, three-and-outs, and had one takeaway. They also had four sacks and a couple of near interceptions.
“I’m proud of my guys in the front,” senior defensive lineman DeMarcus Elliott said. “We work hard, and the more pressure we put on the quarterback, the less stress that’s on the defensive backs.”
Elliott had a pair of sacks, as did end Jasper Partin.
“I thought DeMarcus Elliott played extremeny well. Jasper Partin, as well,” Hill said. “Those seniors really stepped up and played well, and what they’re doing is allowing the linebackers, who have a little experience and keep gaining that quarter by quarter, to continue to get better and make a really good, solid front for us.”
But the Buffs could never pull away, despite the offense rolling up 351 yards on 72 plays.
Between the 20s, the Buffs ran nearly at will over the Sabercat defense, gaining 230 yards on 54 carries. But in the red zone, the Buffs missed several chances to pull away.
Quarterback Garret Doll missed a wide open receiver in the end zone on the Buffs’ first drive, settling for a field goal, then they fumbled on back-to-back possessions, including once at the Castle View 15, and then turned it over on downs inside the 20.
It wasn’t until the final two minutes of the first half that the Buffs finally found pay dirt, with Doll’s 60-yard pass to Andrew Kruetzer up the seam sparking a six-play, 94-yard drive that was capped by Doll’s nine-yard scamper on a right speed option.
“We’ve got to work on running the football, the mistakes of fumbling the football,” Hill said of the Buffs’ offense in the red zone. “Not being able to move it there in the red zone, when things get condensed, we’ve got to do a better job of being able to get a little more precise with our actions.”
Still, it was quite the improvement from the season opener’s 24-0 win over Wichita East, when the offense managed just 150 yards and minus-10 yards rushing.
“I thought we made big strides offensively from where we were a week ago,” Hill said.
The Sabercats did get on the board in the second half, when Cole Oster picked off Doll’s short pass on the Buffs’ first series and returned it 36 yards to make it 9-6 early in the third quarter. But the Buffs’ offense immediately responded with a nine-play, 74-yard march, capped by Quinton LaPointe’s 1-yard rumble into the end zone to make it 16-7. LaPointe finished with 176 yards on 33 carries.
From there, the Buffs defense stiffened, allowing one drive of 49 yards, and then just 12 on three others.
“We stepped up for our offense,” Elliott said. “We know they’re going to get going in the season. We get them, they’ll get us.”
But on Friday night, the Buffs’ defense was king once again.
The Buffs host Wichita South on at 7 p.m. Friday for their next game.