TOPEKA — Senior David Arteaga is not sure anyone outside the Garden City football family gave the Buffaloes a chance to win Friday night’s Class 6A regional playoff road game against Topeka High.
But the faith that Arteaga and his teammates had in themselves proved to be enough to produce a dramatic 24-21 win over the Trojans and advance the 8-2 Buffs into next Friday's state quarterfinals against Wichita Northwest.
“Nobody believed in us, I’m talking nobody,” Arteaga said. “We came out with that chip on our shoulder and we came out fighting. We believed in ourselves, the coaches believed in us, our families believed in us and we came out and got that win.”
Garden City led 9-0 at the end of the first quarter and 16-7 at the half, but a pair of touchdown runs from Topeka High’s Jacqez Barksdale in the third quarter gave the Trojans a 21-16 lead entering the fourth quarter.
But Garden City answered with an 11-play, 65-yard drive that senior Quinton LaPointe capped with a 3-yard touchdown run and the Buffaloes added a 2-point conversion pass from senior Garret Doll to junior Tye Davis to take a 24-21 lead with 6:40 left.
Topeka High reached the Garden City 24-yard line on its next possession before Barksdale lost the ball while diving for a first down.
The Trojans got another shot after Topeka High recovered a LaPointe fumble at the Garden City 27 but sophomore Carlos Ocosta picked off a High pass at the Buffs 7. Garden City was forced to punt from its 11, but two plays later Arteaga ended the drama with his game-clinching interception.
“About a month ago we were in this situation against (Wichita) Northwest and that was the whole discussion at halftime, that we needed to finish,’’ Garden City coach Brian Hill said. “Those seniors were going to make sure that they did that.’’
LaPointe, who had missed the Buffaloes’ 7-0 win over Washburn Rural with a concussion, had a big night for Garden City, rushing for 107 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries.
“I told the team physician that I was going to play no matter what because that was the first game I ever missed in my whole career going back to my freshman year,’’ LaPointe said. “I was pretty upset and I just wanted to play this week and help the team out.’’
Garden City got on the board first with 2:50 left in the first quarter on a safety, with Topeka High punter Logan Gage stepping on the end line of the end zone after handling a high snap from center.
The Buffaloes then took advantage of the free kick, with Arteaga returning the ball to the Trojan 35. Garden City, aided by a Topeka High offsides penalty, scored four plays later, with Doll connecting with senior Andrew Kreutzer for a 5-yard touchdown. Senior Anthony Flores added the extra point to put the Buffs up 9-0 with 1:16 left in the opening quarter.
Topeka High (8-2) answered with a five-play, 74-yard scoring drive, with sophomore quarterback Da’Vonshai Harden scoring on a 35-yard run with 11:21 left in the first half. Tanner Scritchfield kicked the extra point to cut the Trojans’ deficit to 9-7.
Garden City built its lead to 16-7 on its next possession, however, taking advantage of a 42-yard kickoff return from senior Derrick Sexton to put the Buffs in business.
Garden City also took advantage of a pass interference penalty on Topeka High before scoring on an 11-yard run from LaPointe with 9:35 left in the half. Flores added the extra point.
Topeka High drove to the Buffs’ 31 later in the second quarter but the Trojans turned the ball over on downs, hurting themselves with holding and offsides penalties.
Another big play occurred on High's first possession of the third period when Scritchfield booted a 23-yard field goal only to have it negated on a penalty, moving the ball back 10 yards. On the next field goal try, the ball was snapped over the holder's head, with Garden taking possession just short of midfield.
High got 14 and 13-yard TDs from Barksdale in the third quarter, the second score putting High ahead with 1.7 seconds left in the quarter.
Barksdale, a junior, finished with 172 rushing yards on 25 carries while sophomore Ky Thomas had 99 yards on 19 carries as Topeka High finished with 331 rushing yards. Topeka High managed just 2 passing yards, however, with two interceptions.
LaPointe, who had missed Garden City’s 7-0 win over Washburn Rural with a concussion, had 107 rushing yards on 30 carries.
“We just came up a little bit short, but I love the kids,” Topeka High coach Walt Alexander said. “Both teams played exceptionally hard. It was 24-21 against a good football team and we had our opportunities. We just couldn’t take advantage of it.”
Flores came up huge as Garden City’s punter, averaging 44.3 yards on six punts and pinning Topeka High deep on multiple occasions in the first half.