For much of the six seasons since Garden City High School moved into its new campus from downtown, there has been one ringing truth for home football games at Buffalo Stadium.
It has been a rockin', rollin', loud stadium, with the Marching Stampede band playing an important role in that home field advantage atmosphere — add in the student body, some dressed in crazy attire to celebrate a certain theme.
Nobody knows that it has become a huge home field advantage better than head coach Brian Hill. And the players. After each game, the Buffs team heads up into the north bleachers of the west side to mingle with their school mates, and the crazies that have come to root them on.
So, it was with some mild surprise on Oct. 27, in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs against Topeka-Washburn Rural, that a good portion of the student section was devoid of students. Oh, the Marching Stampede was there in full uniform, playing and then performing at halftime. But the band departed after the intermission in order to get a little sleep before departing at 3:30 a.m. for a state contest the next day in Topeka. Perfectly understandable.
Too, it might have had an impact on the student attendance that the Buffs' cross country teams and their supporters had headed to Lawrence for the following day's state meet. Of course, it didn't help attendance that the girls volleyball team also was on the road, playing in Topeka at the Class 6A state tournament earlier in the afternoon. So there were some direct factors in fewer students.
Still, a rough head count estimated the student attendance at roughly 30 to 50. From a student body of just more than 2,000, it seems as though something was amiss.
Could it have been the $4 admission fee that was charged by the sponsoring Kansas State High School Activities Association? Possibly. Could it have been the $6 entry fee for adults, i.e., parents who drive their children to the game? That's a likely possibility, too. Let's not forget that at kickoff it was a frigid 28 degrees, with the wind blowing somewhere between 15-20mph with gusts beyond 25mph.
So to be fair, there were mitigating factors in a smaller-than-usual turnout to support the Buffs.
But when you have a Garden City High School student section that was voted by Catch it Kansas as the “Best Student Section in Kansas,” then give me an explanation that is beyond the points I made above. It baffles me.
Also, despite it being a bone-chilling night of cold temps and windy conditions, there were estimated to be fewer than 500 folks in the stands from the community. At one point, I thought there were nearly as many Washburn Rural folks in the east stands as there were Garden City fans in the west bleachers. What gives?
This edition of the Buffs has not received its due recognition by any standards.
With nearly an entire new starting lineup (18 new starters), all the Buffs have done is compile an 8-2 record, win the Western Athletic Conference, and claim victories in two playoff games thus far against teams from Topeka. One of those was a highlight comeback win Friday night over a heavily-favored Topeka High team.
The 2017 edition of the Buffs has likely realized the lack of respect they’ve received from around the state, and in some cases maybe closer to home, and have the word "Chip" imprinted on the shoulder of an undergarment top, and it is located under their shoulder pads. How’s that for developing an attitude based upon lack of respect? I don’t blame them.
Now the Buffs are in the state quarterfinals for the first time since the 2013 team reached the semifinals and travel to Wichita to face the Grizzlies of Northwest in a rematch of the Oct. 6 game in Wichita where Northwest rallied from 23-6 down at halftime for a 36-23 win.
These two teams are no strangers to playoff games, either, with the Buffs claiming a couple of thrilling wins over the Grizzlies in the past few seasons while also absorbing some losses to the same program.
One more victory for the Buffs and it will be a return to the semifinals on Nov. 17, on the road to either Derby or Lawrence-Free State.
So if you’re a true blue or in this case, true brown supporter, hop in your car and head to Wichita for the 7 p.m. kickoff at Northwest Stadium. Spend the night, and enjoy a weekend in the Air Capital. This group of Buffs deserves your support, and your respect.
Contact Brett Marshall at firstname.lastname@example.org