WICHITA — In “The Wizard of Oz,” the idea is to follow the Yellow Brick Road.
For high school football teams in November that means winning on Friday nights when the postseason playoffs begin in earnest.
Through two Fridays, the Garden City Buffaloes had been able to survive, just barely albeit, but had reached the quarterfinals for the second time in five seasons.
Friday night, at Northwest Stadium, the Buffs just simply ran into a different kind of yellow brick — in the name of the Wichita Northwest Grizzlies.
The final knockout punch was a 49-6 pummeling of the Buffs, the second consecutive season of seeing their season end on the very short end of a lopsided score. Last year, it was Lawrence-Free State finishing off the Buffs, 42-7.
Nobody, at least nobody who had watched these same two teams battle in early October to a 36-23 Northwest win after trailing 23-6, could have seen this steamroll coming.
And it didn’t take long.
Three plays and 80 yards, with just 40 seconds elapsed, and it was 7-0 Grizzlies.
And that set the table for the kind of night it was for the Buffs, who finish what many might consider a surprising 8-3 season after graduating a big class from the 2016 team that went 9-1.
“I think we just ran out of gas,” said GCHS coach Brian Hill afterward. “We’ve had a tough schedule, a lot of traveling, and I think it caught up to us. We were a step behind, a step too slow all night.”
If there was any place to go back and see how this game might have been different, you only have to look at the midway point of the first quarter when the score was still just 7-0 Northwest.
The Buffs’ offense, which sputtered once again for most of the night, punted and then Northwest fumbled on its own 15, with the Buffs recovering.
With a third-and-1 on the 6-yard line, they were whistled for a procedure call, and then after making one first down, stalled out and Anthony Flores’ 22-yard field goal was wide right.
From there, the game turned into a track meet for the lightning-like, speed-em-up offense of the Grizzlies.
Northwest quarterback Austin Anderson was efficient as he threw for four touchdown passes, while the Grizzly running attack powered their way to 504 yards, 388 of them in that pivotal first half.
Anderson’s TD passes were of 13 yards to Breece Hall, 15 yards to Jalen Smith, 29 yards to Jaxson Reynolds, and another 7-yarder to Smith.
Hall, meanwhile, torched the Buffs for 222 yards in 17 carries, 204 of those in the opening half. Johnson, who finished with 142 yards, had 113 of those by halftime.
“It just seemed like they came out with more fire than we did at the first,” said senior defensive back David Arteaga, who at times during the season carried the Buffs on his back. “It’s disappointing to see it end, but I’m so proud of my teammates, and grateful to our coaches. We did a lot of things that many people thought we couldn’t do.”
The only time the Buffs managed to get into the end zone came thanks to senior running back Quinton LaPointe, who had 127 yards off 22 carries. His 42-yarder set up a 1-yard plunge by Arteaga midway through the third quarter, but perhaps the Buffs' night was exemplified in Flores’ missed PAT kick.
The Buffs, who had relied on its passing game for much of the early portion of the season, didn’t get much going through the air as Garret Doll finished his senior season with just 8-of-24 passes for 39 yards.
“Our best wasn’t good enough tonight, and I’ll qualify this by saying I’m not making excuses, but the physical games we’ve played in the last month, the extended traveling, finally caught up to us,” Hill said. “We were just not able to stay with the speed of their backs.”
Northwest, 9-1, will now face Derby, which won a thrilling 55-49 overtime game over Free State in Derby. That sub-state game will be played on Friday at Northwest’s stadium.