After averaging 9.2 yards per carry in their season opening win, the Garden City Community College Broncbusters managed just 3 yards per carry on 65 rushes on Saturday at Ellsworth.
That put some onus on the passing game to try to create a spark, and both quarterbacks Nick Bohn and David Moore had little success, each throwing a pick. Fortunately for the 7th-ranked Busters, the defense — and special teams — stood tall and led Garden City to a 16-8 win over the host Panthers.
“It was good to see,” GCCC head coach Jeff Sims said of the defensive effort. “They’ve been working very hard, and the coaches working very hard, so it’s good to see it. We’ve got a lot of talent on that side of the ball, and a lot of potential.”
The Busters (2-0) did put up 198 yards on the ground — and a pair of touchdowns by Dedrick Mills — but their longest run was just 15 yards. Despite facing a packed-in defense attempting to stop the run, Bohn and Moore combined to go 7 of 13 for 70 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions — Moore’s came in the end zone at the end of the first half when the Busters were looking to go up three touchdowns.
“I think both of them are very talented, and they have bright futures, but I don’t know how well they know how to play quarterback, yet,” Sims said of his signal callers. “We need to do a good job of teaching them what it means to be a quarterback vs. just an athlete or a thrower.”
But the Busters’ defense kept the Panthers (0-3) from taking advantage of the Busters’ inefficiency on offense. Led by Dillon Williams’ 16 tackles, the Busters allowed just 39 rushing yards on 29 attempts (1.3 avg), and just 129 passing yards on 15 of 32.
“Dillon’s just very smart, hard-working,” Sims said. “Honestly, he played well statistically, but there’s even more room to improve. I don’t think we’ve seen the best out of Dillon Williams, yet.”
The Busters’ opening possession ended when Dedrick Mills was stuffed on a 4th-and-1 at midfield. Both teams exchanged punts until the end of the first quarter, when Charles West partially blocked a punt and set the offense up at the Ellsworth 16.
A penalty and two plays later, Mills opened scoring with a 5-yard burst. A two-point conversion failed, and the Busters led, 6-0.
Another special teams mishap for Ellsworth on the Panthers’ next offensive series ended in a safety for the Busters and an 8-0 lead early in the second period.
Garden City added onto its lead with one of its only true extended drives all game, marching 67 yards in 11 plays and scoring on Mills’ 3-yard run. A Kahari Foy-Walton two-point run made it 16-0.
The Busters nearly made it three scores after forcing another Ellsworth punt and marching back into the Panther red zone in the final minute of the half.
They even got down to the 3-yard line, but a false start moved them back to the 8, and then Moore’s pass to the corner was picked off, ending the threat.
“We just weren’t very strong in the red zone today,” Sims said. “We threw an interception — we could have just made smarter decisions. But in a lot of ways, it was their (quarterbacks) first game, in that last week they were handing the ball off a lot.”
The offense struggled even more in the second half, converting one-of-eight third downs in the second half and going one of six on fourth downs for the game.
“It was a factor of we couldn’t pass the ball,” Sims said, “so there were more people in the box than we could block.”
Ellsworth cut into the deficit midway through the third quarter when Tariq Young hit Jordan Foster on a 25-yard pass for the touchdown, capping a five-play, 70-yard drive. The Panthers made it a one-score game (16-8) on a Young pass to Donald Brown for the two-point conversion.
The Busters mounted a potential answering drive, but Bohn was picked off at the Panthers’ 22.
From then on, however, the Busters’ defense never allowed Ellsworth — which had 168 total offensive yards — back onto their side of the 50, until the final drive in the game, when a Mark Wright Hail Mary was incomplete and the Busters held onto the win.