The Hatchet resides in Dodge City once again, and any time Garden City High School loses the Hatchet Game, it’s a rough year for the Buffaloes.

But the Buffs have a chance to smooth over that hurt on Friday in the regular season finale at Great Bend. A win, and the Buffs (2-5, 2-1 in the WAC) secure a share of the WAC title, as the Panthers enter the game 5-2 and 3-0 in the WAC.

“To be this late in the season, and as rough as the season has been, to still have something to play for, a share of the WAC title, I appreciate that the most for our seniors,” GCHS head coach Brian Hill said Wednesday. “Hopefully, we can go out and play well for them Friday night.”

The Buffs will have their starting quarterback back — Carlos Acosta missed the game vs. Dodge City with an injury, but is expected back Friday.

In his absence, receiver Tye Davis had to take over at quarterback in the Hatchet Game, and the offense struggled, gaining just 194 yards.

“It’s always tough to play left-handed,” Hill said, meaning without Acosta, and without Davis as a big play threat at receiver. “That’s the situation we were in last week. We really needed to be able to relieve the stress off Tye by running the ball, and we just couldn’t do it for him.”

But with Acosta back, the Buffs should be near full strength on offense — running back Avey Arana’s return is still questionable after missing the Dodge City game, as well. But the challenge will be slowing down Great Bend’s offense.

“They’re really explosive on offense,” Hill said. “Their quarterback (Koy Brack) is a seasoned veteran. You can see how he’s grown up in a year.”

Brack has completed 55.2 percent of his passes (90 of 163) for 1,480 yards and 16 touchdowns. That’s helped the Panthers score 31 points per game and rack up 373 yards per game.

“The explosive plays on offense has really set them apart from where they’ve been in the past,” Hill said.

While the Buffs have faced explosive offenses already this season (Derby, Northwest), those attacks were primarily run-based. Great Bend’s attack is squarely on the arm of Brack.

“We’ve got to be able to slow them down, put them in some long-yardage situations, and make them do some things they’re not comfortable with, as well,” Hill said.

To do that, they’ll have to slow down Brack’s top receiver, Alex Schremmer, who has 38 catches, 843 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.

Great Bend’s defense is allowing 19.9 points per game, led by Blake Penka’s 68 tackles and seven tackles for loss.