A year ago, Garden City was matched up with Topeka Washburn-Rural in the first round of the Class 6A state tournament. The sixth-seeded and favored Buffaloes escaped that game with a 7-0 win over the visiting 11th-seed Jr. Blues.
The Buffs and Blues will meet again in the first round of the state tournament, but this time, the roles are flipped — the Blues (6-2) are the fifth seed, and the Buffs (2-6) the 12th, meaning the Buffs have to travel to Topeka for Friday’s 7 p.m. kickoff, and they are the underdog.
But that’s not the only difference GCHS head coach Brian Hill expects.
“We won last year’s game, 7-0. This year’s game is not going to end 7-0,” he said. “We’re going to have to score points offensively, and we have not done that at all the last two weeks … We’ve got to give our defense some confidence that we’re there to score points.”
The Buffs have scored 7 and 6 points, respectively, the last two weeks — though, the Buffs were without starting quarterback Carlos Acosta vs. Dodge City.
Still, the injury-riddled Buffs will have to find a way out of the recent doldrums if they want any chance to down Rural.
“We’ve had three big issues that have cost us in every game we’ve lost — turnovers and penalties on offense, and then just being undisciplined on times defensively, not doing what we’ve asked our kids to do,” Hill said, “running out of gaps, covering the wrong guys, not being where they’re supposed to be.”
Some of that is due to the Buffs rotating in younger players to help alleviate some of the pressure on the upperclassmen who have been playing on both sides of the ball.
And they’ll continue to do that Friday, as injuries have mounted up.
Running back and linebacker Reece Morss suffered a leg injury last week vs. Great Bend.
“He’s hobbling around but will play,” Hill said.
But the injury bug has seemed to hit the entire team.
“We’re pretty beat up. Everyone is, really, this time of year, but I think our kids are little bit more just because of how many reps they have to play on both sides of the ball,” Hill said.
The Blues have not been exempt from the injury bug, as they played without junior running back Jaylen Carter in their regular season finale, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.
He had been rushing for 83.3 yards per game previously, so the offense may rest on the shoulders of quarterback Jordan White even more more than usual.
White is passing for 120.5 yards per game, and rushing for another 94.1 on top of that to help the Blues score 32.3 points per game.
The good news for the Buffs is that history is on their side — Garden City is 2-0 all-time vs. Washburn Rural.