Buster defense lassoes Cisco Wranglers
By J.LEVI BURNFIN
For the second-straight game, the Garden City Community College football team's dynamic offense was out-shined by its brilliant defense on Saturday night in Cisco, Texas.
Down a pair of touchdowns in the middle of the fourth quarter, Cisco was driving on a Buster defense that had only given up two touchdowns on the season. The Wranglers got to the 5-yard line before the Busters stonewalled Cisco on four-straight plays, the last of which came 3 yards away from the end zone as freshman linebacker Dalton Gantz came up with the most important tackle of the Busters' short season, preserving the 35-21 lead and the eventual win.
"That was probably the biggest play of the game," said head coach Matt Miller. "It just speaks volumes about our defense. I can't speak enough about our defensive staff."
While Cisco scored 21 points, Miller said only 14 of those could be charged to the revamped Buster defense, as the Wranglers returned a Buster fumble for a touchdown. The Buster defense also scored seven points of its own, the second-straight game of scoring a defensive touchdown.
And again, it was Wonderful Terry — Terry not only returned a punt for a touchdown against Independence in the Busters' season opener last Saturday but picked off a Pirate pass and took it back for six — who fell on a fumbled Wranglers' snap in their own end zone to give the Busters a 21-7 lead in the first quarter.
After jumping out to that lead, though, the Busters stalled in the second quarter, on both offense and defense. Cisco was able to score 14 consecutive points to go into halftime tied.
"They had the momentum at halftime," said Miller. "We just got kind of stale offensively (in the second quarter.)"
Miller noted that freshman quarterback Akeem Jones made some freshman mistakes in that stretch, making bad reads and missing open receivers. But he responded in the second half, seemingly making giant strides through not only the Cisco defense but through his maturation as a college signal caller.
"I think this is a game where our young quarterback really matured," said Miller. "I think we'll look back at this game at the end of the season and see this was the game he broke out."
On the Busters' opening drive in the second half, Jones found sophomore receiver Nile Daniel on 3rd-and-10 for a 43-yard touchdown strike, giving the Busters a lead they would not relinquish. Then on the Busters' first drive in the fourth, Jones again proved he was up to a challenge. Facing a 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Jones took the ball in himself, capping a 10-play, 67-yard drive.
Gantz' stand at the other end of the field iced the non-conference win for the Busters as they moved to 2-0 on the season with an important road conference match up with No. 6 Hutchinson Community College next Saturday.
"We just made the plays we had to to win the game," said Miller. "Any time you come down to Texas, no matter who you're playing, you've got to expect a battle."
Garden City jumped out to a lead with its opening possession, driving 70 yards on eight plays for a score as Jones and freshman Brandon Snell connected for a 5-yard touchdown play. It was already the third scoring connection in two games between Snell and Jones, who were high school teammates.
The Wranglers responded quickly on their ensuing possession, going 75 yards in less than two minutes for a touchdown. Garden City looked primed to score again, driving into Wranglers territory. However, Jones and sophomore running back Tyreek Hill failed to hook up on an option pitch and Wranglers safety Robert Gardner picked up the fumble and took it back for a defensive touchdown, giving Cisco a 14-7 lead in the first.
Jones and the Busters tied it quickly as the dual-threat quarterback scored from 1-yard out. Then the Busters' took the lead on Terry's fumble recovery.
The Busters seemed to have stretched their first-quarter lead to three touchdowns when Hill returned a punt 86 yards for a score only to have it called back on a questionable penalty call. A personal foul, targeting call was made on a Buster blocker but the offending player was not ejected from the game as stipulated by the targeting rule if its called during a game.
"The explanation I got," Miller said after the game, "was Tyreek Hill was past our blocker and their guy was coming at our blocker and our blocker blocked him and that was targeting."
The targeting rule was adopted into the NJCAA this season in an attempt to increase player safety.
Hill's return was nullified and the Busters' ensuing drive stalled, igniting the first-half Cisco comeback.
The game was Cisco's season opener as the Wranglers dropped to 0-1. This will be the final meeting between Cisco and Garden City in the regular season, at least for the short term, as the KJCAA and the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference agreed to play inter-conference games beginning next season.
The Busters continue their conference slate this weekat 7 p.m. Saturday in Hutchinson. Hutchinson is 1-1 after blowing out preseason No. 12 Coffeyville 44-14 on Aug. 24 and then landing on the wrong side of a rout on Saturday in Navarro, Texas, to No. 3 Navarro College, falling 41-16.
"It's a big conference game," said Miller about the match up with Hutch, "but we're going to prepare like it's any other game. I think any time Hutch and Garden City play, both teams are always going to come out and give their best. It's always going to be a battle."
For more details on this story, read Tuesday's Garden City Telegram, or go to www.gctelegram.com after 6 a.m. Tuesday.