Tough task for No. 19 Busters on the road against No. 2 Butler Grizzlies
By ADAM HOLT
From the outside, No. 19 Garden City's game Saturday with second-ranked Butler might look like a win-win for the Broncbusters.
Win, and it's a season-defining victory that puts GCCC back in the Jayhawk Conference title, and perhaps, bowl picture. Lose, and it's not a surprise, the way the Grizzlies have been steamrolling their competition all season.
But that's just the way it looks from the outside.
"It's a big game, but we ain't gonna take it as a big game," quarterback Nick Marshall said. "It's a big game because it's the next game."
And there are no feel-good losses, though GCCC head coach Jeff Tatum acknowledged a win would be a big boost for the program.
"I'm not looking at it that way," he said. "I guess the old cliche, there's no such thing as a moral victory. You either win or lose, and that's the way we're taking the attitude going into the game."
Like in most seasons, Butler's been on the winning side, as the Grizzlies (6-0, 4-0 KJCCC) have won their six games by an average of almost 54 points per contest. It will be a tall task for GCCC on both sides of the ball, in the 7 p.m. matchup at the new BG Products Veterans Sports Complex in El Dorado.
Running back Dreamius Smith, former Wichita Heights standout, has 701 yards on just 86 attempts for an 8.2 yards per carry average and 13 touchdowns to lead a Butler offense that's fifth in the nation in total offense (527 yards per game) and seventh in scoring (47 points per game). Quarterback Billy Cosh is efficient, completing 73 percent of his passes for 1,615 yards and 12 touchdowns, along with six interceptions.
"That's one thing that Coach (Troy) Morell and the Butler Grizzlies have always done a real good job of, is they've got a quarterback who does a great job managing the game," Tatum said. "He doesn't really win it for them, but he doesn't lose it for them either. Sometimes there's a lot to be said for that."
And while the Grizzlies are "only" No. 7 in scoring, they've scored 60 or more points in four games, tied for most such games in the nation. That includes a 72-12 drubbing of Dodge City and an 84-7 win over Independence. Chances are Butler will put up a lot of points, even on a Garden City (4-1, 2-1) defense that's been much improved in its last two games.
Coincidentally, the pressure might be on the Busters offense to produce against a defense that has allowed just six touchdowns and 228.5 yards per game.
GCCC averages 43.6 points and 512.2 yards per game, good for 10th and seventh in the nation, respectively. But this will by far be the toughest test of the season for Garden City.
"We're just going to go out there and do what we do best," Marshall said. "They do send a lot of blitzes, so we're just going to execute off what they do."
Butler leads the KJCCC with 18.5 sacks, and although Tommy Sanders has a team-best four, nine Grizzlies have at least half a sack this season.
Butler is going to blitz a lot, but that might play into Garden City's favor in two ways. One, Marshall is exceptional at both extending plays with his legs and running for yardage — Garden City has allowed just seven sacks, tied for fewest in the conference. Second, the Busters already regularly run a lot of screens and quick passing plays, which help negate an aggressive blitzing scheme.
"We're not really changing our game plan that much," Tatum said. "What they're doing is kinda simplifying our game plan. We're going to do more of a certain (thing) — the quick stuff. They're not going to let us stand back there and just stand in the pocket and throw the ball all day. They're going to come after us."
Garden City has a lot of speed at the skill positions, and running back Tyreek Hill has twice taken short passes, one on a screen and another in the flat, for long touchdowns this season.
The other thing the Busters might need to worry about is giveaways. Butler leads the conference with 20 takeaways, and Marshall has thrown nine interceptions this season. In GCCC's last game against a ranked opponent, Marshall was picked off four times in a 63-49 loss to Hutchinson.
Some of those turnovers have come because the Busters run a relatively free offense. And even in a high-stakes game like this — or maybe especially in a game like this — that creativity needs to be allowed to shine.
"You don't want to handcuff your football players," Tatum said. "You want them to go out there and feel free to be football players. We don't want them to be robots. We coach not to turn the ball over, but when you're high-spirited and ... when you run a wide-open offense, bad things are going to happen. Just like if you're conservative, you shouldn't turn the ball over.
"Those things are gonna happen; we coach them not to happen. Nobody feels any worse when Nick throws an interception than Nick. But he has the mentality and the staff has the mentality and the football team has the mentality that that's part of it. We're taking the good with the bad."
NOTES: Starting running back Jamal Tyler will miss the game with a hamstring injury. Tatum said the move is mainly precautionary.
Sophomore Marcus Irsik will start in his place. Irsik had 69 yards on 22 carries last season, although a knee injury limited him to five games. Tatum said he's confident in plugging Irsik in, and that he may have played more earlier in the season if the Busters hadn't played Hill to help in the return game.
Offensive lineman Darryl Williams will also return from injury, pushing Dontavious Blair to the bench because of limits on out-of-state players.
GCCC Probable Starting Lineup
WR--Raul Silva 6-1 185 SO
LT--Darryl Williams 6-3 295 SO
LG--Jason Carreon 6-1 255 FR
C--Dillon Salmans 6-0 280 SO
RG--Devinn Ritter 6-2 325 SO
RT--Tyler White 6-3 300 SO
TE--Adrian Garcia 6-4 220 SO
QB--Nick Marshall 6-2 205 SO
RB--Marcus Irsik r 5-9 195 SO
FB--Adam Weber 5-8 220 SO
WR--Rod Coleman 6-3 195 RS-FR
CB--Ernest Butts 5-10 180 SO
DE--Keith Curran 6-3 230 SO
DT--Dominique Jones 6-0 280 SO
DT--Frank Boenzi 6-2 325 SO
DE--Kitray Solomon 6-3 240 SO
LB--Alex Hemberger 5-11 190 SO
LB--Deolis Jackson 5-11 225 SO
SS--Ian Stone 6-2 185 SO
FS--Matt Esquibel 5-11 185 SO
DB--Coe Weis 5-10 180 SO
CB--Riyahd Jones 6-0 185 FR
K--Tyler Peterson 5-11 170 FR
K--Carlos Chavez 5-8 170 FR
P--Rilee Spresser 6-3 205 SO
Aug. 25 — at Independence, W 56-49
Sept. 1 — CISCO, TEXAS, W 24-19
Sept. 8 — HUTCHINSON, L 63-49
Sept. 22 — at Air Force Prep, W 47-21
Sept. 29 — FT. SCOTT, W 42-13
Oct. 6 — at Butler
Oct. 13 — at Highland
Oct. 20 — DODGE CITY
Oct. 27 — COFFEYVILLE
Aug. 25 — at Dodge City, W 72-12
Sep. 1 — Blinn (Texas), W 28-10
Sep. 8 — Fort Scott, W 60-14
Sep 15 — at Independence, W 84-7
Sep. 22 — at Highland, W 61-0
Sep. 29 — Air Force Prep, W 49-6
Oct. 6 — Garden City, 7 p.m.
Oct. 20 — Coffeyville, 7 p.m.
Oct. 27 — at Hutchinson, 7 p.m.