By BRETT MARSHALL
MAIZE — For the previous three weeks, all victories, Garden City Buffaloes football coach Brian Hill could point to the chip on his team's shoulder and their physical play for their mid-season run.
But just as they had done when they lost their previous game in week three against Great Bend at home, the Buffs somehow left their physical mantra at home.
The result was a devastating 40-24 loss to the Maize Eagles in the opening game of Class 6A District 8 play.
It wasn't anything like what Hill had expected, and it left the Buffs' mentor resigned to the fact that now his team will have to dig itself out of a deep hole if it wants to make the postseason playoffs.
"Just too many mistakes and not physical," a solemn Hill said in the postgame interview. "We didn't execute, we missed assignments, we missed tackles. We got beat in every phase of the game, pure and simple."
Hill wasn't about to blame the frigid mid-fall temperature, which hovered in the upper 30s after the team had left home earlier in the day with at least two inches of snow on the ground.
By their arrival late afternoon in Maize, it was just damp, cold and cloudy.
"Really can't put my finger on anything for the way we played," Hill said. "It's frustrating because now we don't completely control our own destiny."
The Buffs fell behind early and could never catch the Eagles, who had come in with a high-powered offense, which proved to be as explosive as advertised. But what wasn't expected was the Eagles' tenacious defense which found a way to bottle up Garden City's own explosive quarterback, Greyson Tempel.
Tempel, while loading up the passing stats (20-of-42, 302 yards, 2 interceptions), he could muster only 23 rushing yards on 16 attempts.
"Everybody's got their eye on him," Hill said of the senior QB. "He didn't let the game come to him early, and that's something that we've talked a lot about. He tried to do too much, and when he finally got others involved (in the second half), we were just too far behind and couldn't catch up."
The Buffs fell behind 12-0 after one quarter when the Eagles junior quarterback Connor Lungwitz (18-of-27, 270 yards, 0 interceptions, 5 TDs) got on track early.
Lungwitz, a 6-foot-3, 199-pounder, was razor sharp against the Buffs' defense. He picked them apart with a mixture of short, middle and long passes.
With just 34 seconds gone in the second quarter, the Eagles owned a 19-0 lead thanks to three TD strikes from Lungwitz.
The first was a 12-yarder to Kendall Stewart and the second was a 59-yard bomb to Kaven Jobe, both coming in the final five minutes of the opening quarter.
He then hit running back Chase White on a swing pass and White broke four tackles en route to the end zone.
The Buffs did manage to get on the board, getting a 38-yard field goal from Ismael Hernandez, midway through the second quarter.
But the Eagles wasted no time in answering, taking the ensuing kickoff on a fake reverse, which Stewart took 75 yards to the end zone. Suddenly the Buffs were down 26-3 at the 8:29 mark.
Garden did slice into the deficit with a 34-yard TD from Greyson Tempel to brother Dusty Tempel, with 5:54 left before intermission, making it 26-10.
What would eventually prove to be the final, and only, threat of a comeback, came when the Buffs got a 7-yard run for a touchdown from Greyson Tempel with 4:39 left in the third, and when the 2-point conversion failed, they were only down 10, 26-16.
However, once again, the defense failed in its effort to stop Maize. Less than two minutes later, Lungwitz again threw an arrow into the heart of the Buffs, connecting with Stewart on a 37-yard bootleg run and pass.
The Eagles extended the lead to 40-16 when Colton Helm hauled in a 27-yard pass from Lungwitz, his fifth and final TD, with 8:30 to play in the game. The Buffs got one more consolation score with 1:34 remaining, when Jared Koster, who had his best rushing game of the season (12 carries, 123 yards), scored from 6 yards out. That put the period on the scoring.
The loss leaves the Buffs at 4-3 overall and 0-1 in the district with two home games left. Next up is powerhouse Hutchinson, which after struggling early in the season with a multitude of injuries, appeared to be getting healthy after whipping Dodge City 35-0 on Friday night.
"The things we were able to do in the second half were there early in the game," Hill said of the team's offensive struggles in the first half. "We didn't pick up their blitzing — our backs didn't block. We had players trying to do too much and trying to do things that they aren't coached to do, and I think that comes with frustration."
Dustin Tempel caught eight passes for 106 yards to top the Buffs, while Tramp had five catches for 130 yards. Maize's Stewart led their receiving corps with five catches for 104 yards. White managed 95 yards on 25 carries, his lowest output of the season.
For Hill, it's back to the drawing board and hoping that his team will respond for Hutchinson much as it did earlier this year after losses to Bixby, Okla. and Great Bend.
"The kids are resourceful and we'll come back on Monday and work hard and get ready for Hutch," Hill said. "They've responded in the past and I expect nothing less this time, too."
Maize improves to 6-1 overall and 1-0 in the district and will be on the road at Dodge City next Friday.
Garden City 0 10 6 8 -- 24
Maize High 12 14 7 7 -- 40
M--Kendall Stewart 12 pass from Connor Lungwitz (kick blocked), 4:50.
M--Kaven Jobe 59 pass from Lungwitz (run failed), 3:25.
M--Chase White 19 pass from Lungwitz (Alan Sanchez kick), 11:26.
GC--Ismael Hernandez 38 field goal, 8:42.
M--Stewart 75 kickoff return (Sanchez kick), 8:29.
GC--Dustin Tempel 34 pass from Greyson Tempel (Hernandez kick), 5:54.
GC--G. Tempel 7 run (pass failed), 4:39.
M--Stewart 37 pass from Lungwitz (Sanchez kick), 2:14.
M--Colton Helm 27 pass from Lungwitz (Sanchez kick), 8:30.
GC--Jared Koster 6 run (Caleb Tramp pass from G. Tempel), 1:34.
Team StatisticsGC M
First downs 20 17
Rushes-yards 33-144 33-97
Passing yards 302 270
Passes (Com-Att-Int) 20-42-2 19-29-0
Penalties-yards 7-80 8-71
Punts-avg. 6-31.3 8-31.0
RUSHING--GARDEN CITY: M. Hernandez 1-8, G. Tempel 16-23, Koster 12-123, Howard 3-13, Norquest 2-(-5). MAIZE: Stewart 5-1, Lungwitz 3-1, White 25-95.
PASSING--GARDEN CITY: G. Tempel 22-42-2--302. MAIZE: Lungwitz 18-27-0--270, Stewart 1-2-0--12.
RECEIVING--GARDEN CITY: D. Tempel 8-106, M. Hernandez 4-51, Tramp 5-130, Norquest 2-16, Koster 1-(-1). MAIZE: Stewart 5-104, Jobe 2-56, Helm 3-34, White 6-53, Davis 3-35.