By RON HOLT
BIXBY, Okla. — It's tough to put a price tag on a year's worth of experience.
But, Garden City's experience paid impressive dividends here Friday night behind an arsenal of playmakers as the Buffaloes repeatedly fought back to remain in contention until the final minute.
In the final analysis, however, it was several costly turnovers and crucial miscues that prevented the Buffaloes from capitalizing on their improved efforts as Bixby held off Garden City, 32-27, in the season opener for both teams.
Greyson Tempel, the Buffaloes' talented senior quarterback, took over in the second half, scoring on touchdown bursts of 71 and 52 yards as the Buffaloes narrowed a 22-14 halftime deficit to 29-27 with 16.7 seconds left in the third quarter.
With 5:22 left in the third quarter, after Tempel's 71-yard TD run narrowed the gap to 22-21, Bixby went on a lengthy scoring drive, sparked by Justin Williams' 39-yard kickoff return.
"We played well. We just had too many plays where we couldn't get off the field, and ultimately those things were our downfall tonight," said Garden City coach Brian Hill. "We came back and handled the adversity when we got down. I'm proud of them for that.
Tempel had his share of mistakes with a couple of pass interceptions and a couple of lost fumbles, but his long distance jaunts had the Spartans on their heels.
"Once we clean everything up, we can be a good offense with the playmakers we have in Dusty (Tempel) and Caleb (Tramp) and our line is blocking well," Greyson Tempel said afterward. "I've got to be more composed when they are blitzing. I made too many mistakes. The fumble cost us ... I've just got to be better.
Bixby's defense had few answers for Tempel's tackle-breaking running efforts and the pass receiving talents of Tramp.
But the Spartans gained breathing room with 4:27 left in the game, when Taylor Ruth kicked a 32-yard field goal to put the Spartans up 32-27.
A key in the drive came on a 36-yard pass play from Spartan quarterback Marshall Ray to Kyle Rhine on a third-and-21 predicament from the BHS 43. The drive ended on a 2-yard plunge by fullback Nic Roller to give the hosts a 29-21 lead with 1:03 left in the third quarter.
In the opening half, Bixby took the early lead on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Ray to Rhine for a 6-0 lead. The Spartans ran a trick play on the point-after as the snap was pitched to Roller, who ran for a two-point conversion and 8-0 lead.
Garden City responded on its next drive as Tempel scooted around left end on a 10-yard touchdown run. Ismael Hernandez added the point-after kick as the Buffaloes trailed 8-7.
The Buffaloes were victimized by the first of three first-half turnovers minutes later as the visitors fumbled the ball away and Bixby recovered at the Garden City 2-yard line.
Roller bulled in on the next play as Bixby built up a 15-7 lead after one quarter.
"We just made a lot of mistakes, a lot of little mistakes, and then we turned the ball over too much. We had a turnover on the 2-yard line, and when you put your defense in situations like that, those seven points come back to haunt us," Hill said.
Garden City responded in impressive fashion to score in only five plays as Tempel ran the ball in from five yards out. Hernandez' kick cut the deficit to 15-14.
Highlighting the 58-yard drive were pass plays of 16 and 30 yards from Tempel to Tramp.
The two teams traded turnovers midway through the second quarter as Tempel had the ball knocked away after a 32-yard sprint to the Bixby 36-yard line.
Bixby's J.J. Cantrell returned the favor as he caught a 22-yard pass from quarterback Ray before fumbling the ball away to the Buffaloes.
"We played hard. We found our groove a little in the third quarter, but we kept putting our defense out there with turnovers. There were just too many plays by the defense," Hill said.
Garden City will host Woodward, Okla., in its home opener at 7 p.m. Friday.
Garden City 7 7 13 0 — 27
Bixby, Okla. 15 7 7 3 — 30
B—Kyle Rhine 27 pass from Marshall Ray (Nic Roller run)
GC—Greyson Tempel 10 run (Ismael Hernandez kick)
B—Roller 2 run (Taylor Ruth kick)
GC—Greyson Tempel 5 run (Hernandez kick)
B—Isaiah Harbin 8 pass from Ray (Ruth kick)
GC—Greyson Tempel 71 run (Hernandez kick)
B—Roller 2 run (Ruth kick)
GC—Greyson Tempel 53 run (PAT failed)
B—Ruth 32 field goal
First downs 15 27
Rushes-yards 27-247 40-248
Passing yards 182 282
Passes 11-31-2 23-50-1
Fumbles-lost 2-2 2-2
Penalties-yards ------ -----
Punts-avg. ------ 6-36.5