Brian Hill stressed for his team to avoid the early mistake.
In each of the first two games, the Garden City High School football team made mistakes on the opening kickoff that put the Buffaloes in an early hole.
On Saturday in Hutchinson, the Buffs avoided the big mistake on the opening kickoff, and marched the length of the field in just four plays for the early 6-0 lead.
But that’s where the flaw-free football stopped, as the Buffs missed the extra point, and allowed Hutchinson to immediately answer with a long scoring drive to make it 7-6.
And three Buffs’ turnovers later and three more failed extra-point attempts, Hutchinson held on for the 28-24 win, giving the Salthawks their first win of the season and relegating the Buffs to 0-3.
Touchdown-wise, there was no difference between the two struggling sides.
The Buffs scored four. The Salthawks scored four.
But after that first missed extra-point kick on the Buffs’ first touchdown, they had to chase those points for the rest of the game, missing all three two-point conversion attempts.
So even after the Recce Morss scored a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter — the first from 1 yard out, the second from 13 yards — the Buffs could not draw even.
A Hutchinson run to convert a 4th-and-1 with with 2:05 to play sealed the Buffs’ fate.
Garden City opened the game with an extremely easy, four-play, 57-yard scoring drive that was capped by Carlos Acosta’s 9-yard keeper. The drive took just 1 minute, 10 seconds.
Hutchinson responded with a more measured drive, going 60 yards in 12 plays, but the result was the same — touchdown.
That’s when the Buffs began to make mistakes, with Morss fumbling inside of Hutch territory, giving the Salthawks a chance to add to their slight 7-6 lead.
They did with another grinding, 12-play drive, this one going for 70 yards.
It wasn’t until later in the second quarter that the Buffs could respond, when Acosta — who threw a pick earlier in the half — found Tye Davis at the 15, and he scampered in the rest of the way for the 49-yard strike.
But the two-point run was stuffed, and the Buffs trailed 14-12, and that’s where it stayed at the break.
To start the second half, Hutch put together another long, 14-play drive, converting multiple third-downs, to go up 21-12 on Patrick Graebner’s 15-yard catch from Trevor Rhoades.
The Salthawks threatened to put the game away early when they were driving near the end of the third quarter, but the Buffs’ defense forced a fumble and recovered it breath now life into the Garden City sideline.
And when the offense responded with a touchdown drive, the Buffs were within 21-18.
As has been the case all year, the defense allowed a big play at an inopportune time, as Graebner broke off a 64-yard run on the option pitch to make it 28-18.
The Buffs did get their final touchdown on Morss’ run, but never got the ball back.