On June 15, Garden City High School football players began dealing with a new normal of temperature checks, face masks and social distancing in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic to prepare for the season.
The Buffaloes began their 2020-21 season on the road Friday at Manhattan, the fourth ranked team in Class 6A. The Indians won the game, 21-7, but the game was more of a defensive battle than the final score shows.
"We just played a game under circumstances that Garden City High School has never played a game in its history," GCHS head coach Brian Hill said after the game. "To do all the things that we’ve done since June 15 to get to this point, to give us an opportunity to even come on this trip."
Both teams’ defenses shut down the opposing offenses in both the opening quarter and the third quarter and in most of the fourth quarter.
With 11 minutes to go in the second quarter, Manhattan’s Dayne Aschenbrenner got the Indians on the scoreboard first with a 1-yard run. The point after attempt was good. Manhattan scored again with 8 minutes left in the quarter on a 4-yard touchdown run by Vinny Smith. The point after attempt was good to give the Indians a 14-0 lead.
Garden City’s offense capitalized on a defensive interception in the end zone for a short field. Quarterback Zane Burns took the snap and scampered in the end zone from 3 yards out for the Buffaloes’ lone touchdown of the game. Isaac Rivera kicked the point after attempt to pull the Buffaloes to within seven.
Neither offense could mount an attack in the third and most of the fourth quarters.
Manhattan scored a final touchdown in the closing minute of the game as Aschenbrenner ran the ball in from 1 yard out. The PAT was good.
"I haven’t seen this kind of effort from one of our football teams in probably three years," Hill said. "It’s tremendous the way they continued to play. Even on (Manhattan’s) last drive, we made them earn it. What most impressed me was the our kids played through the last play."
The Garden City defense held its own through most of the game, including Christian Reyes, Joel Bellows and Caleb Wiese each collecting an interception on the night.
Reyes led the team in tackles with 11, while Trey Nuzum had nine and Bellows added seven.
On the offensive side, Josh Janas was held to 36 yards on 12 carries, Erik Dominguez ran the ball six times for 15 yard and Burns had 14 attempts for two yard and one touchdown.
Burns was 3 of 14 for 131 yards in passing, including a 70-yard play to receiver Gerardo Arteaga.
Arteaga led the team in receiving yardage, catching two passes for 102 yards. Caleb Metzen had one reception for 29 yards.
"Those moments. After the last two years and watching the kids take their lumps, to stand toe to toe with one of the best teams in Class 6A, I couldn’t be more proud of the way they played," Hill said. "To grow, we have to learn to win the big moments, like third down, goal to go, turning turnovers into scores. We lost too many of these Friday night."
Garden City will open the home portion of the season on Friday when it hosts Hutchinson.