Turnovers can change a game, and Garden City High School’s five turnovers on the gridiron Friday night at Liberal were devastating.
For the first time since 2007, Liberal’s football team knocked off the Buffaloes, 20-6, in a Western Athletic Conference matchup.
"We got out coached and out played," GCHS Head Coach Brain Hill said. "Penalties and turnovers — our first play had a 25-yard gain wiped out with a holding, and then we threw an interception for a touchdown."
Liberal got on the scoreboard at 7:27 left in the first quarter as Liberal’s Malcolm Wiltshire intercepted a GCHS pass by Zane Burns and ran it back for a touchdown. The two-point conversion failed.
In the second quarter, Garden City got on the board at the 6:23 when Caleb Wiese grabbed a pass reception from Burns for a 30-yards touchdown to tie the score at 6-6. The two-point conversion run by Ryan Heiman failed. This was the Buffaloes’ only score of the game.
Liberal’s Shay Kerr completed a pass to Wiltshire for 25-yards and a touchdown at the 1:32 mark. Kerr threw a pass completion to Jaylin Staten for the two-point conversion to take a 14-6 lead into halftime.
Midway through the third, Liberal’s Kerr completed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Huskey at 4:58 left. Easton Zapien converted the two-point conversion to give Liberal a 20-6. Neither team could find the end zone in the fourth quarter.
"We wait for something good to happen rather than putting pressure on the other team," Hill said. "When you give a team confidence right away, it’s difficult to overcome."
Garden City actually finished the game with more offense than Liberal. GCHS ran 57 plays for 242 yards while Liberal ran 56 plays for 230 yards.
"It’s difficult that no quarterback has grabbed a hold of the reins and decided its his job," Hill said. "We’re trying to use the best of both worlds, and getting them out there on the field."
The Buffaloes had 205 yards in the air while the rushing game was virtually nonexistent with only 37 yards.
Wiese was 11-for-20 for 151 yards and one interception. Burns was 4-of-6 for 54 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Josh Janas led the rushing for Garden City with 14 carries for 42 yards. Joel Bellows had one carry for two yards. The Buffaloes’ quarterbacks combined for a minus 7 yards.
Liberal’s Zapien led all rushers with 111 yards on 27 carries.
Caleb Metzen had four receptions for 88 yards for the Buffaloes and Cooper Ramsey had four receptions for 37 yards.
"They (Liberal) did a great job getting the ball to their play makers and took advantage when they had opportunities," Hill said. "Their guys made plays, that we’re not doing right now. They played a lot harder than we did ... we’ve got to find a way to fix that."
Garden City, now 1-4 overall and 1-2 in WAC play, will face Kapuan on the road Friday in Wichita.