Heartbreaker. Transition. Confidence.
These are all words that could describe Garden City High School’s football game at Manhattan on Friday night in Week 9, the first round of the Class 6A playoffs.
Manhattan won the contest, 21-20, to end the Buffaloes season on a heartbreaking blocked extra point attempt that could have sent the game to overtime.
When the season started, in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was never certain if games could be played from one week to the next. On the opening Friday, Garden City traveled to Manhattan and was defeated handily 21-7. Midway through the season, the Buffaloes began to transition into the team that played Friday night with confidence in their abilities.
"I’m really proud of the kids — playing a familiar opponent that we’d already played," GCHS head coach Brian Hill said. "The fight and commitment level, they way this team grew through the year was just tremendous. It was really about attitude and effort."
In the Week 9 game, Manhattan got on the board first at the 4:02 mark in the first quarter. The point after attempt was good to take a 7-0 lead.
Garden City answered with 2:41 left in the quarter as quarterback Caleb Wiese connected with Jerry Arteaga on a 56-yards touchdown pass. The point after attempt by Issac Rivera was good to tie the score at 7-7 going in to the second quarter.
Manhattan scored the only touchdown in the second quarter, with 6:20 left on the clock. The point after attempt was missed. The Indians took a 13-7 lead in the halftime.
"They were showing us some things in the second quarter that we hadn’t prepared for, things they hadn’t shown at all," Hill said. "It took a little bit and Coach Base made some great adjustments — changing some blocking schemes and making sure the kids know who they have."
The Buffalo defense came to centerstage in the third as linebacker Joel Bellows intercepted a Manhattan pass with 4:18 left and ran it back 32 yards to the Manhattan four yard line. GCHS’ offense was unable to convert off the play, but as time was running out later in the quarter, Garden City running back Josh Janas scored as he blasted his way in to the end zone. Rivera kicked the point after attempt and the Buffaloes took their first lead of the game into the fourth quarter, 14-13.
In the fourth, Manhattan scored a touchdown with 6:49 left and then converted on a two-point point after to take a 21-14 lead.
In the first game of the season, this would have been the final blow against Garden City, but in Week 9, a different Garden City team was playing with confidence. As time ticked down to 1:49 the clock, wide receiver Cooper Ramsey took the handoff on a reverse and scampered into the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown to pull the Buffaloes to within one point 20-21. Rivera got the kick off on the extra point, but a Manhattan player got a hand on the ball to block the kick.
Manhattan then recovered an ensuing onside kick and ran the clock out.
Garden City had 200 yards of total offense, compared to Manhattan’s 295. GCHS had 132 yards on the ground and 68 in the air. MHS had 263 yards rushing and 32 passing.
"We’ve been going since June 15 and here it is Oct. 30, and we didn’t miss a practice, didn’t miss a weight session, and we didn’t miss a game," Hill said. "From the administration and health department all the way down, this has been a class act in our school (in the COVID-19 response). I think it’s also a tribute to our parents and players for putting whatever your views about masks aside for the greater good of the football team. There’s not too many 5A and 6A schools that made it through the fall for nine weeks (of games)."
The Buffaloes finish the season with a 3-6 overall record.
"It (the season ending) doesn’t take away the pain of having to say goodbye to these seniors that have meant so much to our team, our school, and our community," Hill said. "I know as they move forward, they’ll be great young men."