Garden City entered Friday’s game against Hays High at Lewis Field Stadium knowing it had an advantage in both size and depth, and it showed in the Buffaloes’ 38-14 win in the Indians’ homecoming game.
“We’re pretty big and we start most of our kids just one way, and he’s (Hays High coach Randall Rath) is down in numbers,” Garden City coach Brian Hill said. “He’s gotta start kids both ways and that’s something that just being bigger and everything that, over the course of time, we might be able to wear them down.”
Rath, in his first year coaching the Indians saw the same thing.
“They just wore us down,” Rath said. “That’s the bottom line. We play nine kids both ways, about seven of those don’t ever come off the football field the whole night. It’s tough. It wears on kids. I don’t care how good of shape (you’re in).”
It took awhile for the Buffaloes to truly wear down the Hays High defense. After the first quarter, Garden City led 3-0 after a field goal following its first drive, a 13-play possession that took up half of the opening quarter.
The Indians took a brief lead early in the second quarter when Maddux Winter stepped in front of a Buffalo receiver to intercept a pass. Once Winter picked off the pass, nothing stopped him from reaching the end zone, as he raced 55 yards for a score.
“He read it well (and) broke on the ball,” Rath said. “There was nobody between him and the goal line, and he’s a good athlete.”
Garden City wasted no time responding, as Koster took a handoff through the left side and ran away from the Indians’ defense for an 82-yard score on the first play of the drive, his first of two long touchdowns on the night.
By time the second quarter ended, the Buffaloes had worn Hays High down. Peyton Hill scored from five yards out after quarterback Jesse Nunez rumbled through the Indians’ defense for a long run, setting Garden City up deep in the red zone.
Nunez added another score in the final minute of the half. While Garden City mixed in some passing plays, it was run heavy on Friday night with Koster, Nunez and Hill running for positive yardage up the middle and on the outside.
“After about 50 snaps, that wears you down,” Rath said. “They did, they wore us down.”
Isaiah Blackmon and Hunter Brown helped the Indians’ offense pick up a pair of first downs on their first drive of the second half, but a broken play led to a fumble, which the Buffaloes recovered.
It was Hays High’s second turnover of the game, and led to a short touchdown run from Koster.
Rath saw some good things from his offense, but most chances at a big play were either nullified by small mistakes or flags.
“We moved the ball, and then we shoot ourself in the foot with a penalty or we have somebody run the wrong way on a play,” Rath said. “That’s stuff we can’t do. Our margin for error is very, very small.”
Blackmon got the Hays High offense on the board with a four-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, but just as he did in the second quarter, Koster answered on the first play of the drive. After a holding call pushed the Garden City offense back to its own 15, Koster found a seam to the left, bounced out to the sideline and outran the Indians’ defense 85 yards for his third score. Koster’s big night helped him move up to second place on the Garden City rushing charts, according to Hill, but it wasn’t an individual effort Friday.
“The key is all on the line,” Koster said. “It’s not hard when I just have to run. The line does it all for me. They get the blocks, and I just read it. I didn’t even get touched really.”
Hays High punted on its next possession, and Garden City let its reserves handle the final few minutes of the fourth quarter.
The Indians drop to 1-3 with the loss ahead of next week’s game at Wichita South, another 6A school that figures to be deeper than Hays High.