Coach Mike Vernon stood in the middle of the circle with his team down on one knee and let out a scream followed by an air punch as the team roared back.
Friday’s 28-24 win at Gowans Stadium against Garden City High School was the Hutchinson High School football team’s first win of the season and the first in the Vernon era as head coach. The feeling of the two losses to start the season, where the Salthawks were outscored 104-14, seemed forgotten as players hugged and offensive lineman Tristan Geddes danced to the beat of drums played by the Salthawk band.
“I want you guys to enjoy this,” Vernon told his team after the game. “On Sunday at 5 p.m., this is over.”
The Salthawks (1-2) fell behind early as the Garden City Buffaloes (0-3) scored 1:11 into the contest on a four-play opening drive. But the Salthawk seniors had a different vision in mind for their homecoming week.
Senior Running back Patrick Graebner had to watch from the sidelines last week with an ankle injury as his team lost 49-0 at home.
He said the ankle “feels good” even after taking 14 carries for 163 yards, including a 55-yard rushing touchdown. Graebner also had two touchdown catches.
On one touchdown reception, senior quarterback Trevor Rhoades threw 15-yards off his back foot as the defensive line buried him under a pile of white jerseys.
Rhoades also connected with Grabener to take the lead on their opening drive. The 11-play drive ended with a seven-yard pass to Graebner. The extra point put the Salthawks up 7-6.
Garden City’s next drive ended with a forced fumble picked up by Dakota Thomsen. The Salthawks took over on their own 30. The Salthawks fumbled and recovered twice on the drive that Rhoades capped off early in the second quarter with a three-yard run where he was wrapped up behind the goal line.
Rhoades kept driving his feet and stretched out the ball for the touchdown, and the Salthawks went up 14-6. Rhoades rushed 13 times for 53 yards. He went 3-for-7 in the air, including an interception.
As the second half winded down, Garden City quarterback Carlos Acosta threw a bomb over the middle to a wide open Tye Davis.
Davis had to wait on the ball, but reeled it in and outran a defender closing in for a 50-yard touchdown with 1:15 left in the half. The Buffaloes missed a second 2-point conversion of the night and the half ended with the Salthawks up 14-12.
Acosta threw 4-of-8 with an interception and a touchdown. He also rushed for 128 yards on 16 carries with a rushing touchdown.
The Salthawks scored first in the final 24 minutes of play and the Buffaloes answered back with some hard running by Reece Morss.
Morss, a 6-2, 225 pound senior, had 10 carries for 50 yards and two touchdowns.
Jack Hawver managed to put a hit on the Garden City quarterback to thwart the two-point conversion, but Morss' touchdown cut the lead, 21-18.
The Salthawks started the next drive on their 31.
A few plays into the drive, Graebner took a pitch from Rhoades 55 yards down the left sidelines, untouched, into the end zone. The extra point put the Salthawks up 28-18.
Garden City closed the gap on a 13-yard touchdown run by Morss where he stiffed armed a player on the way to the end zone.
Up 28-24, theSalthawks took over with 3:14 to play. They managed to convert a 4-and-1 on the Buffalo side of the field, then ran out the clock.
The Salthawk offense had a different look with Tayezhan Crough being moved from running back to safety and senior tight end Darrian Garrett sharing snaps with Graebner.
Garrett was the workhorse at running back. He had 22 carries for 87 yards and often took the ball on short yardage downs.
THE QUICK HIT
HUTCHINSON 28, GARDEN CITY 24
UP NEXT: The Salthawks will travel to face Salina Central High School (2-1).
HE SAID IT: “I’m just excited for the kids, excited for the coached, excited for the program,” coach Vernon said.
STAT OF THE GAME: Hutchinson had possession of the ball for 31:55 out of a 48-minute game.