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GBHS has home, WAC opener vs. Buffs

POSTED September 15, 2011 11:21 p.m.
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Having a bye week last week, the Great Bend High School Panthers football team had Friday night off after practicing from 6 to 7:30 a.m. before school.
“We really would have liked playing a game,” Great Bend head coach Bo Black said, “but we made the most of our off-week. Our kids came back ready to work.
“We got a chance to get better in some areas and at the same time, started looking ahead to Garden City and worked on some of their stuff. All in all, it was a situation where we felt like we took advantage of it.”
Great Bend, which opened the season on Sept. 2 in Overland Park against St. Thomas Aquinas, lost in a thriller, 21-14, as the Panthers had a late-second, Hail Mary pass come up shy at the 3-yard line.
Tonight at 7, the Panthers (0-1) play their Western Athletic Conference and home opener against Garden City (1-1) at Memorial Stadium.
“We feel like we’re going to be a really good football team again,” Black said, “and we’re going to be playing a Garden City team that plays extremely hard and it’s going to be a good match-up for us.”
Garden City has had one extreme to the other during the first two weeks of play. The Buffaloes, who were belted by Scott City 30-3 in their season opener two weeks ago, bounced back with a 35-0 blanking of Woodward, Okla., last Friday night.
“We’re expecting it to be another hard-nosed football team for four quarters,” Black said. “They have some people coming back from last year, where they came on late and finished 5-5 after making it to the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
“They’re a good football team. Scott City had around 240 yards total offense (in the 2011 lid-lifter) and after watching film, the game was a lot closer (than 30-3). This game will be a good measuring stick of where we’re at right now.”
In its first two games, Garden City’s attacking defense has registered nine sacks on the quarterback.
In 2010, Great Bend traveled out west to Garden and returned with a hard-fought 21-13 win after scoring 21 second-half points to rally from a 7-0 halftime deficit.
Returning Panthers running back Jeremy Sigler had 109 yards in 23 carries, including one touchdown, to help lead their comeback after the break. Graduated quarterback Greg Hildebrand had a pair of 1-yard TD plunges, and added 75 yards rushing in the game.
But that was last year.
The Panthers had an impressive offensive debut from senior quarterback Mitch Kottas, making his first start in the Aquinas game. He completed 15 of 30 passes for 186 yards against the Saints, including a 38-yard completion on the game’s final play. Wide receiver Mauricio Uribe caught a tipped ball on Kottas’ Hail Mary pass at the 3-yard as time ran out.
Uribe finished with six catches for 105 yards, with nearly all of them coming in the second half. Fellow senior wide receiver Jace Bowman had three catches for 36 yards, and possession receiver Brock Ibarra caught three balls for 25 yards.
Yet, the most impressive statistic was the Panthers out-rushing Aquinas 179 to 129. Kottas had 69 yards in 19 carries, including a 43-yard touchdown run off a quarterback draw against the Saints.
Workhorse Sigler, a two-way starter and the team’s leading tackler in the Aquinas game with 13 stops from his linebacker position,  finished with 18 carries for 49 yards.
Josh Lopez, a 5-foot-6, 203-pound junior, had 40 yards in five carries, giving the Panthers another dimension in the backfield. On nearly every run, it seemed as though Lopez, who has the second-best squat weight on the team, was running right through defenders.
The Panthers are anchored on the offensive line by senior guard Tyler Uselton, who delivered the first of several key blocks on Kottas’ first-half TD.
Besides Sigler on defense, junior defensive back Chris Burley had an interception, along with a pass broken up in the end zone to negate an Aquinas scoring opportunity. Senior defensive back Connor Sell blocked and recovered a Saints field-goal attempt after Burley’s PBU.
The Panthers have worked hard on their special-teams play after giving up an 80-yard kickoff return for a TD by Aquinas’ Nick Williams, along with GBHS place-kicker Mario Espino missing a 41-yard field goal.
There was later another Espino 41-yard attempt that went awry after there was a botched snap and an incompletion by holder Bryce Beck.


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