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District Disappointment

If Panthers beat South, they’re in

POSTED October 23, 2010 11:02 p.m.
Dale Hogg, Great Bend Tribune/

Shay Wooten (4) of Salina Central dips forward ...

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SALINA — A full-blown shootout was materializing Friday night, when Great Bend High School went toe-to-toe with Salina Central in Class 5A District 6 football action at Salina Stadium.
That all seemed to change inside the final minute of the first half, with Central leading 13-12. Pinned at its own 3-yard line, Great Bend quarterback Greg Hildebrand, under pressure in the end zone and trying to avoid a safety, had his pass intercepted near the line of scrimmage by Mustangs defensive lineman Tim Stricker and returned for a 1-yard TD.
Stricker’s unlikely Pick 6 with 40 seconds left before halftime gave Central an unlikely 21-12 halftime lead and fueled the Mustangs to a 42-20 victory.
“I’ll take full blame for that,” Great Bend head coach Bo Black said. “We’ve had some success the last two weeks, making some long drives right before the half in the hurry-up mode.
“We probably should have just ran out of there and been happy being down 13-12 at the half and ran the clock down and gotten out of there.”
Central (6-2 overall, 2-0 district) would clinch the district title outright with a win over Hays on Friday night. Great Bend (3-4, 1-1) needs to beat Salina South at home to position the Panthers for a playoff berth. If Hays upsets Central, the district points system will go into effect.
The Mustangs seemed poised for a runaway after Taylor Bradley’s 67-yard touchdown scamper down the left sideline on their opening possession of the third quarter, giving Central a 28-12 lead at the 10:02 mark.
But the quick-hitting Panthers answered back with a 60-yard scoring march to slash the margin to 28-20 with 8:38 remaining in the third quarter.
Hildebrand, who connected on 24 of 37 passes for 188 yards, had a 27-yard pass play to Jace Bowman on first down. He later hooked up with Alex Reed for a 9-yard completion, coupled with a Central face-mask penalty, for a first down at the Mustangs’ 12.
On the next play, Hildebrand crossed the goal line from 12 yards out and then threw a 2-point conversion pass to Bowman.
“I thought that was the turning point, when we got within eight points with eight-some minutes left on the clock,” Black said. “Our defense made a stop, and then we got the ball right back and went three-and-out. We hadn’t punted all night.
“Really, at that point, we sputtered down and struggled defensively.”
The Panthers weren’t heard from again offensively, and compounding their woes as they get ready for Friday’s night’s district finale against Salina Central is the fact that wideouts Alex Reed (knee injury) and Logan Buehler (ankle injury) left the game after being injured on the same play in the fourth quarter.
Central capped drives with Cale Sharp scoring from three yards out with 20 seconds left in the third quarter and he later had a 4-yard TD with 4:08 left in the game.
Sharp, criticized in recent weeks for his soft play, responded with season-high 171 yards in 25 carries and three TDs against the Panthers. He also added another 140 yards in kick returns.
“We struggled to stop the sweep all night, and No. 3 (Sharp) got loose a couple times and we didn’t have the speed to keep up with him,” said Black, referring to the kid brother of former University of Kansas running back Jake Sharp, who helped lead the Jayhawks to the Orange Bowl in 2008.
“(Cale Sharp) did a good job. He’s a good back. We knew we had to contain him and keep him inside and when we didn’t, we struggled.”
At the outset, nine of Central’s first 10 offensive plays were running plays, capped by Sharp’s 3-yard scoring run with 7:14 left in the opening quarter for a 7-0 lead.
On the flip side, Great Bend threw the ball on its first eight plays from scrimmage, highlighted by 15- and 13-yard completions to Bowman and a 25-yarder to Reed.
Later in the drive, running back Jeremy Sigler scored from a yard out to make it 7-6 on the opening play of the second quarter. But the Panthers still trailed as Central blocked Mario Espino’s extra-point kick.
Sharp returned the ensuing kickoff 69 yards to the Great Bend 25 and six plays later, Central quarterback Shay Wooten scored from a yard out. Great Bend’s Connor Sell then blocked Clay Commerford’s PAT kick, leaving the score at 13-6.
The Panthers’ pass-minded offense then went on a 55-yard scoring drive, capped by Hildebrand’s 8-yard scoring toss to Sell at the 6:05 mark in the first quarter, cutting the margin to 13-12. But Espino missed the extra-point kick and despite the Panthers matching Central for early touchdowns, they trailed the entire game.
“It just wasn’t our night,” Black said. “We made a lot of mistakes early and we tried to kick away from No. 3 (Sharp) and somehow it floated back to him every time.
“We just made some real big mistakes at key times, and didn’t make the plays when we needed to. We lost a little bit of emotion and spunk (in the second half). It was just a really disappointing night.”


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