By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Panthers lose 36-34 heartbreaker to Crusaders



WICHITA – Underdog Great Bend delivered highlight-play after highlight play in a heartbreaking 36-34 loss to No. 1 ranked Wichita Kapaun-Mt. Carmel in a second-round 5A football playoff showdown.

The game boiled down to a 2-point conversion by the Crusaders and a 2-point attempt the Panthers failed to convert. The Panthers dazzled the talented Crusaders with amazing plays.

Simply put, Great Bend (16-20 all-time) played the greatest football game in school history in a playoff loss. This happened despite Kapaun gaining 405 yards on 81 plays to 45 plays by the Panthers.

Freshman Cooper Ohnmacht rescued the Panthers with a shocking 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 29-21 halftime score. Later on, Ohnmacht roared 65 yards on a catch-and-run that set up Cody Miller’s second-half touchdown for a 29-27 score. The critical 2-pointer on a perfect play call to tie from Daxton Minton to Maddox Spray fell incomplete.

Ian Premer caught 64- and 35-yard touchdown passes from quarterback Daxton Minton. Minton juked and jived 72 yards to set up his 2-yard touchdown right before halftime for a 22-14 score.

The Panthers (6-4) were down two touchdowns twice and down 36-27 on their final drive.

On this night, there would be quit in the Panthers. They weren’t champions on this night, but they showed the heart of champions.

Panther Kaiden Hoffman made head coach Erin Beck look like a genius when he covered Diego Soto/s onside kickoff that bounced off Pete Gann's foot to start the second half.

“I’ve never been more proud of a group and the heart they played with,” said Great Bend coach Erin Beck.  “They continued to bounce back. They took blow-after-blow, but kept fighting. The plays we made were pretty special. We missed a couple plays. But our fight to win was greater than theirs tonight.”

Player-after-player gave it everything they had. Minton threw for 293 yards with Ian Premer gaining 135 yards and Cooper Ohnmacht 93 yards. Hudson Cahill led Kapaun's defense with two interceptions and several key tackles.

“Daxton showed the heart of a warrior,” Beck said. “He did everything he could. Hands down, That’s the toughest defense we’ve played. But our kids never got rattled. Daxton made massive plays on quarterback draw.”

On the Panthers’ final scoring drive, they overcame a missed pass interference call and a blocking penalty. Colton Brack came alive with back-to-back receptions. Somehow, some way, Minton spun a 35-yard touchdown pass to Premer, who soared over Nate Thengvall with 2:06 left.

There was no doubt had the Panthers earned one more chance, they would’ve shocked the Crusaders. The Panthers had second-half drives end at Kapaun's 20- and 23-yard lines.

Powerhouse Kapaun tailback Omari Elias scored two touchdowns and rushed for 261 yards on 51 hard-earned carries, breaking countless of tackles with his physical style.

“Their back was as advertised,” Beck said. “He bounced off tacklers. He made a lot of tacklers miss. They drove the football on us. That’s the difference.”

But Kapaun’s powerful offensive line and Elias clinched the victory with a first down.

“It always hurts this time of year,” Beck said. “That last one that ends the year stings. Those boys are feeling it right now. When it’s that close It hurts extra against a team of that caliber. There were plays all over the field, They made more of them. Credit to them.”

The Panthers’ senior class endured back-o-back winless seasons that transformed into a scary playoff team. Seniors are Maddox Spray, Cody Miller, Kaiden Hoffman, Alex Galindo, Colton Brack, Cooper Liles, Dee’Onn Jones, Matthew Johnson, Jorge Pena and Tyrece Patterson.

“It’s more than a game to these kids,” Beck said. “It’s a brotherhood. It means so much to those seniors. They play their tails off every snap. That’s all you can ask even if we were outgunned.”

Great Bend 7 14 6 7 – 34

Kapaun 15 14 0 7 – 36

KMC—Omari Elias 2 run (Chase DuPont kick);  GB—Ian Premer 64 pass from Daxton Minton (Diego Soto kick); KMC—Elias 2 run (Dylan Hamilton run); KMC—Hamilton 1 run (DuPont kick); GB—Cooper Ohnmacht 97 kickoff return (Soto kick); GB—Miller 2 run (pass fails); KMC—Elias 2 run (DuPont kick); GB—Premer 35 pass from Minton (Soto kick) 

RUSHING—GB 20-144; Minton 8-97; Miller 12-47; KMC—76-390; Elias 51-261; Henry Chrisman 15-80; Hamilton 6-30; Charlie Chrisman 3-17; Pete Gunn 1-2.

PASSING—GB—Minton 14-25-2, 293; KMC—Hamilton 1-5-0, 15

RECEIVING—GB—Premer 3-135; Ohnmacht 4-93; Maddox Spray 4-39; Colton Brack 2-28; Miller 1-(-2); KMC—Will Thengvall 1-15