BY JIM MKSUNAS
GARDEN CITY — If things work out, Great Bend’s football team will return home next week for the 5A state playoffs. Great Bend (3-4, 2-1 WAC) travels to Garden City (2-5, 2-1 WAC) Friday as the ninth western seed in 5A.
A victory and losses by Wichita Heights vs. Kapaun-Mt. Carmel and Goddard-Eisenhower vs. Valley Center would vault the Panthers into the No. 7 seed.
Great Bend expects a typical hard-nosed run-oriented football game, similiar to the Panthers’ 49-20 victory over Liberal last week. Tailback Gage Fritz and quarterback Dalton Miller shared the carries behind an energized offensive line.
“We’re a completely different football team when Gage Fritz runs the football,” said Great Bend coach Erin Beck. “We always believe we have to run the football to have success.”
Garden City turned to ninth-grade quarterback Caleb Wiese after starter Carlos Acosta and back-up Zane Burns were injured. Buffalo tailback Josh Janas rushed for 186 yards in a 17-7 loss to Dodge City.
Rufujio Chairez (290 pounds) and Terrell Elliott (265 pounds) anchor a heavy defensive front for the Buffaloes. Left offensive guard Chairez also anchors the running game.
“I’m sure Garden City, will load the box to stop the run game,” said Beck. “They run a bunch of big offensive and defensive linemen out there. If that happens, it’ll be a cat-and-mouse game.”
Beck has confidence that Miller has the passing ability to find Alex Schremmer and Peyton Duvall if the Buffaloes give the Panthers’ one-on-one targets.
“We have all the faith in the world that Dalton Miller has confidence to throw the football,” Beck said.
Dodge City trailed Garden City 7-3, but hit a long passing play and converted a screen pass to score 14 points in the fourth quarter.
5A WEST FOOTBALL SEEDING
1—Maize High 7-0—(91); 2—Wichita Northwest 7-0—(82); 3—Maize South 7-0—(65); 4—Wichita Carroll 5-2—(45); 5—Emporia 4-3—(17); 6—Salina Central 4-3—(16); 7—Goddard-Eisenhower 4-3—(2); 8—Wichita Heights 3-4—(-1); 9—Great Bend 3-4—(-15); 10—Hays High 3-4—(-18); 11—Newton HS 3-4—(-46); 12—Valley Center 2-5—(-10); 13—Andover 2-5—(-15); 14—Liberal 2-5—(-20); 15—Salina South 1-6—(-61); 16—Kapaun Mount Carmel 1-6 (-64)
PROJECTED 5A BRACKET
1 Maize High vs. 16 Kapaun Mount Carmel; 8 Wichita Heights vs. 9 Great Bend
4 Wichita Carroll vs. 13 Andover High; 5 Emporia vs. 12 Valley Center
2 Wichita Northwest vs. 15 Salina South; 7 Goddard-Eisenhower vs. 10 Hays High
3 Maize South vs. 14 Liberal; 6 Salina Central vs. 11 Newton