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Panthers hold off Indians' rally
Miller makes key plays
The Great Bend Panthers meet for the pregame coin flip with Hays High. - photo by BY DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune



Dalton Miller rescued the Great Bend Panthers with an ESPN-worthy touchdown run and two interceptions.

But Miller’s toughest challenge was watching from the sideline when Hays High’s final desperation pass sailed to the endzone from the Panther 27-yard line. Defensive back Bryce Brown deflected the Indians’ final attempt from  quarterback Palmer Hutchison to 6-foot-8 receiver Dylan Ruder.

“I had a lot of confidence in our guys. Everybody knows what they’re doing,” said starting safety Miller, who was forced to the sidelines after a collision in the endzone.

Brown’s defensive play sparked a wild celebration after clinching a hard-fought 15-7 Western Athletic Conference football victory Friday over rival Hays High. The game was played in 68 degree temperatures with light rain and mist falling during the ballgame.

The athletic Hutchison made his best plays after escaping pressure to throw on the run. Hutchison kept the Indians’ final drive alive with a fourth-down conversion to William Sennett and a third-down completion to Ruder. A game-ending interception by Alex Olivas was nullified on a pass interference penalty.

Miller’s game-winning 46-yard touchdown was a spectacular run where he split a gap, and spun a circle at the 25-yard line to avoid  Kordy Stull before sprinting into the endzone for a 12-7 lead. Panther guard Marcus Schmeidler pancaked Stull at the 20-yard line. 

“I’m thinking how did I do that? When I did that spin move, my thought was I don’t have many highlights, so I’ll try a spin move,” Miller said.

Great Bend coach Erin Beck watched in amazement on Miller’s dazzling touchdown.

“That’s one of the most spectacular high school runs I’ve seen,” Beck said. “It was a pretty impressive individual performance on that play.”

Kicker Dani Franco converted a line-drive 25-yard field goal with 2:41 left for a 15-7 lead. The Panthers moved 49 yards, keyed by a crucial offside penalty against Indian Cody Peterson on 4th-and-2 at midfield.

“That was a big-time field goal that we needed,” Beck said. “It’s so fun to see him knock one through.”

Miller’s 28-yard return off an interception and 25-yard dash set up Koy Brack’s 4-yard touchdown run for a 6-0 lead.

“I stayed back on the run-pass option,” Miller said. “It’s a tough play when he’s scrambling around back there.”

The Indians finished with 300 yards while the Panthers gained 274 yards. Other than one big play, the Panthers kept the Indians off the scoreboard.

“The difference-maker was our defense,” Beck said. “They made plays when they needed it. They’re a tough group. Both teams played their hearts out. I was very proud of our seniors.”

The Panthers responded after a 71-yard first half with 203 yards, 152 on the ground. Miller finished with 94 yards and Brack gained 62 yards.

“Offensively, when we needed to run the football, our backs and our offensive line did a great job the second half. That was good to see.”

Hays High led 7-6 on Mason Ibarra's 49-yard touchdown reception. Quarterback Hutchison escaped a sack and found Ibarra wide open near the Panther sideline with 1:22 until halftime.

The Indians outgained the Panthers 204-71 behind 107 yards passing and 97 yards rushing.

Great Bend (2-0, 1-0 WAC) visits No. 1 5A Wichita Northwest (2-0) next week. Hays drops to 0-2, 0-1 in the WAC.

Hays High 0 7 0 0 – 7

Great Bend 0 6 6 3 – 15

GB—Koy Brack 4 run (kick blocked)—2:41

H—Kyle Casper 49 pass from Palmer Hutchison (Cole Schroeder kick)—1:22

GB—Dalton Miller 46 run (run failed)—3:04

GB—Dani Franco 25 FG—2:41

RUSHING—H—38-153; Hutchison 19-66, Hayden Brown 11-53, Roy Moroni 5-23, William Sennett 3-11; GB—33-189—Miller 8-94, Brack 14-62, Gage Fritz 10-45, team 1-(-12).

PASSING—H—Hutchison 14-35-2, 147; GB—Brack 10-16-1, 85.

RECEIVING—H—Ibarra 3-82, Sennett 5-28, Dylan Ruder 1-15, Brown 3-13,, Schroeder 1-9; GB—Alex Schremmer 7-63, Peyton Duvall 1-13, Miller 1-6, Calan Haberman 1-3.