BY JIM MISUNAS
BUHLER — Once Buhler tailback Ben Clouse and fullback Brayden Gentry got rolling, Great Bend had no answer stopping the Crusaders' second-half run game. The Crusaders scored two second-half touchdowns for a hard-fought 20-14 football victory. Buhler drove two yards and 23 yards for scores after Panther turnovers.
Clouse rushed for 101 yards on 21 carries and scored on a pair of 2-yard runs. Gentry gained 56 second-half yards and converted several short yardage runs for first downs.
4A Buhler (2-1) executed a simple game plan by lining up and overpowering the Panthers up front. Buhler rushed for 186 second-half yards on 32 carries after a 55-yard first half.
"We had a lack of preparation, execution and mental mistakes. That falls solely on me," said Great Bend coach Erin Beck. "We lacked focus on every play. When things didn't go our way, we folded a little bit. That's something we need to fix."
Despite constant pressure, Panther quarterback Daxton Minton kept his poise for 210 yards and touchdown passes to Ian Premer and Jacob Hall. Buhler's Tavian Gilliam and Jeremy Gentry intercepted passes and the Panthers gave away a touchdown on a botched punt snap.
After trailing 7-0, tight end Colton Brack delivered a crucial 16-yard reception by escaping several tackles for a key first down. Premer's 4-yard score tied the score 7-7 after a 69-yard drive.
Buhler answered with a 66-yard scoring drive as Clouse, Gentry and quarterback Jeffrey O'Neill sliced through the Panther defense for a 14-7 lead. Buhler continued to possess the football and eventually pinned the Panthers back at their own 14-yard line.
An errant snap on Great Bend's punt gifted the Crusaders the football at the 2-yard line. O'Neill scored on the first play for a 20-7 lead.
Great Bend's Jacob Hall responded with a 42-yard reception and Maddox Spray and Premer caught quick passes to the Buhler 5-yard line. Hall caught a lofted pass for a touchdown with 3:07 left.
Beck wisely elected an onside kickoff since the Panthers had a challenge stopping the Crusaders, who converted a pair of first downs after recovering the kickoff.
Great Bend (1-2) plays plenty of sophomores and freshmen who are learning what it takes to compete at the varsity level.
"You hope to learn after a loss," Beck said. "They're still young and trying to understand the focus it takes every day. We'll get it fixed from here on out. We'll come in better prepared and focused."
Great Bend (1-2) returns home to play Wichita Southeast for Homecoming next week.
"As coaches and teachers, we have to help them," Beck said. "They are young and inexperienced. We've got to get them better prepared."
Great Bend 0 0 7 7 — 14
Buhler 0 7 7 6 — 20
B—Ben Clouse 2 run (Dawsyn Valdois kick)
GB—Ian Premer 4 pass from Daxton Minton (Diego Soto kick)
B—Clouse 2 run (Valdois kick)
B—Jeffrey Neill 2 run (kick blocked)
GB—Jacob Hall 5 pass from Minton (Soto kick)
RUSHING—GB—19-38; Cody Miller 8-16; Minton 11-22; Cooper Ohnmacht 1-5; B—51-241; Clouse 21-101; Brayden Gentry 9-67; O'Neill 12-35; Mitchel McDaniel 9-38, team 1-(-2).
PASSING—GB—Minton 19-34-2, 210; B—Neill 1-6-0, 5
RECEVING—GB—Colton Brack 3-46; Maddox Spray 8-68; Hall 2-47; Premer 4-39; Ohnmacht 1-9; Miller 1-0; B—Quentin Pisano 1-5.