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Panthers rely on defensive spirit
Blessing a defensive leader
5 brock blessing.jpg
Panther linebacker Brock Blessing (5) tackles a Hays High Indian. - photo by BY DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

Panthers rely on defensive spirit


The Great Bend Panthers are one victory away from the Western Athletic Conference football championship.

Great Bend (5-2, 3-0 WAC) is seeking its first WAC title since 2011 when the Panthers tied Hays and Garden City. The Panthers own eight WAC football titles, five outright championships.

If the Panthers finish their first WAC 4-0 record in 11 years, they’ll rely on an aggressive defense that has performed superbly the past two weeks.

“It’s exciting to have an opportunity win a WAC championship in front of the home fans,” said Great Bend football coach Erin Beck. “We’ve had a lot of good football teams recently, but none of them won a WAC title. It’s hard to win this league.”

Beck said linebacker said Brock Blessing is an example of the type of hard-nosed undersized player the Panthers feature on the defensive side.

“Our defense is what makes us go,” Beck said. “We’re undersized, but they play with a chip on their shoulder. Or primary goal is to always stop the run game. For the most part, we’ve kept teams out of the endzone.”  

Blessing’s signature play was a game-changing tackle for a safety against Andover Central. 

“Koy Brack pinned them inside the 5-yard-line, and Jeff Spragis should’ve got a safety on their first play,” Blessing said. “It was cool seeing 2-0 on the scoreboard.”

The defense turned the trick again last week, overcoming six Panther turnovers and stopping Liberal twice in goal-line situations. 

“We shut Liberal out when we fumbled a kickoff near our goal-line,” Blessing said. “That was a big boost of confidence for us.”

Blessing said the Panthers have made steady progress.

“We’ve worked hard in practice and that’s made a difference getting better,” Blessing said. “It’s been good defense the past two weeks after losing to Carroll and Wichita Northwest. That’s given us a confidence boost as a defense.”

Blessing said playing extra players on the defensive side has helped. Supersub linebacker Jeffrey Spragis and defensive backs Carsyn Schooler and Jacob Hanrahan have provided depth.

“As a positive, we’ve played new players and it’s helped our depth,” Blessing said. “Rotating players has helped us. We’re looking forward to what we can do in the playoffs.” 

The Panthers (5-2, plus 44 points) are ranked third in the 5A west, but need to win by 13 points to maintain that spot over Wichita Carroll (5-2, 41 points). 

Two years ago, Garden City edged Great Bend 21-14 in overtime for the WAC championship.


Garden City 12

Dodge City 9

Great Bend 8

Liberal 6

Hays High 5


GARDEN CITY (2-5, 2-1 WAC)

L—Derby 6-49

L—Valley Center 20-41

L—Hutchinson 24-28

W—Hays High 35-26

W—Liberal 32-6

L—Wichita Northwest 15-61

L—Dodge City 7-27

GREAT BEND (5-2, 3-0 WAC)

W—Andover 35-12

W—Hays High 15-7

L—Wichita Northwest 34-56

W—Dodge City 35-15

L—Wichita Carroll 33-36

W—Andover Central 30-7

W—Liberal 35-6

RUSHING—GB—202-1,142 yards; Gage Fritz 84-565-3 TD; Koy Brack 71-244-7 TDs; Dalton Miller 39-295-2 TD; GC—271-1,022; Reece Morss 97-489, 4 TDs; Carlos Acosta 93-345, 4 TDs; Avey Arana 58-167. 

PASSING—GB—Brack, 90-162-8, 1,480, 16 TDs; GC—Acosta 41-85-7, 766, 8 TDs; Tye Davis 10-20-2, 63. 

RECEIVING—GB—Alex Schremmer, 38-843-10 TDs; Miller 17-206-4 TDs; Peyton Duvall, 18-267-1 TD; Calan Haberman 13-71,-1 TD; GC—Tye Davis, 11-306, 4 TDs; Kaleb LaPointe 16-283, 3 TDs. 

TACKLES—GB—Blake Penka 68 tackles-7 loss; Dalton Miller, 58-5 int.; Brock Blessing 46; Alan Miramontes 39; Pablo Martinez 38-6 loss; GC—Reece Morss 79, Ryan Jarmer 54, Ethan Crone 50-81/2 loss; Davis 4 int.


QB—12 Koy Brack

TB—29 Gage Fritz

WR—2 Alex Schremmer

WR—3 Peyton Duvall

WR—7 Calan Haberman

WR—16 Dalton Miller

LT—55 Eric Vazquez

LG—58 Marcus Schmeidler

C—71 Kade Schroeder

RG—62 Payton Doll

RT—73 Andrew Wettengel 


DE—52 Alan Miramontes

NG—55 Eric Vazquez

DE—85 Matt Zorn

LB—5 Brock Blessing

LB—11 Pablo Martinez/23 Jeffrey Spragis

LB—34 Blake Penka

OLB—17 Alex Olivas

OLB—36 Joey Soupiset

CB—33 Townshend Kurth

CB—1 Bryce Brown

SS—16 Dalton Miller


RE—42 Jacob Partin/64 Terrell Elliott  

RT—77 Refugio Chavez 

LT—76 Trey Nuzum 

LE—54 Matt Smith 

MLB—34 Reece Morss 

OLB—30 Ryan Jarmer 

OLB—53 Ethan Crone

CB—33 Kaleb LaPointe 

CB—7 Eli Ruiz Hernandez/1 Christian Reyes 

S— 11 Tye Davis


QB—10 Carlos Acosta 

TB— 34 Reece Morss 

WB—28 Ethan Martin 

WR—1 Christian Reyes 

WR—33 Lane Durst 

WR—11 Tye Davis  

RT—72 Azael Perez

RG—70 Garrick Wells 

C—78 Alex Rodriguez 

LG— 77 Refugio Chavez 

LT—68 Isac Leisure