DODGE CITY — After disposing of Dodge City High School 24-7 on Friday night in a critical Western Athletic Conference football clash, the Great Bend Panthers are off to their best start since their 8-3 campaign in 2007.
Already matching their victory output of each of the last two seasons, the Panthers racked up nearly 500 yards of total offense and hung their hat on a smash-mouth defensive performance, offsetting 15 penalties for 105 yards in the process.
The Class 5A Panthers, who finished 4-4 last season and 4-5 the year before, improved to 4-1 on the season, 1-1 in conference play.
After falling behind 7-0 in the first quarter, they tied the game in the final minute of the second quarter on a 30-yard touchdown gallop by Johnny Allende, the first of 24 unanswered points.
Great Bend put unrelenting pressure on Dodge City quarterback Kelan Newton, sacking him four times, and limiting the high-octane Red Demons to only 31 net rushing yards.
“Our kids have prepared very well the last two weeks,” Great Bend head coach Bo Black said. “It’s showing up, and we had a lot of mistakes in the first half offensively and struggled in some things and dropped some passes that should have been caught.
“Overall, the kids were able to get things done and overcome some adversity. I couldn’t be more proud how they played.”
Black unwrapped some offensive packages for his dual-threat combination at quarterback in Matt Marshall and Bryce Beck, and the Panthers flourished.
Marshall completed 11 of 15 passes for 151 yards and one interception. Beck had 39 rushing yards at quarterback and 33 receiving yards from his wideout position.
“We had the threat of passing the ball,” Black said. “Both of those kids came in and play well We lined up with some special packages with Bryce at quarterback that they struggled stopping, and it was an effective night on the ground.”
The gamebreaker for the Panthers — and the backbreaker for the Demons — came early in the fourth quarter. It was 10-7 after Great Bend’s Mario Espino kicked a 32-yard field goal for the only points of the third quarter.
Senior running back Josh Lopez, used sparingly in the running game in the first half with one carry for zero yards, popped a momentum-seizing 45-yard touchdown run with 11:13 left in the final period to extend the Panthers’ lead to 17-7.
“It was a little counter-trap play,” Black said of Lopez’s run. “He was wrapped up at the line of scrimmage and kept his balance and made a huge run. It was a huge play in the game.
“Our offensive line played pretty extremely well. Any time you rush for over 300 yards against a very good 6A team, you’ve got to be happy.”
Dodge City (3-2, 1-1) drove to the GBHS 44-yard line near the four-minute mark before Newton’s fourth-down incompletion, effectively ending their final threat.
Great Bend senior Bryce Hofmeister added a 28-yard touchdown off a jet sweep at the 2:17 mark in the fourth quarter to put the finishing touches on the romp.
Dodge City drew first blood, late in the first quarter, when Newton found wide receiver Dakota Duckett over the middle on a bubble screen pass. Duckett set sail on a 75-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead at the 2:43 mark in the first quarter. He finished with 10 catches for 159 yards.
The Panthers were able to answer back quickly, highlighted by Marshall taking off on a quarterback draw for a 16-yard gain and a first down at the Demons 30-yard line.
On the next play, speed back Allende took off on his touchdown run, getting to the outside and sprinting down the left sideline, tying the game at 7 after Espino’s extra-point kick with 21.9 seconds left before halftime.
Allende, a junior, finished with 107 yards in 11 carries. Lopez accumulated 79 yards and 10 carries, and Hofmeister had four carries for 66 yards.
Junior wideout Zach Reynolds totaled two catches for a team-high 43 receiving yards and, lining up as a tight end, lineman Jayce Brack even got into the act with a 19-yard pass reception.
Marshall also had a pass interception from his linebacker spot, and pinned the Demons at 1-yard line second on a second-half punt.
“He made a lot of big plays in a lot of different places for us,” Black said of Marshall.
Great Bend’s punishing defense was led by linebacker Hunter Harrison with 19 tackles. He also had one of four sacks on Newton.
Chris Burley had 10 tackles, and Chad Touslee had nine tackles and registered a team-high two sacks.
Ethan Henderson, Ryan Zecha and Hofmeister had seven stops apiece. Brack had six tackles and one sack.
Henderson also had a sack and two tackles for loss.
Greg Burley made a big special-teams play, blocking a field goal.
Great Bend travels to Liberal this coming Friday for another WAC game.
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
Western Athletic Conference
At Dodge City
Great Bend Panthers 24,
Dodge City Red Demons 7
1 2 3 4 F
Great Bend 0 7 3 14 — 24
Dodge City 7 0 0 0 — 7
Dodge City — Dakota Duckett 75 pass from Kelan Newton (Dilllon Burkhead), 2:43
Great Bend — Jonathan Allende 30 run (Mario Espino kick), 21.9
Great Bend — Mario Espino 32 FG, 9:06
Great Bend — Josh Lopez 45 run (Espino kick), 11:13
Great Bend — Bryce Hofmeister 28 run (Espino kick), 2:17
First Downs 15 17
Total Net Yards 268 487
Rushes-Yards 27-31 44-336
Passing yards 237 151
Comp-Att-Int 20-29-1 11-17-1
Punts-Avg. 4-39.3 3-40.0
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 1-0
Penalties-Yards 2-10 15-105
RUSHING — Dodge City, Parker Davis 16-90, Kelan Newton 8-(minus-45), Jones 1-(minus-7), Middleton 1-0, Doan 1-(minus-10); Great Bend, Allende 11-107, Marshall 11-38, Lopez 10-79, Beck 7-39, Hofmeister 4-66, Ibarra 1-7
PASSING — Dodge City, Newton 20-29-1 237; Great Bend, Marshall 11-15-1 151; Beck 0-2-0 0
RECEIVING — Dodge City, Duckett 10-159, Davis 4-23, Murphy 3-36, Flax 1-15, Galloway 1-3, Schultet 1-1; Great Bend, Beck 4-33, Reynolds 2-43, Ibarra 2-25, Lopez 1-26, Brack 1-19, Allende 1-5
GBHS DEFENSIVE CHART
Harrison 19 tackles, 1 sack, Chris Burley 10 tackles, Touslee 9 tackles, 2 sacks, Haines 6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss, Hofmeister 7 tackles, Henderson 7 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss, Zecha 7 tackles, Brack 6 tackles, 1 sack, Marshall 5 tackles, 1 INT, Greg Burley 4 tackles, blocked field-goal attempt