SALINA — After enjoying a 5-1 start to the high school football season, Class 5A District 7 has been unkind to Great Bend.
The Panthers, competing in arguably the state’s toughest all-class district, were officially eliminated from playoff contention on Friday night after absorbing a 20-13 road loss to Salina Central.
“We’ve looked forward to this year with these kids for a long time,” Great Bend head coach Bo Black said in the aftermath of the loss to Central, inside the Salina District Stadium press box.
“The last couple years, maybe not the most talented group, but we’ve always been in a position at the end to do it.
“To know that we’re done tonight, that makes it even more disappointing.”
In the other district game, Salina South pounded Hays 35-6, clinching the Cougars, 7-1 overall, a playoff berth with a 2-0 district mark.
The Panthers (5-3, 0-2) host South this Friday night at Memorial Stadium in their regular-season and district finale — a game that will be televised on Cox (Channel 22). Kick time is set for 7.
“We get to come out and play for pride,” Black said. “It will be a state-wide televised game.”
The district’s second playoff berth will be determined when Central (3-5, 1-1) meets Hays (6-2, 1-1) in Salina.
Two weeks ago, the Panthers only had one loss through the first six weeks and entertained hopes of a share of the Western Athletic Conference championship.
After losing 31-13 to Hays, which won the WAC crown outright with a 4-0 record, the Panthers suddenly found themselves on the outside looking in after Friday night’s narrow loss to the Mustangs.