BY JIM MISUNAS
LIBERAL – Great Bend football coach Erin Beck saw Caleb Cline’s strategy and doubled down.
Great Bend matched Cline’s moxie by converting a fourth down and recovering an onside kickoff for a 28-0 halftime lead. The No. 3 Class 5A ranked Panthers roared past the Redskins 49-7 Friday night.
Great Bend (7-0, 3-0 WAC) plays Garden City (7-0, 3-0 WAC) at home next week for the Western Athletic Conference title. The Panthers (7-0, plus 123) is the top-rated Class 5A western team and would play every playoff game at home.
Tailback Cal Marshall scored three touchdowns and quarterback Jacob Murray scored two rushing touchdowns and a touchdown pass.
“I’m incredibly proud of our football team,” said Great Bend coach Erin Beck. “We are right where we want to be. That was our most complete football game of the season. They accepted the challenge and showed why they were the better football team.”
After Liberal controlled the clock for 8:21, Beck called for a fourth down gamble that receiver Bryce Lytle converted on a 17-yard reception from scrambling quarterback Jacob Murray on 4th-and-8. The Panthers’ previous first down was nullified on an illegal formation penalty.
“That was an emotional call, but I got fired up,” Beck said. “Jacob made an incredible play.”
Lytle capped the 59-yard scoring drive on a 37-yard touchdown reception from Murray where he beat defender Cyrus Dunlap for a 7-0 lead.
Lytle returned a punt 22 yards and Liberal was tagged with a 15-yard penalty. Murray dashed 15 yards and scored on an 8-yard touchdown with 10:18 left in the second quarter for a 14-0 lead.
Marshall scored back-to-back touchdowns for a 28-0 halftime lead. The Panthers rolled 60 yards in eight plays, capped by Marshall’s 17-yard TD dash with 1:16 left.
Kicker Dani Franco recovered a perfect onside kickoff and Murray dashed 25 yards to set up Marshall’s 21-yard touchdown with 32 seconds left in the half for a 28-0 lead.
“It was a perfect time to do that, unbelievable kick by Dani Franco,” Beck said. “We had seen their frontline guys were bailing out.”
Murray scored on a 43-yard dash and Marshall added a 21-yard scoring burst for a 42-0 lead for six touchdowns on six drives.
“That’s very efficient offense,” Beck said.
The only bad vibe was the ejection of all-star quarterback Murray with 2:55 left in the third period for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Liberal gained 255 yards rushing on 65 attempts in a ball-control offense. But the Panthers showed good tackling.
“We were very gap sound and got multiple guys running to the football,” Beck said. “If we made them drive the ball, we knew they’d struggle at some point. We did a great job staying calm when things started to get out of hand.”
Liberal coach Caleb Cline got the Panthers’ attention when the Redskins successfully converted twice on fourth down, once on a generous spot that appeared shy of a first down. By the time, the Redskins’ 15-play drive ended, 8:21 had elapsed on the game’s first drive.
The Redskins tried for a first down five times on fourth down and converted three of them. Liberal held the ball for 18 minutes, but came away with no points at halftime.
PANTHERS 49, REDSKINS 7
Great Bend 7 21 14 7 – 49
Liberal 0 0 0 7 – 7
GB—Bryce Lytle 37 pass from Jacob Murray (Dani Franco kick), 1:10
GB—Murray 8 run (Franco kick), 10:18
GB—Cal Marshall 27 run (Franco kick), 1:16
GB—Marshall 21 run (Franco kick), 0:32
GB—Murray 43 run (Franco kick), 9:50
GB—Marshall 25 run (Franco kick), 7:43
GB—Brayden Smith 92 pass from Koy Brack (Franco kick), 4:58
LIB—Zach Mansell 2 run (Cesar Bureiaga kick), 1:52
RUSHING—GB—28-196; Marshall 12-93; Murray 11-104; Gage Fritz 3-(-1); Isaac Panzer 1-2; team 1-(-3); Liberal—65-255; Cyrus Dunlap 19-34; Cesar Bureiaga 17-80; Mansell 27-104; Ty Chandler 1-23; Jesse Alvarado 1-14.
PASSING—GB—Murray 7-12-0, 110; Brack 1-1-0, 92; Liberal—Alvarado 0-1-0.
RECEIVING—GB—Lytle 4-78; Smith 2-117; Koy Brack 2-7.