HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
Class 5A District 6
At Great Bend
Hays 0 0 0 6 — 6
Great Bend 7 3 0 7—17
Great Bend — Alex Reed 50 pass from Greg Hildebrand (Mario Espino kick), 10:09
Great Bend — Espino 23 FG, 2.2
Great Bend — Dakota Ellis 10 pass from Hildebrand (Epsino kick), 11:25
Hays — Adam Deterding 15 pass from Jarrett Sanders (conversion failed), 4:57
First Downs 19 11
Total Yards 272 223
Rushes-yards 254 103
Passing 18 120
Comp-Att-Int 2-6-18-2 10-22-0
Punts-Avg 1-35 5-31.4
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 2-0
Penalties-Yds 4-40 6-45
RUSHING — Hays, Casey Sedbrook 23-104, Desbien 13-24, Josh Balman 15-78, David Cardinal 6-41, Sanders 1-5. Great Bend, Jeremy Sigler 6-15, Hildebrand 16-95, Ellis 1-(minus-4), Sell 1-(minus-7).
PASSING — Hays: Casey Sedbrook 0-1-0 0, Sanders 1-6-2 15, Jace Sedbrook 1-2-0 3. Great Bend: Hildebrand 10- 22-0 120.
RECEIVING — Hays: Deterding 2-18, Great Bend, Bowman 4-35, Reed 4-70, Sigler 1-5, Ellis 1-10.
On Blackout Night at Memorial Stadium, the Great Bend High School Panthers catapulted themselves into the stratosphere in a Class 5A District 6 football opener.
Continually stacking up Hays’ vaunted running game, the Panthers came up with some big plays on offense, built a 10-0 halftime lead and held on for a gritty 17-6 triumph Friday night before a partisan crowd dressed predominantly in black.
Great Bend (3-3 overall) clinched second place outright in the Western Athletic Conference with a 3-1 record. More importantly, the Panthers sit 1-0 in district play as they begin preparations for a road trip to Salina Central this coming Friday. Central eased past arch-rival Salina South on Friday night, 31-28.
“We talked all week that it didn’t matter who the quarterback was,” said Great Bend head coach Bo Black of Hays using four quarterbacks Friday night, one week removed from losing starter Austin Unrein to a knee injury. “They ran the exact same stuff that they’ve run all year.
“They obviously wanted to bang it in there with their two good running backs.”
Backfield mates Casey Sedbrook and Josh Balman of Hays’ grind-it-out run game put up solid numbers against the Panthers, gaining 104 and 78 yards, respectively.
But the difference was a punishing Panthers defense that wore down two-way player Sedbrook, the WAC rushing leader, in the second half, along with a Great Bend offense that made big plays at opportune times.
Panthers quarterback Greg Hildebrand mixed a blend of option plays in rushing for a team-high 95 of their 103 yards. But two plays in particular came via the air waves — a 50-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown by Alex Reed in the opening period and a 10-yard scoring toss to Dakota Ellis early in the fourth quarter.
“The coaches made a great game plan,” Hildebrand said of the team’s offensive success. “We make a read on a 5-technique or a nose guard and if he’s going for our running back, I’m taking the ball and making a simple read.”
Yet, it was Hildebrand’s pass plays that furnished the offensive bookends for Great Bend in putting the squeeze on the Indians.
When playing against Great Bend, it can be a lonely thing for a defensive back to get caught out on an island against Reed. But that’s exactly what happened to Hays on the Panthers’ opening drive of the game, when Reed ran a sideline route on third-and-12 while being defended by Hays’ David Cardinal in man coverage.
Cardinal initially got his hand on Hildebrand’s spiral before Reed tipped the ball away from him, catching the ball inside the 20-yard line and racing to the end zone for a 50-yard catch-and-run touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 10:09 left in the first quarter.
“I underthrew him,” Hildebrand said of the momentum-grabbing scoring pass to Reed, the defending Class 5A state champion in the 100-meter dash in track and field. “He’s so fast, and it was just a good play call.
“Of course, who’s going to stay with Alex Reed on the go? So, I just lob it up to him. It’s a pretty easy job for me.”
Reed described what happened on his fly pattern down the right sideline.
“I was running, looked back at the ball and the ball was a little bit underthrown,” he said. “I just went up and got it and took it away from him.
“I was just aggressive when I went up for the ball. When I’m in my pass route, I’ve got speed and it helps me a lot, just to get going.”
The Panthers, putting nearly 11 in the box, were able to stack up Hays’ runners throughout, seemingly getting numerous bodies on Casey Sedbrook every time he got his hands on the ball.
Great Bend worked the game clock impeccably late in the second quarter, driving 82 yards in the final one minute, 40 seconds for a 23-yard field goal by Mario Uribe as time ran out in the first half for a 10-0 lead.
Jace Bowman had two catches for 15 yards on the drive, and Reed caught three balls for 21 yards and also drew a pass interference call on Hays defensive back Taylor Dreiling on a fourth-down pass. It prolonged the drive, giving the Panthers an automatic first down at the 27.
After Hildebrand’s 8-yard completion to Reed on second down with 18.8 seconds left in the half, Bowman then caught a 9-yard pass on third-and-2, giving the Panthers a first-and-goal at the 10 at the 6.8 mark.
Another completion to Reed, this time a 6-yarder, planted the ball at the 4 at the 2.2 mark, before Espino followed with his short field goal.
In the third quarter, Hays burned the clock with a pair of time-eating drives, although it had nothing to show for it. Starting quarterback Brad Desbien, normally a running back, was stopped one yard short of a first down after gaining two yards to the Great Bend 36 on fourth down as the Panthers took over on downs.
After GBHS had a drive stall, Hildebrand unloaded a 58-yard punt, which took a Panthers roll inside the 10-yard line at the 7.
Hays later had a 5-yard running play by Jarrett Sanders on third down come up three yards shy of the first-down marker.
The Indians punted to Connor Sell, who momentarily bobbled the ball before finding a seam and racing 50 yards to give Great Bend a first down at the Hays 27 in the waning moments of the third quarter. An 18-yard gain by Hildebrand gave the Panthers first-and-goal at the Hays 10.
After Hildebrand was dropped for a 1-yard loss on the opening play of the fourth period on first down, he found running back Dakota Ellis, coming out of the backfield, for a 10-yard touchdown pass and a 17-0 with 11:25 left after Espino’s extra-point kick.
“We run the off-tackle toss play all of the time,” Black said. “We just fake the toss and release him in the flat. It was a great throw and a great catch. At that point, 17-0, it just seemed like we had all of the momentum and it really became a clock-melting deal.”
Hays finally scored late in the game after a shanked punt by Hildebrand traveled just six yards. Shortly thereafter, Sanders, the strongest-armed QB available for Hays, threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Adam Deterding with 4:57 remaining.
“This is our biggest win, so far,” Great Bend’s two-way standout lineman Tyler Uselton said. “Especially against Hays. It’s always great to beat Hays, and to control our own destiny in the district is always good.”