Great Bend High School used a gadget play on the Panthers’ first play from scrimmage Friday night for an unlikely touchdown.
Liberal answered with a pair of touchdowns for an early 14-7 first-quarter lead at Memorial Stadium.
This Western Athletic Conference football game had all of the earmarks of a shootout, right?
Wrong. The Panthers unleashed 30 unanswered points to shred the Redskins 37-14 on Homecoming.
Great Bend, which improved to 3-2 overall, remained unbeaten in the WAC at 3-0, clinching at least a share of the conference crown with the win. The Panthers clash with Hays this coming Friday night in Hays.
“I’m already thinking about that game,” Great Bend head coach Bo Black said of Hays. “We just need to keep getting better. They have a great team and they’re really, really physical.”
Great Bend accumulated 463 net yards in total offense during the romp, including 319 rushing yards. Joshua Lopez had 122 yards in 22 carries and two touchdowns, speed back Jonathan Allende had 14 carries for 99 yards and Jeremy Sigler had eight rushes for 59 yards for the Panthers, who averaged over 10 yards per running play.
Great Bend’s early razzle-dazzle consisted of a 66-yard halfback pass from Sigler to Connor Sell for a touchdown. Sigler took a skip pass from quarterback Mitch Kottas in the left flat and found a wide-open Sell downfield for a long catch-and-run for the score at the 9:36 mark.
“It’s something we worked on all week in practice and our kids had a lot of fun with it,” Black said. “It was a little skip pass out behind the line of scrimmage.
“We tried to sell it like it was an incomplete pass. Sigler did a good acting job on it and made a good throw to Sell. We executed a little drama class on the first play, I guess.”
It undoubtedly caught the Redskins off-guard.
“Mitch got it to me in the flat and when (Liberal) hesitated, it was wide-open,” said Sigler, who also caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Kottas, helping stake the Panthers a 21-14 halftime lead.
Liberal, which went three-and-out on its opening possession, got a break after Sell fumbled the punt. The Redskins were given a short field, recovering at the Panthers 27-yard line.
After Liberal running back JJ Lewis was dropped for a 2-yard loss on first down, Lewis caught a 29-yard scoring pass from quarterback Caleb Wehling, leveling the score at 7-all at the 6:39 mark in the first period.
After the ensuing kickoff, Kottas threw an interception on second down with Liberal’s Michael Begley making the pick at the GBHS 26 to give Liberal another short field. The Redskins punched in a 1-yard TD plunge from Mauricio Neal for their 14-7 lead with 4:06 left in the period.
Great Bend took back the momentum by scoring a pair of early second-quarter touchdowns to build a 21-14 halftime lead.
“All along, there wasn’t a lack of confidence,” Black said. “Our kids were very confident going into the game.
“We suffered early on from the interception on the screen pass and the muffed punt. After our kids settled in, they played extremely hard and played extremely well.”
Lopez capped a 67-yard scoring march with a 1-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 14 with 9:42 remaining in the second quarter.
After Liberal’s Trenton Hammond fumbled the ensuing kickoff at the Redskins 25, Matt Marshall recovered for the Panthers. Four plays later, the Panthers were in the end zone again as a scrambling Kottas ducked out of a heavy pass rush, weaved to his right and back to his left before finding Sigler for a 19-yard TD pass and a 21-14 lead with 6:35 left in the second quarter.
The Panthers scored on the opening kickoff of the second half on a safety. Greg Burley recorded a tackle on a Liberal returner in the end zone to make it 23-14 at the 11:51 mark in the third quarter.
After getting the ball back on a free kick following the safety, Lopez returned the kick from midfield to the Redskins 35-yard line. Seven plays later, Lopez scored on a 2-yard run to increase the margin to 30-14 with 6:37 to go in the third quarter.
The Panthers scored their final touchdown on a 6-yard scoring run by Allende midway through the fourth quarter.
Great Bend won back-to-back games for the first time all season while bottling up the Redskins, who had minus-1 yard in net rushing at halftime and only 11 yards for the game.
Senior defensive end Stu Hogg was one of many playmakers on defense for the Panthers. Hogg, celebrating his 18th birthday, recorded seven tackles, including five solo stops and one tackle for loss.
“We just want to keep going,” Hogg said. “We want to win a WAC championship and a district championship and go on to the state playoffs.”
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
At Memorial Stadium
Great Bend 37, Liberal 14
Liberal 14 0 0 0 — 14
Great Bend 7 14 9 7 — 37
Great Bend — Connor Sell 66 halfback pass from Jeremy Sigler (Mario Espino kick), 9:36
Liberal — JJ Lewis 29 pass from Caleb Wehling (Jesse Quintero kick), 6:39
Liberal — Mauricio Neal 1 run (Quintero kick), 3:04
Great Bend — Josh Lopez 1 run (Espino kick), 9:42
Great Bend — Sigler 19 pass from Kottas (Espino kick), 6:35
Great Bend — Safety (Greg Burley makes tackle in end zone), 11:51
Great Bend — Lopez 2 run (Espino kick), 6:27
Great Bend — Allende 1 run (Espino kick), 5:43
First Downs 9 25
Total Net Yards 98 463
Rushes-yards 28-11 31-319
Passing 87 144
Comp-Att-Int 6-10-0 6-12-1
Punts-Avg 5-29.0 0-0
Fumbles-Lost 4-1 2-1
Penalties-Yards 3-30 8-80
RUSHING —Liberal, Isaac Gallegos 10-22, Neal 8-13, Erving Altamirano 5-1, Wehling 4-(minus-23), Lewis 1-(minus-2); Great Bend, Lopez 22-122, Allende 14-99, Sigler 8-59, Mitch Kottas 7-26, Mauricio Uribe 1-9, Brock Ibarra 1-4.
PASSING — Liberal, Wehling 6-10-0 87; Great Bend, Kottas 5-11-0 78, Sigler 1-1-0 66, Bryce Beck 0-0-0 0.
RECEIVING — Liberal, 3-60, Sena 2-24, Altamirano 1-3; Great Bend, Sell 1-66, Lopez 1-50, Sigler 1-19, Uribe 2-5, Ibarra 1-4.
Hunter Harrison 10 tackles, 4 solo; Sigler 9 tackles, 4 solos, 2 tackles for loss, Sell 8 tackles 3 solos, 1 tackle for loss, Chad Touslee 7 tackles 4 solos, 2 tackles for loss, Stu Hogg 7 tackles 5 solos, 1 tackle for loss; John Verbeck 7 tackles, 3 solos; Tyler Uselton 6 tackles, 4 solos; Matt Marshall fumble recovery.