ULYSSES — Dealing with adversity can sometimes be self-inflicted.
Despite making things difficult for themselves for the second straight game, the Great High School Panthers football team’s record stands at 2-0 on the season.
Against Ulysses on Friday night, GBHS quarterback Bryce Beck ran for a 5-yard touchdown with 8:22 remaining in the fourth quarter, breaking a 20-20 deadlock and lifting the Panthers to a 28-20 non-conference victory over Class 4A Ulysses at Maxwell Field. Great Bend’s Josh Lopez scored on a two-point conversion after Beck’s TD to make it an eight-point game. An offsides penalty on the extra-point kick gave the Panthers the ball half the distance to the goal line, where Lopez tumbled into the end zone.
Ulysses (1-1) then drove to the GBHS 45-yard line at the three-minute mark before Panthers cornerback Brock Ibarra intercepted Tigers quarterback Alec Meierhoff, negating the drive. It was Ibarra’s second pick of the game.
Ulysses later had one last gasp after GBHS fumbled the ball away at midfield with 1:17 left, but the Tigers had their drive die at the 30 and GBHS took over on downs and ran out the clock.
“Our kids played extremely hard,” Great Bend head coach Bo Black said. “Adversity, a lot of it we put on ourselves — whether it be a fumble or penalty or a long kickoff return or a roughing-the-punter penalty.
“That’s a disappointing part of it in Week 2, and we overcame it. But we have to play a cleaner game than that. We just seem to shoot ourselves in the foot at every turn.”
The Panthers put together a 17-play, 80-yard drive for the eventual game-winning touchdown, a byproduct of a dose of Thunder-and-Lightning — running backs Josh Lopez and Jonathan Allende. Both backs had decisive runs on the drive, where the Panthers converted on a trio of third-down conversions during that stretch.
Lopez didn’t practice all week. He reportedly had an MRI on his knee on Thursday and was cleared to play. Black said Lopez possibly has a sprained knee.
“He was a little banged up, so we used him sparingly,” Black said of Lopez, who was coming off a 103-yard rushing performance during the Panthers’ 14-6 road win over Hoisington, scoring both of their touchdowns. “We hope to have him full-speed next Friday.
“I thought Johnny Allende had a great game, whether it be a kickoff return or making a big catch. In third-and-long situations, he made some big runs and he just did a super job.”
Lopez finished with 67 yards on 13 carries, Allende had 66 yards in 15 carries and Beck had 43 yards in 10 carries.
“Offensively, I thought we played better up front,” Black said of his team’s offensive line. “We ran OK, but it just feels like we have a long ways to go.
“Obviously, we’re happy with the win, but not satisfied with the way we played offensively.”
Lopez’s 4-yard scoring run at the outset of the third quarter, the 10:19 mark, gave the Panthers a 20-13 lead.
But Ulysses’ standout freshman running back, Ian Rudzik, broke free for a 71-yard scamper for a touchdown, tying the game and setting the stage for the final quarter.
Jorge Mendez kicked a 26-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter, pulling Ulysses even with Great Bend at 13 at halftime.
It was a back-and-forth opening half, with both teams using momentum swings to answer each other. Ulysses had the initial momentum, driving for the game’s first score on its opening possession.
After bobbling the opening kickoff, Tate Annis returned it from his own 10 to the GBHS 45, giving the Tigers field position in Panthers territory from the get-go.
Ulysses proceeded to grind it out with its ground game, although Great Bend’s defense stiffened inside the 10-yard line as the Tigers had to settle for Mendez’s 22-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.
Keyed by a pass interception of Meierhoff’s aerial over the middle, Ibarra’s first pick put the Panthers in business. It led to Beck’s 9-yard scoring pass to fullback Matt Marshall, who caught the ball in the flat and raced to the end zone untouched with 28.4 seconds left in the opening quarter. Mario Espino’s extra-point kick made it 7-3.
Ulysses went ahead 10-7 in the second quarter, when Annis caught a 32-yard TD pass from Meierhoff midway through the period. Annis set up the score by intercepting a Beck aerial and returning it down the right sideline.
But the Panthers regained the lead, 13-10, after they drove 61 yards in 10 plays, capped by Beck’s keeper for a 9-yard TD at the four-minute mark before intermission.
Ulysses then answered with its short field goal to knot the score.
Great Bend plays its home and Western Athletic Conference opener on Friday, taking on Garden City at Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
“That’s one good thing we can talk about,” Black said. “We’ll take 2-0, no matter how ugly it is, and we’re right where we need to be. We get to come back home and continue to improve and get better.
“We beat a good football team. (Ulysses) had only three losses the last two years, and they’re a very good and physical 4A football team.”
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
Great Bend 28, Ulysses 20
1 2 3 4 F
Great Bend 7 6 7 8 — 28
Ulysses 3 10 7 0 — 20
Ulysses — Jorge Mendez 22 FG, 6:15
Great Bend — Matt Marshall 10 pass from Bryce Beck (Mario Espino kick), 0:28
Ulysses — Tate Annis 29 pass from Alec Meierhoff (Mendez kick)
Great Bend — Beck 9 run (conversion failed), 4:00
Ulysses — Mendez 26 FG, 0:00
Great Bend — Josh Lopez 4 run (Espino kick), 10:19
Ulysses — Ian Rudzik 71 run (Mendez kick), 8:30
Great Bend — Beck 5 run (Lopez run), 8:22
First Downs 12 17
Rushes-yards 48-213 38-176
Passing 48 107
Total net yards 261 283
Comp-Att-Int 4-11-2 9-14-1
Punts-Avg. 1-34.0 1-34.0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-yds 6-45 11-95
RUSHING — Ulysses, Rudzik 15-129, Sandoval 16-29, Meierhoff 10-26, Romero 4-6, Haney 3-24; Great Bend, Jonathan Allende 15-66, Lopez 13-67, Beck 10-43.
PASSING — Ulysses, Meierhoff 4-11-2 48; Great Bend, Beck 9-14-1 107.
RECEIVING — Ulysses, Annis 3-43, Seger 1-5; Great Bend, Marshall 6-62, Allende 2-25, Mitch Johnsonn 2-20.