By JIM MISUNAS
Great Bend’s dream of playing for a Class 5A state football championship came up painfully short. A journey that started with promise ended in cold reality on a bone-chilling night at Memorial Stadium.
Powerful Goddard roared past Great Bend 50-21 Friday, scoring seven touchdowns with a physical style that overpowered the Panthers’ defense.
The game was played in 30-degree temperatures with chill indices hitting 20. The Lions (11-1) play Mill Valley (8-4) in next week’s 5A state championship game at Pittsburg State.
The loss ended the second-best season in Great Bend school history. Great Bend reached the Class 5A championship in 2006 when they lost 34-3 to Stilwell-Blue Valley.
An enthusiastic home crowd was rewarded for their support when the Panthers shouted, “Thank You,” a tradition they follow every game.
“This is a year they will remember forever,” said Great Bend coach Erin Beck. “It’s hard when you come this close. They showed heart tonight and the prior 11 weeks. I was proud of everything they did all year.”
The Panthers energized their home crowd with three home playoff games.
“The seniors have invested a lot,” Beck said. “Everyone rallied around this team. They are winners in everything they do.”
Goddard quarterback Blake Sullivan accounted for three touchdowns and tailback Cody Gonzalez rushed for 139 yards and a touchdown. The Lions gained 444 offensive yards. “The Goddard Lions played way more physical than the Great Bend Panthers tonight,” said Beck. “We have to commit to the weight room. We have to get bigger and more physical to compete.”
Goddard coach Scott Vang said the Lions established their physical style at the line of scrimmage.
“We hang our hat on playing physical and playing hard on both sides of the football,” Vang said. “It was a really good night by our defense.”
The Panthers (10-2) were unable to stop Sullivan’s quarterback run game and the Lions threw for 147 yards with timely passing. Goddard converted three second-half touchdowns after leading 28-7 at halftime.
“They are good offensively up front,” Beck said. “They put a lot of pressure on your defense.”
Great Bend quarterback Jacob Murray completed 16 passes for 210 yards. Sophomore receiver Koy Brack enjoyed his best career game with two touchdown receptions and 96 yards receiving. Murray added a touchdown run and 65 yards rushing. The Panthers had two turnovers.
Brack caught his second touchdown pass and Murray converted a 1-yard touchdown for second-half scores.
The Lions roared to a 28-7 halftime lead, keyed by back-breaking big plays. Sullivan threw for 95 yards and wide receiver Bryant Mocaby completed a 35-yard pass to Owen Beason that set up Goddard’s second score.
“We thought we’d take a shot,” Vang said. “We had them on their heels and attacked.”
Great Bend had two touchdowns nullified by holding penalties and quarterback Murray lost a fumble at the Goddard 2-yard line.
Panther Hector Olivas recovered a Lion fumble, and Great Bend reached the Goddard 13-yard line and 28-yard line before the first-half drives ended.
The Lions rushed for 144 yards and passed for 130 yards for a 274-yard first half. The Panthers rushed for 72 yards and gained 94 yards passing.
Gonzalez sprinted for a 44-yard touchdown on the Lions’ second play. The Panthers handed the Lions field position when the opening kickoff was fielded as the football was heading out of bounds at the 9-yard line.
LIONS 50, PANTHERS 21
Goddard 8 20 8 14 — 50
Great Bend 0 7 7 7 —21
God—Kody Gonzales 44 run (Blake Sullivan run), 11:00
God—Dayton Driskill 1 run (kick failed), 10:26
God—Owen Beason 17 pass from Sullivan (kick failed), 7:12
GB—Koy Brack 11 pass from Jacob Murray (Dani Franco kick), 1:26
God—Beason 39 pass from Sullivan (Sullivan run), 0:56
God—Sullivan 48 run (Sullivan run), 10:23
GB—Brack 15 pass from Murray (Franco kick), 3:03
God—Bryant Mocaby 12 pass from Sullivan (Gentry Cole kick), 11:16
God—Driskill 9 run (Cole kick), 9:16
GB—Murray 1 run (Franco kick), 6:30
RUSHING—Goddard—48-297; Gonzalez 15-139; Sullivan 15-83; Driskill 7-35; Ben Bannister 6-24; Trenton Johnson 2-12; Jared Mocaby 2-7; Jordan Cooke 1-(-3); GB—30-111; Murray 21-65; Cal Marshall 9-46.
PASSING—Goddard—Sullivan 8-10-0, 112; Bryant Mocaby 1-1-0, 35; GB—Murray 16-34-1, 210.
RECEIVING—Goddard— Beason 3-70; Cooke 2-40; Bryant Mocaby 4-37; GB—Brack 7-96; Smith 3-64; Lytle 3-34; Marshall 3-11; Cory Burnham 1-5.