BY JIM MISUNAS
Great Bend’s first goal of a Western Athletic Conference football championship was spoiled by Garden City in a 21-14 overtime setback Friday at Memorial Stadium.
The loss cost Great Bend (7-1) the top seed in the western side of the Class 5A bracket. The Panthers’ ended up inches shy of the goal-line when quarterback Jacob Murray lost control of the football as he dived for the goal-line on the game’s final play. Murray was ruled short of the goal-line and the football ended up being recovered by Dalton Bieker in the endzone.
“We’d have loved a different outcome. In that situation, you want to make sure you score a touchdown and leave no doubt in an official’s mind,” said Great Bend coach Erin Beck. “That’s the best football game I’ve ever been involved in. As far as a league championship game, it was football played the way it is supposed to be played.”
Great Bend played most of the game without all-time leading tackler Payton Mauler and second-leading receiver Brayden Smith. Beck said both players should be physically prepared to play Friday night.
Garden City’s offensive line had a 73-pound per player edge and the Buffaloes’ defensive line gained a 15-pound per player advantage.
“It was a physical football game and our players matched them physically,” Beck said. “Our guys played with a lot of heart. We had to scramble some guys around and deal with mismatches. It was great to see all our players work hard and do their best.”
The No. 2 seeded Panthers open against Topeka West (1-7), which gets outscored 48 to 10 points per game. Topeka West quarterback Zach Shima has thrown for 1,110 yards and seven touchdowns. The Chargers average 46 yards rushing per game.
“The western side is a tough bracket, and we’re happy we’re in position to start with a home playoff game,” Beck said. “You’ve got to be prepared to play your best every game.”
Murray has thrown for 1,418 yards and 15 touchdowns. He’s rushed for 1,066 yards and 20 scores. TB Cal Marshall has gained 800 yards rushing with 10 scores. WR Bryce Lytle (56-750 yards, 7 TDs), WR Brayden Smith (19-435 yards, 7 TDs) and Koy Brack (24-235 yards) lead a triple threat receiving group.
The Panthers average 445 yards per game and permit 321 yards per game.
FRIDAY’S CLASS 5A PLAYOFFS
Salina Central (0-8) at Wichita Heights (7-1)
Emporia (3-5) at Liberal (4-4)
Salina South (1-7) at Goddard (7-1)
Wichita Kapaun Mount Carmel (2-6) at Wichita Carroll (6-2)
Topeka West (1-7) at Great Bend (7-1)
Goddard Eisenhower (3-5) at Andover (5-3)
Newton (1-7) at Valley Center (7-1)
Arkansas City (3-5) at Maize (6-2)
Highland Park (0-8) at KC Schlagle (7-1)
Shawnee Heights (3-5) vs. Lenexa-St. James (4-4) at KC Piper
Blue Valley SW (1-7) at Pittsburg (5-3)
KC Sumner (2-5) at Mill Valley (4-4)
KC Harmon (0-7) at Topeka Seaman (6-2)
KC Washington (3-5) vs. KC Turner (4-4) at Bonner Springs
Leavenworth (1-7) at St. Thomas Aquinas (5-3)
Bonner Springs (3-5) at Lansing (4-4)