Miracle at Memorial
Panthers rally stings Hornets
By JIM MISUNAS
The Great Bend Panthers will always remember the "Miracle at Memorial."
The Panthers rallied from a 24-14 deficit to with two fourth-quarter touchdowns to steal a 28-24 Class 5A quarterfinal playoff victory over Valley Center Friday at Memorial Stadium.
Panther linebacker Jensen Randall preserved the victory with an interception. The Panthers celebrated the dramatic finish while the Hornets were left in tears after the heartbreaking loss.
“It was the play of the year by Jensen Randall to get that pick,” said Great Bend coach Erin Beck.
Josh Roeser’s 3-yard TD run gave the Hornets a 24-14 lead with 8:41 left in the game. Panther quarterback Jacob Murray led 80- and 87-yard scoring drives.
“When their backs are against the wall, they are resilient,” said Beck. “That type of fight is who they are. They trust every play.”
The Hornets were in charge when quarterback Wyatt Lange directed an 80-yard drive in five minutes.
“That was the moment where I saw how much fight we still had,” Beck said.
Koy Brack caught a 37-yard pass and the Panthers moved 15 yards on a pass interference penalty. Murray scored on a 3-yard TD with 7:39 left.
“It was an all-around team effort,” Beck said. “We had some unbelievable drives. We plugged away and took what they were giving us.”
On the next drive, Great Bend’s defense forced a punt.
The Panthers’ game-clinching 87 yards was capped by a 54-yard TD strike from Murray to Bryce Lytle with 4:17 left. Receiver Koy Brack caught three key passes, one on third down. Lytle beat Valley Center's defense, which played man-to-man defense on the crucial play.
“Bryce ran a great route and we had the right play called,” Beck said. “Jacob Murray carried this team on his back. He’s the type of quarterback every coach dreams of having.”
Hornet quarterback Lange gained 173 yards and scored on a dazzling 51-yard touchdown for a 17-7 lead after an interception by Dalton Cross. The Panthers responded with a 97-yard drive started by a 40-yard pass to Brayden Smith. Brack caught a 35-yard pass and Murray scored on a 3-yard run.
Murray completed 21 passes for 306 yards that helped offset a 46-yard ground game. The Panthers threw for 244 yards after halftime.
Valley Center was one defensive stop away from rewriting the record books. Valley Center (9-2) won two playoff games for the first time since 1996.
“Tip your hat to Great Bend,” said Valley Center coach Caleb Smith. “They executed some long pass plays when they had to. I wish them the best of luck.”
Hornet kicker Aaron Coash converted a 47-yard field goal for a 9-7 halftime lead with 38 seconds left in the half.
The Panthers converted a fumble recovery by Payton Mauler into a 16-yard touchdown pass from Murray to Smith.
The Hornets raced 89 yards for a first-half score. Tyler Brown caught a perfectly thrown 2-yard touchdown pass from Lange.
The Panthers (10-1) will play Goddard (10-1) in next week’s 5A semifinal. Great Bend reached the 5A championship in 2006 when they defeated Wichita Carroll.
PANTHERS 28, HORNETS 24
VC 0 9 8 7-- 24
GB 7 0 7 14 -- 28
GB--Brayden Smith 16 pass from Jacob Murray (Dani Franco kick), 4:37; VC--Tyler Brown 2 pass from Wyatt Lange (pass failed), 9:51; VC--Aaron Coash 44 FG, 0:38; VC--Wyatt Lange 51 run (Thayer Terwilliger pass from Lange), 5:07; GB--Bryce Lytle 10 pass from Murray (Franco kick), 1:38; VC--Josh Roeser 3 run (Coash kick), 8:41; GB--Murray 3 run (Franco kick), 7:39; GB--Lytle 54 pass from Murray (Franco kick), 4:17
RUSHING--VC—51-243; Lange 28-173, Don Boone 11-52, Roeser 7-24, Caleb Rains 3-4, Keyon Saunders 1-1; team 1-(-11); GB—27-46; Jacob Murray 15-38, Cal Marshall 8-10, Gage Fritz 2-2; team 2-(-4).
PASSING--VC--Lange 8-16-1, 124; GB--Murray 21-30-1, 306; Lytle 0-1-0.
RECEIVING--VC--Saunders 3-59, Tyler Brown 2-12, Terwilliger 4-53; GB--Lytle 8-108; Smith 6-91; Koy Brack 5-94; Marshall 1-10; Cory Burnham 1-3
GREAT BEND PLAYOFF HISTOY (11-12)
2016—5A—FIRST ROUND—Great Bend 70, Topeka West 31; SECOND ROUND—Great Bend 16, Andover 7; QUARTERFINAL—Great Bend 28, Valley Center 24; SEMIFINAL—Great Bend 10-1 vs. Goddard 10-1
2015—5A—FIRST ROUND—Maize South 26, Great Bend 14
2010—5A—FIRST ROUND—Wichita Carroll 49, Great Bend 13; Carroll finishes 2nd
2007—5A—FIRST ROUND—Great Bend 38, Topeka Seaman 14; QUARTERFINAL—Wichita Carroll 17, Great Bend 14; Carroll finishes 2nd
2006—5A—FIRST ROUND—Great Bend 54, Liberal 14; QUARTERFINAL—Great Bend 21, Topeka Seaman 14; SEMIFINAL—Great Bend 21, Wichita Carrroll 14; CHAMPIONSHIP—Stilwell-Blue Valley 34, Great Bend 3
2005—5A—FIRST ROUND—Wichita Carroll 23, Great Bend 0
2004—5A—FIRST ROUND—Great Bend 42, Wichita Carroll 28; Great Bend 56, Liberal 13; Salina South 34, Great Bend 17; Salina South finishes 1st
2003—5A—FIRST ROUND—Salina South 26, Great Bend 25; Salina South finishes 2nd
2002—5A—FIRST ROUND—Great Bend 10, Kapaun-Mt. Carmel 3; QUARTERFINAL—Salina South 23, Great Bend 21
1983—6A—QUARTERFINAL—Wichita Southeast 35, Great Bend 7
1978—6A—QUARTERFINAL—Great Bend 31, Emporia 21; SEMIFINAL—Wichita Southeast 33, Great Bend 15; Wichita Southeast finishes 1st
1977—4A—QUARTERFINAL—Winfield 16, Great Bend 14; Winfield finishes 2nd
1973—4A—QUARTERFINAL—Junction City 10, Great Bend 7; Junction City finishes 2nd