There were plenty of big plays from different Panthers players during Great Bend High School’s 42-16 victory over Liberal Friday night at Redskins Field.
A strong performance from the offensive line helped quarterback Greg Hildebrand engineer numerous scoring drives in a lopsided win that improves Great Bend’s record to 2-3 overall, 2-1 in the Western Athletic Conference.
More importantly, it will help the Panthers, who snapped a two-game losing streak, bring back some swagger as they begin preparing for the three biggest games of the season: Class 5A district play.
And, it all starts Friday night, when Great Bend hosts Hays (5-1, 3-1) at 7 — an opportunity for the Panthers to pull even with the Indians for second place in the final WAC standings with a win.
And, more importantly, a win would give the Panthers 1-0 district mark, with remaining games with Salina Central and Salina South. Hays lost to Dodge City 35-7 Friday night, as the Red Demons (6-0, 4-0) clinched at least a share of the WAC championship.
In Liberal, wide receiver Jace Bowman torched the Redskins for 22-, 31- and 7-yard scoring catches from quarterback Greg Hildebrand, stealing the momentum from the Redskins and stealing the spotlight on this night from Liberal wide receiver Jade Cathey.
“He had a great game and he made some huge plays,” Great Bend head coach Bo Black said of Bowman, a 6-foot-2, 160-pound junior. “He’s just a steady kid who always catches the ball.
“He made some great catches. We had that long drive right before the half in the hurry-up offense, capped off by a high ball thrown by Greg and Jace went up and got it and got vertical with the end zone.”
Black was referring to Bowman’s 22-yard scoring toss from Greg Hildebrand with 1:57 left in the half. Mario Espino kicked the point after and the Panthers’ lead swelled to 28-3.
The Panthers had several receivers that complemented Bowman. Alex Reed had two catches for 60 yards, and Logan Buehler, who was key in helping to contain Cathey on defense, had three catches for 23 yards. Mario Uribe had one catch for 17 yards, Connor Sell had one reception for 17 yards and Dakota Ellis has one catch for 10 yards.
Running back Jeremy Sigler had 16 carries for 88 yards, and Hildebrand had 15 carries for 86 yards for the Panthers.
The Panthers’ defense limited the top WAC team for passing yardage entering the game to just 154 yards.