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Panthers play like underdogs
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Great Bend back Cal Marshall (11) goes airborne against Valley Center during a class 5A football playoff game. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune


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

Goddard’s top-ranked defense will present the ultimate test for the No. 1 ranked Great Bend Panthers. The winner of Friday’s semifinal at Memorial Stadium will qualify for the Class 5A state championship at Pittsburg.
It’s the most important home game for Great Bend since 2006 when the Panthers upset Wichita Carroll 21-14 to qualify for the 5A championship game.
Goddard (10-1) and Great Bend (10-1) each average 40 ppg, but the Lions’ defense yields 14.5 ppg. Goddard’s defense has 30 takeaways and the Lions are plus 17 in turnover margin. Goddard limited Wichita Heights to 38 second-half yards in a 28-14 quarterfinal victory. The Lions intercepted six passes and scored a defensive touchdown to beat Wichita Carroll 20-12 in the second round. Ian Mcswain has seven interceptions.
“Goddard has a comparable defense to the best we’ve seen. The defenses only get tougher,” said Great Bend coach Erin Beck. “They beat two of the top teams in 5A in Carroll and Heights. They have much deserved respect. They mirror what we do and run the same defense. Their front three and linebackers are all over 200 pounds. We’ll have our hands full.”
QB Jacob Murray leads an offense averaging 431 yards and 40 ppg. Murray averages 301 yards total offense with 2,071 yards passing and 1,268 yards rushing. He’s passed for 21 scores and rushed for 25 touchdowns.
Panthers TB Cal Marshall (1,055 yards, 13 TDs), WR Bryce Lytle (1,001 yards, 11 TDs), WR Brayden Smith (628 yards, 9 TDs) and Koy Brack (375 yards) supply offensive firepower.
The weather may play a critical factor. The temperatures will start in the mid 40s with winds gusting to 23 mph Friday night.
Murray’s running balances the Panthers’ offense, which averages 231 yards rushing.
Much of the Panthers’ offense revolves around Lytle, who passed the 1,000-yard barrier on a game-winning touchdown.
“Bryce has got a winner’s mentality and that’s what makes him special,” Beck said. “They’ve taken two of their defenders to guard one of our guys.”
The Panthers have rallied in the past two playoff games with a tenacity that Beck likes. The Panthers have shown the capacity to rally from a deficit.
“No one thinks we’re ever out of anything,” Beck said. “We’ve been in that situation before. “It’s an honor to one of the last two teams standing on the west, It’s a great accomplishment.
“We carry an underdog mentality.”
Great Bend has won three playoff games for the first time since 2006 when they finished as Class 5A state runner-up.
The Panthers have earned 10 takeaways in three playoff games. The Panthers are plus 16 on turnovers with seven giveaways.
“Our defense has played better every week and that’s what you want,” Beck said.
LB Payton Mauler (15 tackles per game), S Dalton Miller (11 tackles per game) and LB Jensen Randall (9 tackles per game) lead an improving defense.
Quarterback Blake Sullivan rushed for 211 yards and three touchdowns. Sullivan (1,438 yards, 24 TDs) and (1,155 yards, 14 TDs) is a double threat quarterback much like Great Bend’s Murray.
TB Kody Gonzalez (1,533 yards, 15 TDs) help the Lions average 280 yards rushing.
“They are very comparable to the best teams we’ve seen,” Beck said. “Their tailback runs angry. Sullivan has a smiliar skill set to Jacob Murray. He has the ability to run the football. It’ll be another battle at Memorial Stadium.”

GODDARD (10-1)
Olathe NW 27-26, OT
Derby 6-35
Andover 50-14
Eisenhower 60-12
Salina South 42-7
Arkansas City 52-13
Valley Center 49-7
Newton 62-20
Salina South 52-0
Wichita Carroll 20-12
Wichita Heights 28-14

Coffeyville 57-13
Hays High 35-14
Wichita NW 58-47
Dodge City 34-27
Wichita West 42-21
Wichita East 41-10
Liberal 49-7
Garden City 14-21
Topeka West 70-31
Andover 16-7
Valley Center 28-24

7 QB—Jacob Murray, 5-11, 200
11 TB—Cal Marshall, 5-10, 185
20 WR—Bryce Lytle, 5-9, 150
9 WR—Brayden Smith, 6-5, 200
12 WR—Koy Brack, 6-0, 165
28 WR—Cory Burnham, 5-11, 155
76 LT—Aaron Clark, 6-8, 300
59 LG—Trevor Fehr, 5-11, 195
71 C—Kaden Schroeder, 5-9, 250
62 RG—Payton Doll, 5-11, 190
78 RT—Noah Presson, 6-5, 280

56 DE—Pablo Martinez, 6-0, 185
14 DE—Dom Rideaux, 5-8, 205
55 NG—Eric Vazquez, 5-11, 200
6 OLB—Max Jerke, 5-7, 145
10 SLB—Jensen Randall, 5-11, 180
32 WLB—Payton Mauler, 5-10, 175
34 MLB—Blake Penka, 5-11, 180
36 OLB—Braulio Vargas, 5-8, 185
15 CB—Nick Reed, 5-11, 170
27 CB—Mason YellowWolf, 5-9, 165
16 S—Dalton Miller, 5-10, 160