BY JIM MISUNAS
WICHITA – An early fumble recovery established an aggressive defensive tone in Great Bend’s 41-10 football victory Friday over Class 6A Wichita East.
Great Bend freshman Dalton Miller stripped the football from receiver Christian Terrell and recovered the fumble to set up Cal Marshall’s early touchdown. The Panthers gang tackled Terrell to force the turnover.
Nick Reed intercepted a pass and the Panthers limited the Blue Aces to 79 yards after halftime. Defensive end Pablo Martinez created havoc all night with two tackles for losses and MLB Payton Mauler broke the school’s career record for tackles in another highlight-reel evening.
No. 3-Class 5A ranked Great Bend (6-0) joins Wichita Heights and Valley Center as unbeaten western-half Class 5A football teams.
Outside of an early scoring drive by Wichita East, the Panther defense held the Blue Aces under control. The Panthers contained the Blue Aces’ speed except for the first-quarter scoring drive.
“We played pretty good defense,” Martinez said. “We had some good defensive stops and everybody did their job. Our secondary played awesome tonight.”
The Panthers yielded no big offensive plays after halftime.
“It was good to see our defense play like that after allowing a score,” said Great Bend coach Erin Beck. “They played lights out tonight. I was very proud of their effort. We came out ready to play. It was fun to see them fly around the football.”
Beck said Mauler, wearing a protective cast, continues to play smart, aggressive football.
“He has an instinct for the football and rarely misses a tackle,” Beck said. “He’s very deserving of that record.”
Jovon Givens capped a 65-yard scoring drive on a 1-yard run after quarterback Greg Sousa completed a 19-yard pass to Terrell and ran for 20 yards to the 1-yard line.
Navarro converted a 41-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead. The Blue Aces gained 116 first-half yards, 72 rushing and 44 passing.
Two second-quarter touchdowns helped the Panthers erase the frustration of two touchdowns nullified on holding penalties -- a 75-yard touchdown run by Marshall and an 8-yard TD run by Murray.
Wide receiver Brayden Smith found an opening at the goal-line when Jacob Murray’s scramble bought extra time on 4th down from the 18-yard line for a go-ahead touchdown. The receivers are taught to continue to find an open spot in the secondary.
“As a wide receiver, one of your jobs is to get open when Jacob is scrambling,” Smith said. “After a while, you’re trying to find an open spot. That was a huge play. It comes down to finishing the job and scoring a touchdown.”
Beck said no play proved more critical than Murray and Smith’s connection with 5:24 until halftime.
Smith capped a 67-yard scoring drive on a perfectly thrown 27-yard touchdown pass by Murray that he caught in stride with 1:13 until halftime.
The Blue Aces held Murray to 14 rushing yards the first half with aggressive play up front.
“They were moving their safeties around and they have some good defensive linemen up front,” Beck said. “They were stacking the box.”
Panther quarterback Jacob Murray got rolling on the ground in the second half en route to 94 yards and he completed three touchdown passes – two to Brayden Smith and one to Cory Burnham. Murray has thrown for 13 touchdowns and 1,149 yards.
Marshall scored on a 34-yard run and Murray scored on 4th-and-goal from the 3-yard line.
The Panthers adjusted their offense and performed better the second half with a trio of touchdowns. Marshall rushed for 128 yards as the Panthers rushed for 228 yards. Receiver Bryce Lytle made a one-handed catch and had 70 yards in receptions.
“We made some big plays to bail us out,” Beck said.
PANTHERS 41, BLUE ACES 10
Great Bend 7 14 7 13 – 41
Wichita East 10 0 0 0 – 10
GB—Cal Marshall 11 run (Franco kick, 9:26
WE—Jovon Givens 1 run (Nick Navarro kick), 5:56
WE—Navarro 41 FG, 3:21
GB—Brayden Smith 18 pass from Jacob Murray (Carlos Franco kick), 5:24
GB—Smith 27 pass from Murray (Franco kick), 1:13
GB—Cory Burnham 22 pass from Murray (Franco kick), 2:00
GB—Marshall 43 run (kick blocked), 9:44
GB—Murray 3 run (Franco kick), 1:13
RUSHING—GB 51-228—Marshall 23-128; Murray 26-94; Gage Fritz 2-6; WE—30-125---Sousa 10-49; Jordan Givens 13-58; Blazer Snell 2-4; Jovon Givens 4-12.
PASSING—GB—Murray 10-17-0, 152; WE—Sousa 8-20-1, 70..
RECEIVING—GB—Smith 2-45; Bryce Lytle 4-70; Burnham 1-22; Marshall 2-8; Koy Brack 1-7; WE—Christian Terrell 3-24; Arturo Chavez 2-19; Khalis Thomas 1-9; Snell 1-10; Kyreece Wesley 1-8.