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Panthers close out road swing at North Friday
Great Bend vs. Wichita North preview - photo by Dale Hogg

Last week’s 42-28 loss at undefeated Garden City gave the Great Bend Panthers a chance to examine and cleanup some mistakes that tend to exhibit themselves with a youthful bunch of ball players. The Panthers, 2-1 and 1-1 in WAC play, suffered four turnovers and 11 penalties for more than 90 yards against one of the most athletic teams Great Bend will face all season.

Despite the miscues the Panthers ate up 325 yards of real estate with 94 of those yards coming off the feet of Jacob Murray. Bryce Lytle grabbed a team high 169 yards after eight receptions.

For the first three quarters the Great Bend defense tussled with the Buffaloes as Jared Maneth and Jose Batres collected nine tackles each. Dominique Rideaux recovered a fumble while Sam Witte caused a cough up against the Garden City offense.

This week’s practice focused on ball control following last week’s four-turnover mishap.

“Ball security was the big issues for us this week,” said coach Tony Crough. “The way we executed and controlled the ball last Friday really hurt our chances of possibly beating a really good team. Most of it just boiled down to our lack of execution.”

Following a 28-28 tie at the end of the third quarter the momentum quickly shifted to the Buffaloes’ direction as Jesse Nunez scored on the first of his two quarterback keepers just four seconds into the closing period. Nunez would close shop later in the quarter on another keeper. With the converted extra point try the Buffaloes would go on to collect their third victory of the season and begin WAC play at 1-0.

“You can point the finger at a lot of things in that last quarter,” said Crough. “Really it’s just a lack of execution on both sides of the ball. The fact that they were able to run the ball against us effectively along with  a dropped punt return and how long their offense stayed on the field all really hurt our chances. They just really wore us out to the final whistle.”

Crough added that the young makeup of the roster began to take a toll late in the game.

“We showed our age a little bit,” he said. “We have a bunch of young kids with limited or no varsity experience and it showed toward the latter part of the game. It’s just a lack of composure which is something we’ll have to grow out of as the season progresses.”

One of the bright spots on the stat sheet was the fact that Great Bend converted 100 percent of their extra point attempts thanks to the return of freshman kicker Carlos Franco who missed the game at Hays because of injury.

“We have our kicking game back,” said Crough. “Carlos is a good, young kicker. His consistency on extra points has gotten better and I’m glad we’ll be able to have him on board for the next three years.”

Despite the loss against one of the most physical teams the Panthers have seen injuries have been kept in check heading into tonight’s matchup against 6-A Wichita North.

“We’ve got a couple of guys dinged up,” Crough said. “We’re having to dig into our depth a little bit on our offensive line and our secondary with one our cornerbacks going down so this has been the most bumps and bruises we’ve had all season but we’ve been so fortunate because we have guys stepping in to fill those positions.”

Friday it’s Wichita North, a team looking for it’s first season victory after falling to Wichita Northwest 51-14 last week. The Redskins opened the season with a pair of losses to Wichita South (34-14) and Wichita West (39-6).

“Although their record doesn’t show it these guys are a dangerous bunch especially in their skilled positions,” said Crough. “They’re also fast and have some guys that can make some big plays. If they get just a little confidence and feel like they have a chance to compete they can be real trouble. What we need to do is try to control the game early and get a big lead on them and not allow the momentum to shift their way.”

Friday's game is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will take place on the campus of Wichita Heights High School.