By JIM MISUNAS
WICHITA – Watching Great Bend’s football team perform is a lot like reading a book for the second time.
The Panthers outscored Wichita West 28-0 after halftime for a hard-fought 42-21 non-league football victory Friday. Great Bend (5-0) rallied from a halftime deficit for the third time this season.
Panther quarterback Jacob Murray scored a career high five rushing touchdowns to spark 215 rushing yards after halftime. Murray bounced back from a goal-line interception and a lost fumble at the Pioneer 6-yard line.
The Panthers’ defense created game-changing plays with three fumble recoveries, a blocked punt and an interception.
“Turnovers are sometimes we thrive on. The turnovers were big for us,” said Great Bend coach Erin Beck. “We always make good adjustments “It takes us a half to figure out what the other team is doing. It’s always good to see our defense respond like they did and make plays we knew they could.”
The Panthers’ offensive front of tackles Aaron Clark and Noah Presson, guards Trevor Fehr and Payton Doll and center Kaden Schroeder paved the way for 290 yards rushing.
Beck said the Panthers relied on their quarterback run game in the second half that took advantage of the extra blocker. Tailback Cal Marshall freed Murray with blocks on several runs.
“Our offensive line played really well the second half,” Murray said. “I give all the credit to them. We’d love to pick it up the first half, but we’re a good second-half team.”
Beck said Wichita West executed a good defensive game plan.
“Their defense did a really good job taking away what we do well,” Beck said. “They slowed the hitch pass to Bryce Lytle and Brayden Smith and didn’t get beat deep.”
Nose guard Dominique Rideaux blocked a first-half Pioneer punt and recovered a fumble, and both takeaways were converted into Great Bend touchdowns. The Panthers also turned Braulio Vargas’s recovery of a fumbled kickoff into a touchdown.
“Dom is a heck of a football player,” Beck said.
Trailing 21-14 at halftime, the Panthers roared 80 yards on five Murray runs for a 21-21 tie. Rideaux recovered a fumble on Wichita West’s first snap in the second half.
“We knew they punted to the right and I had a perfect angle, so I blocked it,” Rideaux said. “After we got those big turnovers, it helped our offense gain momentum. It helped us a lot. We need to put four quarters together.”
Murray dashed 24 yards on the first play and scored on a 1-yard dive with 9:29 left in the third quarter for a 27-21 lead.
The Panthers put the game away when Murray scored on a 4-yard run with 5:07 left after tailback Cal Marshall dashed 57 yards to reach the 4-yard line. Vargas’ recovery led to Murray’s game-clinching 16-yard touchdown with 2:16 left.
Great Bend’s Hector Olivas recovered a fumble and Dalton Miller intercepted a pass, giving the Panthers a three-turnover advantage.
Wichita West (0-5) rushed for 354 yards to join Wichita Northwest and Dodge City as teams which gained at least 300 yards rushing. Lightning-quick back Kesean Deshazer (5-4, 130) gained 167 yards and sprinted to 61- and 55-yard touchdowns.
“He was really fast and athletic,” Rideaux said.
Quintrell Royal scored on an 11-yard touchdown to hand the Pioneers a 21-14 lead with 10:34 left in the second period..
“West is a good football team that was a better team that first half,” Beck said. “We blew some assignments, but they played really well. But we finished strong.”
Cal Marshall capped the Panthers’ opening 65-yard drive on a 9-yard TD. Rideaux’s blocked punt was recovered by Braulio Vargas and Murray scored on a 3-yard dive.
PANTHERS, 42 PIONEERS 21
Great Bend 14 0 13 15 — 21
Wichita West 14 7 0 0 — 42
WW—Kesean Deshazer 61 run (Eduardo Rios kick), 10:55
WW—Deshazer 55 run (Rios kick), 6:40
GB—Cal Marshall 9 run (Carlos Franco kick), 3:15
GB—Jacob Murray 3 run (Franco kick), 1:35
WW—Quintrell Royal 11 run (Rios kick), 10:34
GB—Murray 21 run (Franco kick), 10:02
GB—Murray 1 run (kick failed), 9:29
GB—Murray 4 run (Brayden Smith pass from Murray), 5:07
GB—Murray 16 run (Franco kick), 2:16
RUSHING—GB—39-290; Murray 27-179; Marshall 10-112; team 2-(-1); WW—54-354; Deshazier 14-167; Royal 16-69; Ronnie Thomas 7-44; Treven Veltman 2-4; Jermaine Bell 4-14; Abonjah Metcalf 3-38; Zion Parks 7-25; Stuker Johnson 1-(-7).
PASSING—GB—Murray 17-25-1, 137; WW—Treven Veltman 1-4-0, 1.
RECEIVING—GB—Bryce Lytle 7-59; Koy Brack 4-16; Smith 5-57; Marshal 1-5; WW—Thomas 1-1