The first half went well enough.
The Great Bend High School football team wasn’t on the scoreboard, but trailing Salina Central 10-0 did not seem like such a daunting deficit.
Then the Mustangs struck the Panthers with a flurry of big plays as they rang up a 41-14 win on Friday night at Memorial Stadium.
“I was just really disappointed,” GBHS head coach Bo Black said. “We turned the ball over five times, and we knew going in that we have to play a great, disciplined type of game to win these, and we didn’t. It showed on the scoreboard.”
Great Bend drops to 4-4 overall, and 0-2 in Class 5A District 7 action. The loss puts an expiration date on the Panthers’ season as any shot at the postseason was dashed.
Salina South defeated Hays 56-34, giving the Cougars a commanding lead at the district title. Hays plays host to Salina Central in Week 9, with the winner likely being the district’s runners-up.
Straight out of the gates, Salina Central was in a hurry.
The Mustangs fashioned a fast-paced offense, moving the ball 61 yards in one minute, 44 seconds on 10 plays.
“We were expecting them to run ISO,” Black said. “We were expecting them to run trap. We were expecting them to run sweep. We were expecting the quarterback to throw it deep, and it was everything that we’ve been working on in practice. We just got a little overwhelmed early.”
However, Great Bend recovered in time to stop Central, aided by a false start penalty, forcing the Mustangs to settle for a field goal.
Tanner Robl booted a 37-yard field goal to give Central a 3-0 advantage.
That would hold through most of the first half.
With less than five minutes remaining in the half, quarterback Bryce Beck broke open a 27-yard run into the end zone, but it was called back on a block in the back penalty.
The Mustangs held strong after that, forcing the Panthers to punt.
Beck finished with 76 rushing yards, as well as completing 6 of 16 passes for 83 yards.
Central cruised down the field on the following drive, highlighted by a 24-yard pass from quarterback JW Maldaner to Kamen Kossow on fourth-and-eight and capped by a 23-yard TD run by Malik Veal.
The Panthers found themselves behind 10-0 at intermission.
The Mustangs got the ball to start the third quarter, marching downfield for a one-minute drive capped by a 15-yard touchdown run by Dalton Peters.
For the first time in the game, Great Bend answered.
After the Mustangs’ kickoff went out of bounds, the Panthers got the ball on their own 35-yard line.
Beck commanded a drive 65 yards for a touchdown, highlighted by an arcing 29-yard pass to Zach Reynolds and capped by 16-yard keeper as Beck closed the gap to 17-7 at 9:08 left in the third quarter.
Reynolds had five catches for 93 yards in the game.
“He had some great catches,” Black said. “Bryce threw the ball real well early in the game, and Zach made some plays. That was the bright spot in the game.”
Veal delivered the Mustangs’ answer in a big way.
The 5-foot-10 senior broke open a 57-yard touchdown.
“We just couldn’t stop them,” Black said. “If you can’t stop the run, you’re not going to win, especially if you turn it over as much as we did.
“They ran right at us.”
After an interception stopped the Panthers cold on the Mustangs’ 24-yard line, Veal cruised for a 76-yard touchdown run, making it 31-7 with 4:26 remaining in the third quarter.
Things went from bad to worse for Great Bend as the Mustangs recovered their own kickoff on the Panthers’ 24-yard line.
The Panthers defense stopped the advance, but Robl split the uprights for a 25-yard field goal, making it 34-7.
Terrell Rodriguez added another touchdown for Central, a 3-yard run.
Great Bend’s Trent Uselton lowered his shoulder for a 10-yard TD run with 1:10 remaining in the game.
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
Class 5A District 7
At Great Bend
Salina Central 41, Great Bend 14
Salina Central 3 7 24 7 — 41
Great Bend 0 0 7 7 — 14
Salina Central — Tanner Robl 37 field goal, 7:03
Salina Central — Malik Veal 23 run (Robl kick), 1:23
Salina Central — Dalton Peters 15 run (Robl Kick), 10:59
Great Bend — Bryce Beck 16 run (Gustavo Apodaco), 9:08
Salina Central — Veal 57 run (Robl kick), 8:18
Salina Central — Veal 76 run (Robl kick), 4:26
Salina Central — Robl 25 field goal, 2:47
Salina Central — Terrell Rodriguez 3 run (Robl kick), 4:39
Great Bend — Trent Uselton 10 run (Apodaco kick), 1:10
First Downs 22 17
Total Net Yards 464 322
Rushes-yards 50-417 45-239
Passing 47 83
Comp-Att-Int 3-10-0 6-16-2
Punts-Avg 0-0 2-28.5
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 2-1
Penalties-Yards 5-35 4-35
RUSHING — Central, Veal 29-288, Peters 8-68, JW Maldaner 10-34, Rodriguez 3-24, Dominic Eilrich 1-3; Great Bend, Allende 17-62, Beck 17-76, Justin McGinnes 2-22, Greg Burley 5-18, Ty Yager 2-50, Uselton 2-11
PASSING — Central, Maldaner 3-10-47; Great Bend, Beck 6-16-83
RECEIVING — Central, Kamen Kossow 2-32, Casey Rayas 1-15; Great Bend, Zach Reynolds 5-93, Allende 1-(minus-10)