The Great Bend High School Panthers are on the rise.
After a Week 2 setback against Ulysses, the Great Bend football team has etched out a Western Athletic Conference victory over Garden City, 28-25, and a shutout against Wichita North, 36-0. Both are Class 6A teams.
The Panthers, who are 3-1 on the season, will look to continue their success against Dodge City tonight at Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7.
Dodge City, which is 2-2, is searching for a way to get back on track after suffering its second straight derailment, a 40-27 WAC loss against Liberal.
To add to the excitement, it is Homecoming for Great Bend.
Panthers head coach Bo Black said it is important for his team to focus on the conference matchup as just another Friday night.
“I think there was an emotional letdown last week,” Black said. “I think they’ll be motivated to play. It’s a conference game. It’s Homecoming. It’s going to be as good a team as we’re likely to see all year.
“We’re going to have to approach this game the same way we do every Friday. Our side of things, the football side, is that we’ve got to take care of Friday night.”
Great Bend is coming off its best defensive performance of the season, holding the Redskins to 70 rushing yards. Wichita North was unable to complete any of its five passes.
The Panthers have allowed 12.25 points per game.
The Great Bend defense will be facing a more diverse challenge than the run-minded Redskins.
“They have a really good quarterback,” Black said of the Demons, who average 26.75 points per game. “I’ve talked earlier this year about the amount of talent at quarterback around the WAC.
“(Kelan Newton) is definitely a part of that. He’s a great pocket passer and a threat to run.”
Newton has completed 49 of 100 passes for 516 yards and five touchdowns.
Dominic Randall is Dodge City’s top receiver with 114 yards, but Steven Bartel leads Demons receivers with a pair of scores.
Blaik Middleton leads the Demons with 162 rushing yards and three TDs.
“We’re facing one of the better offenses that we’ll play all year,” Black said. “They have a good screen game. They have several capable wide receivers.
“It’s going to be a good test for a defense that has come a long way this season.”
Great Bend’s offense averages 27.5 points per game.
Panthers quarterback Bryce Beck has completed 21 of 45 passes for 276 yards and three touchdowns. He has thrown two interceptions.
Great Bend has found success on the ground, with tailback Johnny Allende leading the charge with 435 yards and seven scores.
Beck has rushed for 278 yards and three touchdowns, and Greg Burley has added 212 yards and three TDs.