GARDEN CITY — In the days leading up to Friday night’s high school football game with Garden City, Great Bend head coach Bo Black wondered aloud what type of team he had.
Black lamented that his team was too soft defensively in a season-opening loss to St. Thomas Aquinas two weeks ago.
In the Western Athletic Conference lid-lifter, the Panthers were anything but soft against Garden City. They uncorked a large dose of smash-mouth football, utilizing a punishing defense and ball-control offense to subdue the Buffaloes, 21-13, at Memorial Stadium.
“We had lost four in a row,” said Black of his team (1-1, 1-0), which lost its final three games in 2009 before falling 52-28 to Aquinas in the 2010 season opener. “It had been a long time.
“We played a real physical brand of football and obviously, in the second half, that was a big difference. I couldn’t be prouder.”
Trailing 7-0 at halftime, the Panthers roared back in the second half with time-consuming drives and several defensive stands to take the life out of the Buffaloes (1-2, 0-1).
There was a long list of catalysts for the Panthers, including offensive linemen Tyler Uselton and Sean Keenan, running back Jeremy Sigler and quarterback Greg Hildebrand, coupled with a punishing defense, led by linebackers Dakota Ellis and Louis Burley, along with defensive back Connor Sell.
Ellis was a tone-setter, recording a team-high 14 tackles, including nine solo stops, and the Panthers hit the Buffaloes in the mouth and never let up in the second half. Sell had nine tackles, including five unassisted, and Burley had seven tackles, including three solo tackles, along with a huge interception to stem a Garden City drive.
Sigler picked up yards in chunks throughout the second half, and Hildebrand helped finish off Garden City with some huge runs in the fourth quarter.
“Coming in our first WAC game and myself as an offensive and defensive starter, we had not beaten Garden City once,” said Hildebrand, a senior. “It’s an amazing feeling to beat them.”
While Hildebrand finished with 335 yards of total offense, Sigler was the constant in the running game, rushing 21 times for a game-high 109 yards.
“It was a huge win,” Sigler said. “Burley’s interception (in the third quarter with the game tied at 7) really sparked the offense and from then on out, it was just hard-fought football.
“The line was blocking real good, and I was just getting good yardage, helping the team out to go down and score.”