By J. LEVI BURNFIN
No one was going to catch him.
Leading 34-14 over No. 11-ranked Dodge City, Garden City Community College quarterback Jake Curran handed the ball off to sophomore dynamo Tyreek Hill on a simple off-tackle run at the Busters' own 15-yard line — instead of getting stuffed up the middle, Hill made a quick move and bounced it outside, where he found a bit of running room.
Or, as he put it after the game, "all I saw was green, baby."
Hill outran every Conquistador defender — even would-be tacklers with an apparent good angle — down the right sideline and hit paydirt on the 85-yard stake to the Conqs' heart to finish off the rout of the previously top-ranked KJCCC team, 41-22.
The lopsided upset win was exactly what the Busters (5-3, 3-3) needed after two-straight weeks of close losses.
"It means a whole lot," said Curran, who was making his third start of the season. "After losing so many close games, just to come out and beat the, right now, the No. 1 team in our conference, and to do it like that, it just means a lot."
The previous two losses eliminated the Busters from playoff contention. While obviously disappointing for a talented team with high expectations, it might have been just what they needed to loosen up and beat the upstart Conqs (6-2, 5-2).
"It's just all about fun, man," Hill said, explaining how the Busters dominated the entire contest. "Coaches told us, 'Just play with your all,' and that's all we did and we came out with a W."
Hill sure did give it his all, racking up 309 of the Busters' 378 yards of offense. The Oklahoma State commit ran for 200 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 carries, and hauled in three catches for 109 yards and another score.
It was the type of game that had become expected of the 5-foot-9, 190-pound speedster throughout his two seasons at Garden City.
"If Tyreek Hill put himself in the NFL draft, he'd be drafted in the first three rounds right now," head coach Matt Miller said after the game. "He's that special."
Curran, who hit a wide open Hill streaking down the left sideline in the middle of the second quarter for a 47-yard TD and the 28-7 lead, agreed with his coach's assessment.
"He's Tyreek Hill," the sophomore Garden City native Curran said simply. "He's a Division I athlete — one of the fastest, one of the best players I've played with in my lifetime."
If not the fastest player in the country that is.
Hill averaged 16.7 yards per carry and 36.3 yards per reception, en route to his best game of the season.
But it was Curran's running ability, and a ball-hawking Buster defense, that gave the Busters the early lead.
Linebacker D'vonta Derricott sat back in a zone, reading Conq QB Deondre Ford's eyes as the passer tried to complete a short pass on 3rd-and-21 at the Conqs' 30 on the opening drive of the game. Derricott jumped the route and picked off Ford's pass, taking it all the way to the 1-yard line before Curran's sneak up the middle gave the Busters the 7-0 lead.
On the next Dodge City drive, the Buster secondary picked off Ford again — this time it was safety Sam Green, who stepped in front of wide receiver Kyle Foster at the sideline to give the Busters the ball at their own 43.
After four plays netted the Busters 37 yards, Curran ran on three-straight plays, only one on a scramble, and eventually broke into the end zone on a 4-yard sprint to the right.
The Conqs cut the lead to 14-7 five minutes into the second quarter as sophomore running back Tyreis Thomas pounded his way in from 1 yard out.
That's when Hill took over, scoring the next two TDs. The first was a 51-yard burst up the left sideline just 40 seconds after the Conqs' score, and the next was the 51-yard strike from Curran to give the Busters the 28-7 lead with 5:18 to play in the half.
The Conqs cut that to 28-14 just before half as Ford found receiver Devonte Robinson at the front right pylon for 4 yards.
The Conqs seemed to take the momentum into half and were 17 yards away from making it a 28-21 game when Derricott came up with another momentum-turning takeaway.
The Kansas State commit stripped Thomas as the running back tried to gain a couple more yards in a scrum, and returned the ball 82 yards for the score and a 34-14 lead after the PAT was muffed.
"He's the best defensive player in the country, hands down," the first-year coach Miller said about his sophomore linebacker.
Derricott's two takeaways added to a total of five turnovers the Buster defense forced.
Hill's 85-yard scamper with 12 minutes to go in the fourth put the final nail in the romp, despite halfback Keymonne Gabriel's 5-yard touchdown run and Gabriel's ensuing two-point conversion run with 4:48 left to play.
"(The win) means a lot," Miller said. "We've definitely weathered our share of bullets and hand grenades and rockets and whatever else everyone wants to come at our program about.
"We know what we're about, and we know what we're building here, and it's something special."
The Busters will continue to build this week in preparation for their final contest of the season, a road match-up with conference foe Coffeyville on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Garden City 14 14 6 7 -- 41
Dodge City 0 14 0 8 -- 22
GC--Curran 1 run (Tyler Peterson kick)
GC--Curran 4 run (Peterson kick)
DC--Thomas 1 run (Shane Brittain kick)
GC--Hill 51 run (Peterson kick)
GC--Hill 47 pass from Curran (Peterson kick)
DC--Robinson 4 pass from Ford (Brittain kick)
GC--Derricott 82 fumble return (run failed)
GC--Hill 85 run (Peterson kick)
DC--Gabriel 5 run (Gabriel run)
First downs 13 30
Rushes-yards 41-261 43-243
Passing yards 117 189
Passes (Com-Att-Int) 4-11-0 13-42-3
Fumbles-lost 2-1 3-2
Penalties-yards 17-144 9-85
Punts-yards 6-40.3 3-35.6
Rushing--GCCC: Hill 12-200; Curran 15-52; Farres James 3-9; Michael Gerst 5-6; Marques Logan 2-5. DCCC: Thomas 24-118; Gabriel 17-103; Devonte Robinson 2-22.
Passing--GCCC: Curran 4-11-1-0--117. DCCC: Ford 13-42-1-3--189
Receiving--GCCC: Hill 3-109; Brandon Snell 1-8. DCCC: Michael Thomas 7-148; Michael French 2-21; Gabriel 1-15; Robinson 2-5; Tyreis Thomas 1-0.