Miller era begins: Busters to host Indy
By J. LEVI BURNFIN
There's no room for error beginning the season with in-conference games. Teams do not get a chance to play a full game against a non-conference foe, find aspects they need to fix and address those issues without the all-important conference record being affected.
That's what the Garden City and Independence Community College football teams face at 7 p.m. on Saturday when the two teams square off in the season and conference opener at Buffalo Stadium.
"You don't get time to ease yourself into the conference schedule," said Garden City head coach Matt Miller. "It makes you crank things up faster."
Starting off the season with a conference win could easily set a tone for a run through a difficult conference schedule. Conversely, starting off with a loss could result in needing a few breaks down the line.
Such was the case last season, where the Busters rode an opening-season win over Independence to a playoff berth in the Jayhawk Conference and a bowl game bid. Meanwhile, Independence fell to 2-5 in conference and missed the playoffs.
"Every conference game is vitally important," said Miller, who noted that his team has been a focused group during this week of practice.
Garden City and Independence exchanged big play after big play last season, scoring 105 points in a 56-49 barnburner for a Garden City win. The two teams combined for 967 yards of total offense, 581 of which was on the ground.
Miller expects a better effort from his defense this time around.
"Let's play defense," he said. "I don't want to get into a shootout again. As fun as they are for the fans, they're not fun for an offensive coordinator."
New defensive coordinator Jeff Kelly said he expects the same — though neither coach knows what type of team they will see from Independence.
"I have no clue," said Miller. "All you can do is go on what they've done in the past."
And that's hard to do considering Independence has changed their offense each of the past two years, according to Miller.
"With this first game, not knowing what they're going to do, we just have to teach the kids to be prepared for anything," said Miller.
He also wants his players to be able to recognize different schemes quickly and relay that information to their coaches so they can make adjustments on the fly.
The biggest advantage each defense has over last season, though, is they do not have to deal with the prolific quarterbacks that shared the field. Garden City's Nick Marshall racked up 370 yards of offense and six touchdowns in the contest. The Pirates' Kaylon Cooper had 351 yards and five touchdowns. Neither signal caller will return for their respective teams.
Instead, freshman Akeem Jones takes over for the Busters and freshman Brian Morgan comes in for Independence. The two quarterbacks have vastly different styles.
Jones is more of a running threat cut out of the mold of Marshall. Morgan, on the other hand, is listed as a two-star "pro-style" quarterback out of Princess Anne (Va.) High School.
Jones is surrounded by proven weapons in the backfield and on the outside. Sophomore Tyreek Hill was an All-American return specialist but also was an all-around offensive weapon last season, accumulating more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage. Jones also has a veteran-heavy offensive line in sophomore tackles Dontavious Blair and Ryan Johnson, as well as sophomores Colby Hamel and Jason Carreon at right guard and center, respectively. The only first year player up front is Mitch Moore, who started for Garden City High School last season, at left guard.
Jones also has sophomore Nile Daniel and freshman Brandon Snell on the outside.
In contrast, Morgan will lead a young Pirates offense, with only four sophomores in the starting lineup: Kyle Nitz, Sean McKissack, Marcus Shearhart and Lampeer Ramsey.
Ramsey and Shearhart are on the offensive line and Nitz is a receiver while McKissack is a tight end.
The 5-foot-10, 155-pound Nitz only had three receptions for 41 yards in eight games last season. McKissack had 20 catches for 171 yards.
Freshman Tomas Colbert will serve as Morgan's second weapon on the outside. Colbert is a 6-0, 184-pound receiver from Stephens County (Ga.) High School.
In the backfield, freshman Calvin Bryant will be the main rushing threat and Jones DeMarian will clear the way at fullback. Bryant rushed for 1,105 yards on 204 carries as a senior at Opelika (Ala.) High School.
That youth extends to the defensive side of the ball, where the Pirates only have three sophomores starting with a combined 23 tackles for the Pirates in 2012.
The Busters also only have three sophomores — two returners — on the defensive side of the ball. But that includes Kansas State commit D'Vonta Derricott, who racked up 55 tackles last season. Kelly and Miller will not let their youth be used as an excuse, though.
"I'd like to see a solid defensive effort," said Miller. "You're only guaranteed nine of these games. We're fighting to get into two more and then one more after that."
Garden City is looking to get to back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 2002 when the Busters ended a nine-year run of bowl appearances.
Know the foe
Who: Independence C.C. at Garden City C.C.
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: Buffalo Stadium, GCHS
Last Meeting: 2012, 56-49
League: Jayhawk Conference
Coach: Matt Miller, (1st year)
Probable Starting Lineup:
T--Dontavious Blair, 6-7, 275, So.; Ryan Johnson, 6-5, 330, So.
G--Mitch Moore, 6-2, 275, Fr.; Colby Hamel, 6-3, 305, So.
C--Jason Carreon, 6-2, 295, So.
TE--Alan Kramer, 6-2, 215, So.
WR--Nile Daniel, 6-2, 200, So.; Brandon Snell, 6-1, 205, Fr.
HB--Tyreek Hill, 5-9, 190, So.; Mike Gerst, 5-11, 205, So.
QB--Akeem Jones, 6-3, 207, Fr.
PK--Tyler Peterson, 5-11, 180, So.
E--Richard Obi, 6-3, 255, So.; Dondre Elvoid, 6-4, 315, Fr.
T--Michael McEachern, 5-10, 280, Fr.
LB--Errol Clarke, 6-3, 240, Fr.; Dalton Gantz, 6-0, 210, Fr.; D'Vonta Derricott, 6-2, 235, So.
CB--Wonderful Terry, 5-10, 180, So.; Tim Hill, 5-9, 190, Fr.
S--Sam Green, 6-2, 210, Fr.; Makail Grace, 6-3, 205, Fr.
P--Tyler Peterson, 5-11, 180, So.
KR--Tyreek Hill, 5-9, 190, So.; Nile Daniel, 6-2, 200, So.
PR--Tyreek Hill, 5-9, 190, So.; Nile Daniel, 6-2, 200, So.
2012 Results (7-4, 4-3 KJCCC)
Aug. 25--at Independence*, W 56-49
Sept. 1--CISCO, TEXAS, W 24-19
Sept. 8--HUTCHINSON*, L 63-49
Sept. 22--at Air Force Prep, W 47-21
Sept. 29--FORT SCOTT*, W 42-13
Oct. 6--at Butler*, L 84-13
Oct. 13--at Highland*, W 28-17
Oct. 20--DODGE CITY,* W 61-20
Oct. 27--COFFEYVILLE*, L 54-47
Nov. 4--at Butler#, L 58-17
Dec. 2--Mississippi Bowl vs. Copiah-Lincoln, Miss., W 31-29
*--Denotes Jayhawk Conference game
#--Denotes playoff game
Independence Community College
League: Jayhawk Conference
Coach: Steve Carson, (4th year)
Probable Starting Lineup:
T--Marcus Shearhart, 6-3, 285, So.; Terrance McDaniel, 6-1, 310, Fr.
G--Adrian Keeley, 6-3, 310, Fr.; Nash Nelson, 6-4, 300, Fr.
C--Lampeer Ramsey, 6-4, 295, So.
TE--Sean McKissack, 6-3, 255, So.
WR--Kyle Nitz, 5-10, 155, So.; Tomas Colbert, 6-1, 180, Fr.
HB--Calvin Bryant, 5-11, 230, Fr.
FB--Jones DeMarian, 5-10, 255, Fr.
QB--Brian Morgan, 6-3, 200, Fr.
PK--Kadin Kerns, 5-9, 185, So.
E--Darrian Williston, 6-4, 260, Fr.; Demecho Crawford, 6-2, 250, So.
T--Dallas Thompson, 6-1, 280, Fr.
N--Jon Perrin, 6-0, 340, Fr.
LB--Richard Dorvilus, 6-1, 215, So., Ben Waterhouse, 6-2, 235, Fr.; Cole Orrick, 5-11, 215, Fr.
CB--Zach Newman, 6-1, 190, Fr.; Cinwon Whitehead, 5-10, 175, Fr.
S--Robert Daniels, 6-3, 195, So.; Walter Crutchfield, 5-10, 190, Fr.
P--Josh Muckenthaler, 5-11, 185, Fr.
PR--Kyle Nitz, 5-10, 155, So.
KR-- Cinwon Whitehead, 5-10, 175, Fr.; Walter Crutchfield, 5-10, 190, Fr.
2012 Results (4-5, 2-5 KJCCC)
Aug. 25--GARDEN CITY, L 56-49
Sept. 1--SOUTHEAST PREP, W 42-21
Sept. 8--ARKANSAS BAPTIST, W, 27-20
Sept. 15--BUTLER, L 84-7
Sept. 22--at Coffeyville, L 38-19
Sept. 29--at Dodge City, W 42-14
Oct. 6--FORT SCOTT, L 54-17
Oct. 13--at Hutchinson, L 75-0
Oct. 28--HIGHLAND, W 31-24