Busters' 'Air' rescue: Last-minute TD lifts GCCC past AF Prep
By BRETT MARSHALL
Garden City Community College rookie head football coach Matt Miller had hoped a two-week layoff, lots of practices to work on fixing the little things, and a different mental approach, would erase the ills of a gut-wrenching 34-24 loss at Hutchinson on Sept. 7.
But after watching his Broncbusters on Saturday night at Buffalo Stadium against a scrappy Air Force Prep Huskies' team, the only thing that Miller could smile about was that his team somehow, someway, produced a win.
Not a runaway victory as he would have preferred, but in the final analysis, the 35-34 come-from-behind triumph was just enough to soothe his flu-like symptoms.
"These games are gonna give me gray hairs and turn me into an old man," Miller said with a slight grimace, minutes after his Busters had rallied from a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit to improve their season mark to 3-1. "We shot ourselves in the foot, and more than one time."
Miller was miffed by the lack of discipline his team once again displayed.
Consider first, the Busters fumbled the ball an astonishing nine times, losing four of them.
Second, they once again piled up penalties — 10 of them totaling 95 yards. Not quite as bad as the 20 penalties accumulated for more than 150 yards in the Hutch loss, but still, enough to cause consternation for Miller.
"I'm very disappointed in us, as a staff, as a team," Miller said. "We must lead the nation — NFL, Division I, juco, Pop Warner — in penalties. It's ridiculous. It's a reflection of our staff, and I'm ultimately accountable and responsible. If we would take care of the little things, then the big things take care of themselves. It's unreal for us to have that many fumbles, that many penalties. We just should count our blessings that we somehow found a way to win."
Had it not been for the resolve of a defense that gave up 216 rushing yards to the Huskies, along with a blocked extra point and field goal, the Busters would never have been in position to make one final, game-winning drive. But they did.
When Air Force Prep's Michael Barden lined up for a 24-yard field goal with just less than four and a half minutes left, it would have provided the Huskies a 37-28 lead. Instead, the Busters' special teams, for the second time, slashed its way through and came up with the big block that ended in the hands of Andre McCallop Jr.
With the ball on their own 9-yard line and 4:17 remaining, freshman quarterback Akeem Jones went to work.
After a meager 1-yard gain by Tyreek Hill on the first play, Jones then went to the air, connecting on seven consecutive passes that sandwiched a no-gain run by the Busters' QB. Brandon Snell got the biggest catch of all, an 18-yard scoring strike on a slant pattern. Jones hit him perfectly at the 7-yard line, and Snell broke a tackle and waltzed into the end zone with just 50.4 seconds showing.
Tyler Peterson's PAT kick split the uprights and the Busters finally had the same lead, one point, that it had barely enjoyed at halftime (21-20).
"It's the first time I've caught a game-winner that I can remember," Snell said. "I had to make up for a lot of dropped passes and the fumble. As a team, we just kept talking about believing. We came out sluggish, but we kept fighting, fighting and just said we couldn't lose no more."
It was Snell's fifth catch of the dramatic, game-winning drive, and the Miami freshman finished the night with 14 receptions for 169 yards and the all-important clincher.
But Snell wasn't the only hero for the Busters. Credit Jones for some of the late-game drama. After numerous fumbled snaps throughout the game, Jones connected on his final nine pass attempts and ended the game with a spectacular 30-of-49 performance, good for 415 yards and five TDs.
Three of those scoring strikes went to the speedster Hill, who snared TD catches covering 41, 35 and 8 yards. He ended the game with 6 catches for 136 yards while Daniel finished with 6 receptions and 108 yards and the one TD.
"We knew we still had a chance, and we knew we just had to have faith," Daniel said. "We've got to get a lot better to be pretty good."
The teams traded first-quarter TDs, Hill's 41-yarder from Jones while the Huskies got a 35-yard scamper from Tim McVey.
It appeared the teams would head into the halftime break locked at 14-14 after Daniel caught an 8-yarder from Jones and Prep's Tyler Williams shoved his way in from two yards out.
But just like they did at the end of the game, the Busters created their own magic at the end of the second quarter.
After Makail Grace picked off a Dominique Allen pass, Garden got the ball at the AFP 37. An illegal shift penalty negated a TD pass from Jones to Hill, but four plays later from the 35-yard line, Jones aired out a last-second pass that was tipped by the Huskies' Courtney Bush only to see the ball land in the lap of Hill who was sprawled out on the ground in the end zone for the good-fortune TD as time ran out.
Not much went right for the Busters in the third.
The Huskies got a 20-yard run from Arterrious Mitchell and a 15-yard TD pass from Williams to Jordan Clay, leaving the Busters in a hole that appeared too deep to dig out.
But this time, the Busters did find a way to climb out of the hole.
It was Grace who put the finishing nail in the Huskies when he intercepted Williams with 15 seconds remaining in the game.
Now 3-1 overall and 1-1 in the KJCCC, the Busters go back on the road for the long trip and a 1 p.m. Saturday kickoff at Fort Scott. The Greyhounds (0-5, 0-4) lost a 37-36 heartbreaker at Dodge City on Saturday.
Air Force Prep 7 7 13 7 — 34
Garden City 7 14 0 14 — 35
GC--Tyreek Hill 41 pass from Akeem Jones (Tyler Peterson kick), 9:41.
AFP--Tim McVey 35 run (Michael Barden kick), 2:25
GC--Nile Daniel 8 pass from Jones (Peterson kcik), 13:59
AFP--Tyler Williams 2 run (Barden kick), 7:21
GC--Hill 35 pass from Jones (Peterson kick), :00.0
AFP--Arterrious Mitchell, 20 run (kick blocked), 10:02
AFP--Jordan Clay 15 pass from Williams (Barden kick), :16.6.
AFP--Andrew Kwateng 1 run (Barden kick), 13:21.
GC--Hill 8 pass from Jones (Peterson kick), 11:54
GC--Brandon Snell 18 pass from Jones (Peterson kick), :50.4
First downs 10 24
Rushes-yards 43-216 30-82
Passing yards 73 415
Passes 8-17-2 30-49-0
Penalties-yards 4-35 10-95
Fumbles-lost 3-2 9-4
Punts-avg. 4-34.7 2-33.0
Possession Time 27:27 32:33
RUSHING--Air Force Prep: Trammell 4-13, Mitchell 7-29, Allen 9-30, Kwateng 5-20, Tamburo 3-8, Shanklin 5-30, Atyia 2-3, McVey 2-37, Williams 5-45, McElhannon 1-1; Garden City: Hill 6-31, Jones 10-32, Gerst 11-14, McDonald 1-2.
PASSING--Air Force Prep: Allen 3-7-1--13, Williams 5-10-1--60. Garden City: Jones 30-49-0--415.
RECEIVING--Air Force Prep: Atyia 2-6, Clay 3-45, McElhannon 1-3, Bronkar 1-7, J. Holmes 1-12; Garden City: Snell 14-169, Hill 7-136, Daniel 6-108.