Not quite enough: Busters fall short in bid vs. Dragons
By J. LEVI BURNFIN
HUTCHINSON — The Garden City Community College football team needed to play its best game of the year, head coach Matt Miller said, to come out of Hutchinson with a win. The performance was far from it.
Freshman quarterback Akeem Jones threw four interceptions and the No. 12 Busters committed 20 penalties for 164 yards in a 34-24 conference loss to the No. 13 Blue Dragons in front of a crowd of 2,200 at Gowans Stadium on Saturday night.
“There was not a single good thing I could tell you about our offense in the first half,” said Miller. “That was as bad a first half as I’ve been a part of in football. We had some opportunities, we dropped some deep passes that Akeem put on the money. But really, that was our only offense in the first half.”
Despite the early sloppy play that led the Busters to trail 27-10 late in the third, Garden City had a chance late to complete a comeback, thanks in large part to the stingy Buster defense.
“I thought our defense played one heck of a game. They put us in a position to win the football game and we didn’t execute,” Miller said about his offense.
The offense, though, did start to come to life early in the fourth.
The Busters scored two minutes into the final quarter on their best drive of the night, an 11-play, 74-yard march, finished off by a 16-yard strike from Jones to sophomore Tyreek Hill. The point-after attempt was blocked, leaving the Busters down 27-16.
Then, the Busters capitalized on a fumble by Hutchinson’s Chris Murray on an ill-advised punt return. The Busters recovered and drove 35 yards in five plays to score on Mike Gerst’s 3-yard burst up the middle. Jones hit Brandon Snell on a rollout to the left for the two-point conversion to pull within three, 27-24, with 7:41 to go.
“Our offense put us in some situations to win the game,” defensive coordinator Jeff Kelly said. “So the defense has got to capitalize on those times.”
This was one of those times. All the Busters needed was a stop, something they had been doing all night, forcing the Blue Dragons to go three-and-out seven times. Instead, Hutchinson was able to mount a 7-play, 68-yard touchdown drive. After five runs and a short pass gained 26 yards and drained the clock of three minutes, the Buster defense was fooled on a play fake and sophomore quarterback Luke Barnes found sophomore Jabril Soloman behind the Buster secondary for a 42-yard touchdown pass, Barnes’ second of the game, giving the Blue Dragons the 34-24 lead with only four minutes to play.
On the Busters’ ensuing drive, with the clock ticking down, Jones overthrew freshman Brandon Snell on a desperate deep heave and the Blue Dragons’ Shattle Fenteng got his second pick of the night to cement the win.
It was Fenteng’s first theft on the night that gave the Blue Dragons’ the seemingly insurmountable 27-10 lead in the third. Sophomore receiver Nile Daniel broke free on a comeback route and Jones made the read and throw for what should have been an easy first down. Instead, Daniel fell on his break and the ball sailed into Fenteng’s waiting arms and he was able to easily run the 41 yards back for the score.
There were at least two other pivotal moments in the game that turned the tide against the Busters.
The first was after the Busters tied the score at seven, answering the Dragons’ opening 7-play, 45-yard drive with their own touchdown haul of 55 yards on 11 plays as Gerst scored from two yards out. The Busters set up to kickoff after the score and sophomore place kicker Tyler Peterson dropped a perfect on-side kick that traveled the minimum 10 yards and recovered it himself.
The Busters were in perfect position to gain the momentum and the lead. However, on the first play from scrimmage, Jones was hit from behind after scrambling out of the pocket, fumbled and the Dragons recovered.
The second turning point was late in the first, after both offenses struggled to gain any traction, when the Blue Dragons faced a 4th-and-short. They lined up for a punt but instead snapped it to the up-back who ran up the middle for 57 yards to set up Hutchinson’s second touchdown.
The Busters pulled within four on Peterson’s 35-yard field goal, which capped a 9-play, 68-yard drive, with 11 minutes to play in the second. But then the Dragons scored 14 consecutive points on Barnes’ first touchdown pass of the game, a 5-yard toss to Murray, and then Fenteng’s pick-six.
Jones’ second interception came at the end of the half on a Hail Mary attempt. His third, though, put a stop to a march into the Dragons’ territory as Jones was hit as he threw and sophomore Christian Goodlett came down with the pick.
The Busters dropped to 1-1 in the KJCCC and 2-1 overall. Hutchinson moved to 2-0 in the KJCCC and 2-1 overall. Garden City has an upcoming bye this week before facing Air Force Prep on Sept. 21.
Garden City 7 3 0 14 — 24
Hutchinson 14 7 6 7 — 34
HCC—Mike Blakely 1 run (Ryan Weese kick)
GCCC—Gerst 2 run (Tyler Peterson kick)
HCC—Orange Mooney 3 run (Weese kick)
GCCC—Peterson 35 field goal
HCC—Murray 5 pass from Luke Barnes (Weese kick)
HCC—Fenteng 41 interception return (pass fail)
GCCC—Hill 16 pass from Jones (kick blocked)
GCCC—Gerst 3 run (Snell pass from Jones)
HCC—Jabril Soloman 42 pass from Barnes (Weese kick)
First downs 19 16
Rushing 31-66 44-146
Passing yards 207 110
Passes (Att-Comp-Int) 43-19-4 16-7-0
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 3-1
Punts-Average 5-29.8 7-35.3
Rushing—GCCC, Matt McDonald 6-48; Gerst 6-16; Hill 6-14; Jones 9-13; Snell 4--25. Hutchinson, Michael Peek 1-57; Blakely 16-47; Chase Abbington 10-22; Barnes 6-14; Murray 1-4; Mooney 9-1; Fenteng 1-1.
Passing—GCCC, Jones 18-41-4-196; Curran 1-2-0-11. Hutchinson, Barnes 7-16-0-110.
Receiving—GCCC, Hill 6-59; Gerst 5-77; Brandon Snell 5-40; Nile Daniel 2-0; McDonald 1-31. Hutchinson, Murray 4-31; Soloman 1-42; Taylan Ybarra 1-34; Orange 1-3.