Grand opening: Busters rout Pirates in Miller's debut
By J. LEVI BURNFIN
The only time the Garden City Community College football team was on the wrong end of things on Saturday night against Independence was during the coin flip.
After Independence won the toss and elected to differ, it was all Broncbusters.
Starting at his own 25 after Independence kicked it into the end zone for a touchback, freshman quarterback Akeem Jones engineered a 75-yard scoring drive on seven plays that culminated in a 22-yard pin-point strike for a touchdown to sophomore Mike Gerst, the first of nine touchdowns the Busters would score on their way to a 67-0 blowout win over the Pirates in the conference and season opener at Buffalo Stadium.
The win was Matt Miller's first at the helm of the program. His team congratulated him afterwards with a Gatorade bath.
"It feels fantastic," said Miller. "It really does. It feels really good to get that first one down but we've got many more challenges ahead."
His offense put up 513 yards under Jones, and in his first collegiate game, Jones was as dynamic as promised, throwing for 219 yards and three touchdowns on 17-of-30 passes. He also ran for 64 more yards and another touchdown on nine carries.
Jones' favorite target was his old high school teammate, Brandon Snell, who connected with Jones for six catches, 94 yards and a pair of touchdowns. And, as Miller put it, sophomore dynamo Tyreek Hill was, well, Tyreek Hill, rushing for 85 yards and two touchdowns on only 10 carries, all in the first half. He also caught three balls for 26 yards. Hill did not play in the second half as a result of the large margin at halftime, Miller said.
Yet, the most impressive stat came on the defensive side of the ball for the Busters. Defensive coordinator Jeff Kelly's unit — aided by three bad snaps on punts that resulted in minus-66 yards — held the Pirates to a total of eight offensive yards.
"They came to play," said Kelly of his defense.
The Buster defense started slowly, allowing two quick first downs to the Pirates, but clamped down after that, holding the Pirates to only one more first down for the rest of the half. While the defense harassed the Pirates, the Busters' offense exploded.
After some sloppy play at the end of the first quarter — a botched field goal attempt, a Jones interception, a fumble and multiple offensive penalties — kept the Busters from scoring a couple more touchdowns, they broke out for three-straight trips to the end zone in the second. Hill got the onslaught going, putting the finishing touches on a seven-play, 40-yard drive with an 8-yard scamper for six. Hill scored on the very next drive for the Busters, as well, this time from five yards out.
After a Pirate stalled drive, sophomore Nile Daniel returned a punt 35 yards to the Pirates' 40. On the very next play, Jones found Snell on a 40-yard bomb, the first of their two touchdown connections. Jones and Snell hooked up again right before half for an 8-yard score to put a cap on the dominating 30 minutes of play, up 38-0.
Envious that the offense was doing all the scoring, the Busters' defense and special teams put points of their own on the board in the second half. After a bad snap sailed over the head of Pirates punter Josh Muckenthaler for a safety, sophomore Wonderful Terry returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards for a touchdown. Terry wasn't finished. Two plays later, Terry intercepted Pirates quarterback Brian Morgan's pass and took it 36 yards for another score.
"I can't say enough of our defensive effort," said Miller.
The Busters forced Indy into four turnovers, and also limited them to 10 three-and-outs, thanks in large part to the leaders in the middle — sophomore linebacker D'vonta Derricott and freshman linebacker Errol Clarke. Both middle backers were in the Pirates' backfield multiple times causing havoc.
"If there's a better middle linebacking duo in the country, I'd like to see it," Miller said.
Derricott is a Kansas State commit, and Clarke originally enrolled at Cincinnati before making his way to Garden City.
"It's just brotherly love," Clarke said about how he managed to play so well after an extended period of time without live action. "I don't want to let any of my brothers down."
Freshman safety Makail Grace's interception in the third quarter put Jones and the offense in great position for one more scoring drive in the second half, before giving way to the second team. Jones put the finishing touches on a 20-yard drive with a 1-yard sneak into the endzone to put the Busters up 45-0.
In mop-up duty, freshman running back Matt McDonald was impressive for the second team, taking a handoff from Curran 51 yards for the final score of the night early in the fourth quarter. McDonald finished with 76 yards on seven carries. Freshman Farres James added seven carries for 58 yards.
The Pirates' two quarterbacks — Brian Morgan and Calvin Bryant — were ineffective, combining for a woeful 3-of-17 for 37 yards.
Sophomore Dwayne Carter had the best day on the ground for the Pirates, rushing for 39 yards but on 23 carries. Freshman tailback Hunter Siebert ran for 27 yards on 11 rushes.
"It feels good, of course," Kelly said about the win. "But I'm thinking about next week."
Miller echoed that sentiment, indicating the mistakes he was unhappy with during the game, such as the excessive penalties. The Busters committed 12 penalties for 99 yards, including an unsportsmanlike conduct.
Miller said that is one aspect they will address in this week's practice before their next game. The Busters travel to Cisco, Texas, for a 7 p.m. Saturday kickoff against Cisco Community College.