EARL WATT • Leader & Times
Trystian Juarez broke free on a 63-yard touchdown run to give the Redskins an early lead Friday night against Garden City, but the Redskins couldn’t protect the lead in the second half, and the Buffaloes corralled the shorthanded Redskins offense to defeat Liberal 35-14.
The Redskins played without quarterback Brooks Kappelmann who was injured at the end of the first half of the game against Dodge City, and Aidan Schwindt stepped in to the backfield to run the offense against Garden City.
Izzy Garcia-Rotolo was also injured but played sparingly. Garcia-Rotolo entered the game as one of the top receivers in the Western Athletic Conference, but an injured thumb prevented him form being able to play at full strength.
Several other Redskins came out of the locker room without pads nursing injuries, but the Redskins competed early despite being shorthanded.
Adan Amador provided an early spark for the Redskins on offense by intercepting a Garden City pass at the Redskins 37 yard line, and Schwindt handed the ball to Juarez who broke through the left side of the Buffalo line and sprinted to the sideline and to the end zone for an early 7-0 lead.
But the Buffaloes responded with the first of several long, sustained drives. Garden City went 65 yards in 10 plays, all runs, and reached the end zone on a seven-yard run to tie the game 7-7.
But the Redskins continued to move the ball with big hits on the next drive with a 20-yard run from Juarez, a 13-yard run from Schwindt, a six-yard run from Juarez and a 12-yard run from Schwindt.
The Redskins finished the drive with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Schwindt to Zayden Martinez who outjumped the Buffalo defender and caught the ball from behind, and the Redskins took a 14-7 lead with an 80-yard, five play drive.
But the Buffaloes put together another 10-play drive that went 67 yards and was all on the ground until the final pass to the sideline, and the Buffalo receiver broke two tackles and scrambled 23 yards for a touchdown and a 14-14 tie.
That’s when Liberal’s offense started to struggle, and after a three-and-out, the Redskins punted and forced the Buffaloes back to their own 27 yard line.
Garden City kept the ball for 11 plays and about four minutes to set up a field goal attempt into the wind. The kick was no good, and the Redskins tried to move into scoring position in the final 26.5 seconds of the half, but after a 17-yard run by Juarez and a 10-yard pass to Garcia-Rotolo, the Redskins ran out of time.
Garden City received the second-half kick and had another 11-play drive that went 63 yards for a touchdown. The drive was aided by two face mask penalties and a defensive offsides, and Garden city took a 21-14 lead.
Neither team scored the rest of the third quarter, but Garden City finally had a big play early in the fourth quarter with a 46-yard run that set up a touchdown two plays later, and the Buffaloes went 62 yards in five plays to take a 28-14 lead.
Liberal’s next drive ended on the second play when Schwindt threw an interception, and Garden City took advantage of the short field to drive 39 yards in six plays for a touchdown and a 35-14 lead.
Liberal had a final drive that had a fourth-and-20 when Schwindt completed a pass to Martinez who gained 16 yards but came up short, and the Buffaloes ran out the clock.
“You work all week to start fast, because we haven’t been, and then lay an egg in the second half,” Liberal coach Bryan Luetters said. “If we could put together a first and second half, we are in that ball game.”
But the penalties and the performance in the second half wasn’t what Luetters expected.
“We had some guys dinged up,” he said. “It’s no excuse. That second half performance was really disappointing.”
But players were filling new roles.
“That final score is not a good snapshot of the game,” Luetters said. “When you sputter on offense you can’t get first downs.”
And penalties hurt.
“We gave them 34 yards on that opening drive,” Luetters said. “We just handed it to them. Might as well start at the 50 every time. Then we had some holding calls on runs to the edge. If we can’t get our outside game going, then we are in trouble. We had those mental mistakes. We will fix that this week.”