By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-Three weeks into fall camp, Garden City running back Dedrick Mills set a pretty lofty goal.
"We expect to run for 200 yards each game," he said. "We've got the line and the backs to do it."
And while you may not call Mills a prophet just yet, he and his backfield mate put on a memorable show on opening night.
The sophomore rushed for 267 yards and three scores, Charles West added 201 yards and two touchdowns, and Garden City destroyed Dodge City 52-24 Saturday night at Broncbuster Stadium. With the win, Jeff Sims improved to 9-1 all-time in season openers.
"A lot of the credit goes to the offensive line," Mills said after the game. "They were moving people, and we just put our heads down and took off."
Trailing 3-0 early in the first quarter, the Broncbusters wasted little time showing off their shiny new toy. On third-and-9 from their own 41, Mills broke free down the left sideline for 57 yards, carrying Ashton Toliver to the 2. Two plays later, quarterback Nick Bohn snuck in from a yard out, and Garden City had a 7-3 advantage.
"We weren't perfect tonight," Sims said. "But we executed what we wanted to do. We didn't turn the football over, and we ran pretty well."
That may be the biggest understatement of the century. Not only did Garden City (1-0, 1-0) run the ball, they did so with such force, completely annihilating Dodge City's (0-2, 0-2) front seven.
Following another Conquistadors' field goal, the Broncbusters struck again. This time it was West, who sprinted 75 yards to the house on the first play of the series to make it 14-6 with 26 seconds left in the first quarter.
"We believe in what we are running," West said. "And we couldn't do any of this without the offensive line."
That line paved the way for one of the most prolific rushing games in recent memory. Garden City notched 490 yards on the ground and produced two 200-yard rushers in the same game for the first time in school history.
"It's one game, but I can tell you that we feel like we can line up against anyone," Sims said. "We've lost games since I've been here, but we've got some of the best football players in the country."
Sims motto has always been: it's not bragging if it's true. And while the fourth-year coach is modest at best, there's no denying the talent pool in Garden City. Look no further than Mills and West.
Once Dodge City added their third field goal of the first half: a 31-yarder by Devonta Guillory early in the second period, the Broncbusters went for the kill. Mills capped off a methodical Garden City march, powering into the end zone from 22 yards out while finishing off a nine-play, 60-yard drive that pushed the home-team's lead to 21-9. The Georgia-Tech transfer added a one yard score on the Broncbusters next possession before West put Garden City up by 26 when he maneuvered 66 yards to the house, giving the Broncbusters a commanding 35-9 halftime edge.
"We don't play the most talented players," Sims said. "We play the best football players. Football is about a team playing together. Our offensive line has talent, but they're all moving in the same direction."
After failing to score touchdowns on their first three trips into the red zone, Dodge City finally got going in the third quarter. Quarterback John Lux found Eugene Minter for a seven-yard score that trimmed the Broncbuster lead to 35-16 with 4:52 to go in the frame. Then, after stopping Garden City on third down, Malik Wilson blocked James Dall's punt, and Dodge City recovered at the Broncbuster 15. Two plays later, Anthony Watkins slithered into the end zone, Tyrice Richie ran in the two-point conversion, and all of the sudden the Conquistaodrs were within 11, 35-24 with 17 minutes remaining in the game.
"The hardest thing to do in Junior College football is play with a lead," Sims admitted.
Whatever doubt that may have crept into Garden City's mind, was erased on the second to final play of the third. Mills found a lane, carried two defenders, spun off another, and galloped 34 yards to the Dodge City 44. Later in the drive, the Broncbusters converted a fourth-and-1 when Mills barreled over defensive lineman Sekou Diaby for four yards and a first. That eventually setup Ben Raybon's 23-yard field goal that gave the home squad a two-touchdown cushion.
That was definitely the turning point.
"Dillon Williams is one of the hardest working guys I know," Sims said. "And he is a fantastic person. When he decided to come back, we promised him we would get him a better scholarship offer than he had."
Williams finished the night with 11 tackles, a quarterback hurry, a sack and a forced fumble. It was his second double-digit tackle game of his Broncbuster career.
With Dodge City clearly deflated, Mills broke their backs with a 50-yard score later in the quarter, putting to bed any hopes of a Conquistador miracle comeback.
"We just have to keep building off of this," Sims said. "If we keep building and keep moving forward, we will be okay."
Bohn, who made his first collegiate start at quarterback for Garden City, attempted just one pass: a five-yard completion to Keyshawn Jones. Ellis Merriweather rushed four times for 25 yards while the Broncbuster defense recorded four sacks.
Lux finished the night 8-of-13, 156 yards and one touchdown for Dodge City, who dropped their third straight game to Garden City. Watkins rushed for 95 yards on 21 carries, and Minter had three grabs for 26 yards and a score.
Notes: Garden City has won 24 out of their last 25 opening-week games including seven straight…Garden City now leads the all-time series 53-26…Sims is 3-1 vs. Dodge City…Former Garden City Buffalo Demarcus Elliott made his first collegiate start at nose guard, wearing the No.1 jersey, the same number his dad, James wore 25 years ago as an All-American running back for the Broncbusters…Dodge City ran 14 more plays 68-54 and had more time of possession 32:04 to 27:56…Garden City averaged 9.2 yards per carry
Next up: Garden City at Ellsworth-Saturday, Sept. 8-12:30 p.m. pregame; 1 p.m. kick on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app