By Mike Pilosof
Highland, KS-In his six years as Head Coach at Highland, Aaron Arnold has beaten every team in the Jayhawk Conference but two; one of those was Garden City. And on Saturday, the Broncbusters made sure that streak stayed intact.
Jadon Hayes hit the century mark on the ground, Garden City eclipsed 300 yards rushing for the third straight game, and the Broncbusters toppled No. 12 Highland 37-7 at Porter Family Stadium. It was the brown and gold's 13th straight true-road victory.
"I think we are playing our best football right now," Garden City Head Coach Tom Minnick said afterwards. "But that's how it's always been with our teams. We progressively get better as the season goes on."
Garden City won their sixth straight game over Highland. It was their fourth consecutive win in the Scottie's home stadium.
"I thought our defense really set the tone," Minnick said.
That defense was tested on Highland's opening drive. The Scotties marched 39 yards in 12 plays, setting up shop inside the Garden City 20. But things quickly went south when Jyheir Jones dropped Jayden Thomas for a six-yard loss on second down. On third down, Joseph Cambridge fired an incomplete pass, which was followed by a missed 38-yard field goal by Jeri Velasquez on fourth down. Arnold could only shake his head.
"I say it every game, we keep getting off to slow starts, and it kills us," Minnick said. "Besides that opening drive on defense, and our offense struggling on those first two drives, we played great."
After stumbling on their first two possessions, Garden City got going early in the second period. On second-and-3 from the Highland 44, Nate Cox, who was playing with a sprained right thumb, connected with Troy'Von Johnson, who smoked four-star defensive back Brian George for a 44-yard touchdown and a 7-0 advantage.
"We know we can run the ball," Minnick explained. "But we have to be able to throw it. We showed that we can do that today."
Following a Highland punt, the Broncbusters put together their most impressive drive of the game; one that epitomized Minnick's ball-control philosophy.
Starting from their own 20, Garden City bled nearly seven minutes off the clock. Ramon Jefferson ripped off a 13-yard run, and Hayes followed with a 40-yard jaunt that set Garden City up at the Highland 16. Jefferson added an 11-yard burst before Cox floated a perfect fade pass to tight end Bryce Parker in the left corner of the end zone for a 14-0 lead with 4:46 to play in the first half.
"Our offensive line was amazing today," Hayes said.
Their defense and special teams, weren't too shabby either.
Late in the second quarter, Highland was punting from their own 18 when the snap sailed over Isaac Gonzalez's head. Backup linebacker Willie Ervin then crunched the freshman punter to the ground in the end zone for a safety, extending Garden City's lead to 16-0.
"We would have played a perfect first half if not for the start," Minnick said. "That's frustrating. But the guys responded after that."
In the second half, the Broncbusters put the clamps down.
On Highland's first possession of the third, safety Kenny White, who suffered a shoulder injury that knocked him out of the Iowa Central game two weeks ago, intercepted Cambridge and returned it 16 yards to the Scotties' 24. Two plays later, Hayes powered into the end zone, giving the Broncbusters a commanding 23-0 edge with 7:20 to play in the period.
"We have four really good running backs," Hayes said. "And when the offensive line blocks like that, it makes our lives easy."
Highland regained some traction the next time they had the ball, driving 55 yards in nine plays. Then on first-and-goal from the four, Alfonso Franklin wiggled into the end zone, slicing the Broncbusters lead to 16 late in the third.
But if the Scotties thought they stole any momentum, it was quickly squashed in the fourth quarter. Fourth-string running back Jordan Ford found a crease and raced 46 yards to the Highland 3. On the very next play, Hayes punched it into the end zone. Ellis Merriweather added an 11-yard scoring run later in the period, and Garden City halted Highland's three-game winning streak.
"Our goal now is to go 3-0 the rest of the way," Minnick said. "We can't focus on anything but the next opponent."
Cox finished 7-of-14 for 74 yards and two touchdowns for Garden City. Hayes ran the ball 16 times for 100 yards, Jefferson added 14 carries for 84, and Ford tallied nine for 89. Johnson caught three balls for 59 and a touchdown, and Krishon Merriweather led the way with eight tackles.
Cambridge was 17-of-35 for 155 yards for Highland. Franklin carried the ball 12 times for 40, and Antoine Thompson, one of the conference's leading receivers, was limited to four catches for 23 yards.
Next up: Garden City vs. Coffeyville-Saturday, Oct. 26-12:30 p.m. pregame 1 p.m. kickoff on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app