Salina Central hangs on, ends Great Bend’s streak, season
SALINA, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - After losing 19-straight games, Great Bend almost seemed impossible to beat the past seven weeks. The Panthers tried some late-game magic one more time but on a cold Friday night in Salina, senior running back Kenyon McMillan and the Mustangs were too much in a 40-35 win.
“Kenyon’s really explosive,” said Central coach Mark Sandbo. “We felt like we got the RPO bite there for a little bit. We’re a heavy run-pass option team. We understand there’s some gambling in that, and we had a couple that were called back. We weren’t too clean in our execution at times, but I think that’s also a credit to them. There’s a reason they won seven games. They’re a really good football team and they battled straight to the end. I think that’s a tip of the cap to their staff and their kids.”
After a 14-14 score at the half, the Mustangs began to pull away with things in the third quarter. Junior quarterback Gunnar Gross capped the first drive of the second half with a 13-yard score. Central needed just three plays on its next two scoring drives as McMillan ripped off runs of 43 and 40 yards. His third score of the night gave the Mustangs a 33-14 lead with 27 seconds to play in the third.
Then Great Bend clawed back. Junior Cody Miller capped a long drive from two yards out. The Panthers recovered a squib kick and again marched the field before senior quarterback Cayden Scheuerman punched it in from a yard out. All of a sudden the Mustang lead was just 33-28.
Central senior Avery Richardson returned the ensuing kick the distance but that was called back on a hold. The Mustangs still could not be stopped. Gross threw for just 78 yards in the win, but found Hunter Mowery over the middle for a big completion. That set up a 28-yard touchdown run from McMillan with just 3:49 to play.
“Sometimes I have to be selective,” Sandbo said. “When you’re doing so many good things in the run game, you have to pick those opportune times. I think we were really good when we did it, we just weren’t maybe as clean.”
Great Bend scored once more on a short touchdown run from Scheuerman but could not recover an onside kick attempt. The Mustangs were able to run out the clock.
Miller rushed for 161 yards on 25 carries for Great Bend with three scores. Scheuerman added 118 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries, also throwing for 75 yards.
McMillan had 84 yards at the half but finished with 276 yards and four scores on just 23 carries. Gross added 233 yards on his 23 carries. His two touchdown runs accounted for 110 of those yards.
Great Bend ends a comeback season at 7-3. The Mustangs will take an 8-2 record to Hays next Friday to battle the 8-1 Indians.
“They’re going to be awfully good,” said Sandbo. “I’m an old Dodge City guy so I’m pretty familiar with the Western Athletic Conference, and we know what kind of coaches (Tony) Crough and his staff are, so we’re going to have to be on our A-game. It’s just fun to be playing that week.”
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