GREAT BEND, Kan. (KWCH) -- Great Bend proved it could score points a variety of ways in Friday’s Class 5A playoff opener against Valley Center. As the No. 3 seed in the west, the Panthers used a pair of safeties, a long field goal and the usual touchdowns to down the Hornets 35-18 to advance to next week’s round-two game against Kapaun Mt. Carmel.
Great Bend quarterback Koy Brack had already put some points on the board via an early 38-yard touchdown pass to Alex Schremmer, but it was the seniors punts that played an even bigger role. Brack’s first punt pinned the Hornets on their own half-yard line. The Panthers wrapped up Larry Wilson in the end zone on the next play for a 9-0 lead just 25 seconds into the second quarter.
Late in the game, another Brack punt resulted in a Valley Center possession at the 5-yard line. Two plays later, Panther senior Blake Penka dragged down Hornet quarterback Parker Schrater for another safety.
“(Koy) had a couple unbelievable punts to flip the field and put our defense in position to pin its ears back and go get a safety,” said Great Bend coach Erin Beck. “He was maybe the player of the game as our punter just being able to pin them deep.”
Great Bend was also able to move the ball offensively. Brack’s first big pass to Schremmer came on just the sixth play of the game. Mostly, the Panthers moved the ball on the ground with 194 yards on 33 carries in the first two quarters.
“Any time you can run the football, especially in the playoffs, is always better,” Beck said. “I thought we did an okay job. I didn’t think we are as physical at the point of contact that we have been in our run game. Some of that is a credit to Valley Center. A lot of that is just understanding where our focus needs to be all week. Each and every game you have to be amped up and ready to go. I’m just glad we came out of here with a win.”
Panther junior Gage Fritz rolled up 127 yards on 18 carries in the first half. His biggest touch was a 25-yard touchdown run to give Great Bend a 16-0 lead early in the second quarter. In the final seconds of the half, Brack found Schremmer for a 7-yard touchdown as the Panthers took a 23-0 lead into the break.
Valley Center took the ball first in the second half but a bad snap on a punt resulted in a short field for Great Bend. Dalton Miller ran 17 yards on the next play for his one touchdown of the night.
The game evened out after that. Wilson scored on a short run for the Hornets, then Schrater found Jeren Carter in the corner of the end zone for a 21-yard strike and 32-12 score with 3:51 to play.
The Panthers picked up their final points of the night on a 39-yard field goal from senior Dani Franco. On the final play of the game, Hornet senior Zach Williams pulled in a 13-yard touchdown catch from Schrater.
The Panthers kept Wilson in check with just 43 yard s on 19 carries. Cooper Holdaway added 37 yards on his five attempts. Schrater finished strong to close out his night with 125 yards and two scores on 13-of-20 passing.
Fritz paced the Panther offense with 179 yards on 33 carries. Miller added 114 yards on 14 attempts. Brack, one of the state’s top passers, completed six of his 15 pass attempts for 102 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Kapaun (7-2) downed Hays 48-28 in their playoff opener. The Crusaders will visit Great Bend (7-2) next Friday.