GREAT BEND, Kan. The Great Bend Panthers won their home opener over the Hays Indians, a longtime rival, by a score of 15 to 7.
Great Bend Panther #12 Koy Brack throws a pass in the first quarter. The Hays Indians faced off with the Great Bend Panthers at Memorial Stadium in Great Bend, Kansas on September 7, 2018. (Photo: Joey Bahr, www.joeybahr.com)
This Western Athletic Conference matchup was also the first time that Tony Crough entered Memorial Stadium as the head coach of the Indians. Crough had previously coached the Panthers before stints at Andover and Hutchinson Community College.
A cloudy and misty evening helped to limit the passing opportunities of both schools. While the weather played a role, Great Bend's Dalton Miller stole the evening.
Miller came up with two interceptions in the second quarter. The second one set up a Koy Brack four-yard touchdown run with 2:54 left in the first half. A missed point after touchdown limited the Panthers to six points.
On the next possession, Hays' Palmer Hutchinson scrambled on a broken play and found an open receiver, Mason Ibarra, for a 54-yard touchdown reception. Hays made their PAT and led 7 to 6 going into the locker room at halftime.
Late in the third quarter, Miller capped off his night with a 44-yard touchdown reception. An unsuccessful two-point conversion attempt left the score at 12 to 7.
In the fourth quarter, Hays would drive with the ball, but Great Bend's defense would keep them from getting close to the red zone.
With 2:38 remaining in the game, Great Bend made it to inside the 10-yard line. Hays held them to a fourth down and a Dani Franco 20-yard field goal attempt. He made the kick and extended the lead to eight points.
Hays would need a touchdown and a two-point conversion to just tie the game.
In the final minute, the Indians had the ball and drove to the 30-yard line. Two plays throwing the ball deep into the end zone came up with two incompletions.
Great Bend won the 81st meeting of the two schools with a score of 15 to 7.
Coach Erin Beck of Great Bend credited the win to the fight of his kids, "they played their tails off, they prepared for this game. When it was on the line, our kids came to the call."
"What a fun way to open up a home opener in front of a great crowd," said Beck after the game.
Great Bend improves their record to 2-0. The Panthers travel to face Wichita Northwest next week.
Hays starts the year with a 0-2 record. The Indians play their home opener next week against another WAC foe, Liberal.