By Mike Pilosof
Photos by Adam Shrimplin
Garden City, KS-Just call them "Running Back U."
In their week-two win over Dodge City, the Broncbusters had four different tail backs reach the end zone. Seven days later, they nearly did it again, putting together a rushing attack that looks eerily familiar to the one that took the nation by storm in 2018.
Ramon Jefferson, the Freshman All-American from Maine, rushed for 168 yards and three touchdowns, Ellis Merriweather added 120 yards and two scores, and No. 10 Garden City annihilated Ellsworth 61-0 Saturday night at Broncbuster Stadium. It was the eighth-most lopsided victory in program history.
"We played pretty well," Head Coach Tom Minnick said. "We were used to the option because we saw it with Eastern Arizona. It was a little different type of option. But still, we need to get a lot better."
Maybe so, but regardless of the opponent, what Garden City did on Saturday was truly an eye opener. And dating back to last week, the Broncbusters have now scored 96 unanswered points.
"The good thing is that we usually get better as the year goes along," Minnick said. "We were without a lot of key players tonight, so I'm surprised we did as well as we did."
The Broncbusters took control of this game from the start. Only an MJ link dropped pass in the end zone prevented Garden City from scoring a touchdown on their opening drive. Instead they settled for a 43-yard field goal by Andres Dos Santos Aires. It was definitely a sign of good things to come.
Following an Ellsworth three-and-out (Garden City forced nine of them on the night), Garden City went to work. Quarterback Nate Cox floated a perfect rainbow down the left sideline for Dominick Watt, who smoked Jaron Kilpatrick for a 59-yard gain. On the very next play, Jefferson juked his way 17 yards to the end zone, giving the brown and gold a 10-0 lead with 10:25 remaining in the first.
"What's encouraging, is that we will get a lot of guys back going forward," Minnick said. "We will get Andrew Theobald back next week, which will help out our running game."
That's a scary thought, considering that the Broncbusters rushed for 391 yards on 38 carries, averaging an incredible 10.3 yards per tote.
Up by 10, Garden City put together their most impressive drive of the game. The Broncbusters marched 85 yards in nine plays, bleeding nearly six minutes off the clock. It included a 16-yard run by Jefferson on third-and-3 and a 28-yard laser from Cox to Parker that set Garden City up at the 10. Moments later, Jefferson found the end zone again, zig zagging in from 10 yards out, extending the lead to 17-0.
"I'm happy to get the win," Minnick said. "This is college football, so you take any win when you can get it."
The offensive fireworks continued late in the first quarter when Jefferson's 40-yard run on third-and-5, setup Merriweather's six-yard rushing touchdown on the final play of the period to make it 24-0. The sophomore added a spectacular 27-yard score in the second quarter, Dos Santos Aires drilled a 19-yard field goal, and Kenny White put an exclamation mark on the first half with a 59-yard scoop and score, putting the finishing touches on a 30-minute stretch that saw Garden City outgain Ellsworth 320-52.
"It's pretty easy to find teaching moments in a game like this," Minnick explained. "I don't really recall a major blown assignment from anyone, but we need to correct a lot of things because the good guys start rolling in next week. Independence is a very good football team."
Garden City never really slowed down in the second half. On their first possession, Cox connected with Merriweather for 19 yards and Troy'von Johnson for 17. Then it was running back Jordan Ford, who maneuvered 28 yards to the end zone, pushing the Broncbuster lead to 48-0.
"Our offense is pretty complicated for Junior College kids, and it takes them a while to pick stuff up," Minnick said. "But they're starting to gel."
Nothing electrified the home crowd more than what Jefferson did later in the third quarter. With less than six minutes to go, the sophomore took the handoff from backup quarterback Marvin Washington, bounced to the right sideline and was gone, racing 75 yards to the house. And it was all setup by a fantastic block on the perimeter by Watt, who paved the way for Jefferson's third touchdown of the night.
"Like I said last week, we want guys that want to play football," Minnick said. "Those guys buy in, and we could be really good. We'll see."
Garden City closed the scoring in the final period when defensive lineman Darael Dugar punched the ball free from backup quarterback Kvonte Baker, and recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown. It was a fitting ending to a night where the defense forced three more turnovers, bringing their season total to nine in just three games. Putting it more into context, the Broncbusters scored two defensive touchdowns in this game. They had two all of last season.
The Broncbusters totaled a season-best 583 yards and 19 first downs. Cox finished 9-of-14 for 192 yards. He hasn't thrown an interception yet this season. Ford added 69 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown, and Washington had 42 yards on the ground. White tallied five tackles and a 60-yard fumble return for a touchdown, and Ryan McClain totaled five tackles, a quarterback pressure and a fumble recovery.
AJ Payne completed just 2-of-7 passes for 41 yards for Ellsworth, who lost their ninth game in a row. The Panthers totaled just 101 yards, marking the sixth straight game where they've been held under 200, and were 0-for-12 on third down.
"Now we will see where we go from here," Minnick said. "As long as we continue to get better, we will be fine."
Next up: Garden City vs. Independence, Saturday, Sept. 14-12:30 p.m. pregame; 1 p.m. kick on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com and the KWKR mobile app