It was a tale of two halves when the Dodge City Red Demons played host to the Great Bend Panthers, with Dodge dominating the first half and Great Bend dominating the second.
In the end, the Demons prevailed, even after deliberately taking points off the scoreboard, and recorded a 24-21 victory over the Panthers on Friday.
Red Demons coach Dave Foster said he knew Great Bend would present a lot of issues, but the Demons prevented those issues in the first half.
The Demons created turnovers, had a short field after a turnover and had a fake punt that led to the first Demons score.
The Demons rode some early momentum to a 14-0 lead, producing one drive of nine plays for 69 yards and another of 13 plays and 67 yards.
Then Cedric Rosales and Alden Knedler hit the Great Bend quarterback and Santonio Turner recovered the ball on the Great Bend 20-yard line. Knedler got the ball and passed it back to Demon quarterback Beau Foster, who took it in for a touchdown and a 21-0 lead at halftime.
Great Bend, however, scored three straight times to tie the game 21-21 with just under 7 minutes to go.
The Demons defense held tough to start the third quarter, but after a short punt the Panthers got a couple of big rushing plays and scored with 2:56 left in the third quarter.
The Demons then fumbled deep in their own territory and the Panthers recorded their second touchdown in less than two minutes for a 21-14 score at the end of the third quarter.
Great Bend kept up the pressure and scored again early in the fourth quarter for a 21-21 tie.
Foster said their defensive package was built around the Panthers' top receiver, Alex Schremmer, but that opened up other options for Panther quarterback Dalton Miller, who ended up having the same number of carries as Demon quarterback Foster.
The Demons got a fumble recovery with just over 6 minutes to go. They put in their jumbo set and ran a lot of time off the clock. Foster said they put bigger bodies in the backfield to make it difficult for the Panther defense to chose between defending the run or pass.
"The more receivers on the field, the more you're going to throw the ball," Foster said.
The Demons worked on a short field and got a field goal to take a 24-21 lead with about 2 minutes left in the game, but a penalty on Great Bend forced Foster to face a critical decision.
"Are we going to take points off the board?" Foster said.
Based on the time left, Foster didn't want to give them that much time. He figured they could burn another minute and a half off the clock and it caused the Panthers to use all three of their timeouts. With about 30 seconds left in the game, Valverde hit a field goal for a 24-21 lead.
"Based on time and how explosive they have been, it's a clock management and it worked out for us," Foster said. "I can't say it will work for us all the time."
Great Bend was unable to move the ball and after a couple of Panther penalties, time ran out for the 24-21 Dodge City victory.
Dodge improved to 4-0, becoming one of five undefeated teams left in 6A.
The game against Wichita West is a big game for Dodge City. Wichita won 27-14 last year, scoring 13 points in the fourth quarter. Dodge lost the turnover battle to West so the Demon defense has to play well for a win.
"Winning is obviously the number one priority," Foster said. "We have to win the turnover battle."
Passing yards: Foster-102, Knedler-12; Rushing yards: Foster-157, Knedler-27, Cedric Rosales-12, Jashon Taylor-(-1); Receiving: Matt Friess-72, Gavin Jones-19, Foster-12, Josh Harshberger-9, John Johnson-1.
Fumble recoveries: Knedler-1, Santonio Turner-1. Tackles: Harshberger-6; Knedler-Matt Friess-Johnson-5; Rosales, Foster, Taylor-3; Turner-2; Tommy Bermudez, Taylor, Joshua Bertholf-1.
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