The November chill was nowhere to be found in the grandstand behind Goddard’s sideline on Friday.
The band played, students jumped up and down in a mosh pit-type scene and the screams were deafening in the postgame celebration.
It had a physical vibe, for sure. And it was fitting, as Goddard roughed up Great Bend 50-21 in the Class 5A semifinals to advance to the state title game for the second time in school history.
Goddard (11-1) will play reigning 5A champion Mill Valley next Saturday at Pittsburg State’s Carnie Smith Stadium. Mill Valley edged St. Thomas Aquinas 14-13 in the other 5A semifinal.
Goddard scored on the game’s second play and continued to dominate, spoiling Great Bend’s bid to return to the championship game for the first time in 10 years. The Lions rolled up 462 yards and their defense made things miserable for Great Bend’s standout quarterback Jacob Murray.
“That’s what we hang our hat on, being physical and just playing hard on both sides of the ball,” Goddard coach Scott Vang said. “Our kids like that. They like getting after people.”
Senior Kody Gonzalez ran for 139 yards on 15 carries for Goddard, which won its 10th straight to advance to the 5A title game for the first time since 1988. After Goddard’s defense forced a Great Bend three-and-out on the opening possession, Gonzalez dashed 44 yards down the right sideline for the game’s first points.
“It set the tone,” Gonzalez said.
Goddard junior quarterback Blake Sullivan outshined his counterpart Murray, completing 8 of 11 passes for 112 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 99 yards on 15 carries, including a 48-yard run on the first possession of the second half to push Goddard’s lead to 36-7.
“I knew when I scored, we had them by the throat and we were going to get them,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan also completed first-half touchdown passes of 17 and 39 yards to junior Owen Beason to help Goddard build a 28-7 halftime lead. The latter came in the final minute of the second quarter and quickly extinguished a hint of Great Bend momentum.
“The Goddard Lions were way more physical than the Great Bend Panthers tonight,” said Great Bend coach Erin Beck, whose team finished 10-2. “We’ve got to get bigger and way more physical if we want to compete in these games.”
Great Bend finished with 318 yards, but turned the ball over twice. The Panthers were limited to 108 rushing yards, while Murray was 17 of 34 passing for 210 yards, including two touchdowns to Koy Brack.
Goddard got the start it needed, taking advantage of good field position after Great Bend’s Nick Reed stepped out of bounds inside the 10 with the opening kickoff. After Gonzalez scored and Sullivan added the two-point conversion, Goddard led 8-0 one minute into the game.
Great Bend reached Goddard territory on its next three drives of the first quarter, but couldn’t score. Goddard capitalized early in the second quarter, as Sullivan gained 22 yards on a fourth-down sneak. On the next play, the Lions ran a reverse pass, as junior Bryant Mocaby connected with senior Jordan Cooke for a 36-yard gain to Great Bend’s 1.
Senior Dayton Driskill powered over the goal line on the next play to stretch Goddard’s lead to 14-0.
“We run that play all the time and we’re real comfortable with it,” Sullivan said of the reverse pass. “It didn’t surprise me that we were successful.”
Goddard continued to roll, as Sullivan and Beason teamed up for the first of their two first-half touchdown connections. Sullivan rolled to his left, and with plenty of time to throw, whistled a pass to Beason for a 17-yard score.
Great Bend’s first-half struggles peaked on the ensuing drive. The Panthers had a 49-yard touchdown run by Cal Marshall and a 9-yard TD run by Murray negated by penalties. Murray was on his way to the end zone on a later run, but fumbled, and Goddard’s A.J. Vang recovered at the 2.
Great Bend finally broke through after a short Goddard punt. Murray connected with Brack for an 11-yard touchdown that cut Goddard’s lead to 20-7 with 1:26 remaining in the first half.
But Goddard had a quick answer. Cole Caraway returned the ensuing kickoff 38 yards across midfield. Then Sullivan rolled to his left and connected with Beason near the front of the end zone to make it 28-7.
God – Ko. Gonzalez 44 run (Sullivan run)
God – Driskill 1 run (kick failed)
God – O. Beason 17 pass from Sullivan (kick failed)
GB – Brack 11 pass from Murray (Franco kick)
God – O. Beason 39 pass from Sullivan (Sullivan run)
God – Sullivan 48 run (Sullivan run)
GB – Brack 15 pass from Murray (Franco kick)
God – B. Mocaby 12 pass from Sullivan (Gentry kick)
God – Driskill 9 run (Gentry kick)
GB – Murray 1 run (Franco kick)
Rushing – Goddard, Ko. Gonzalez 15-139, Sullivan 15-99, Driskill 7-36, Bannister 6-24, Johnson 2-12, J. Mocaby 2-7, Cooke 1-(-3). Great Bend, Murray 20-69, Marshall 9-39.
Passing – Goddard, Sullivan 8-11-0-112, B. Mocaby 1-1-0-36. Great Bend, Murray 17-34-1-210.
Receiving – Goddard, O. Beason 3-70, Cooke 2-41, B. Mocaby 4-37. Great Bend, Brack 7-96, Smith 3-64, Lytle 3-34, Marshall 3-11, Burnham 1-5.