Nate Pauly had more yards than his entire Garden Plain team for most of the first quarter on Friday. In much of the remaining time, Pauly outran the moments that threatened to slow down his team.
Pauly’s 286 rushing yards and four touchdowns helped Garden Plain survive itself and Hesston’s late rallies in a 33-27 season-opening win on Friday night. Garden Plain was called for 23 penalties and never recaptured the smoothness it had after taking a 14-0 lead in under six minutes.
Pauly, running back Marty Landwehr and several key defensive plays kept Garden Plain afloat and the Owls never lost the lead. Pauly, Garden Plain’s quarterback, sealed it with a 68-yard touchdown run that put it ahead 33-21 with three minutes to go.
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“We didn’t do a very good job coaching our guys up on the little things tonight, and it showed,” Garden Plain coach Ken Dusenbury said. “We’ll work on that, but you’re proud of them when they make plays down the stretch.”
After scoring to make it 14-7 early in the second quarter, Hesston consistently threatened Garden Plain’s lead, which never extended beyond two touchdowns and was often seven or fewer in the second half.
Trailing 21-14, Hesston started the third quarter by advancing to Garden Plain’s 18-yard-line. Then quarterback Zach Esau was intercepted in the end zone by Pauly, whose contributions weren’t limited to his running.
“I think defense is my favorite, definitely,” said Pauly, also a defensive back. “I love defense.”
After his interception, Pauly ceded the spotlight to Landwehr. Four plays after Pauly’s interception, Landwehr scored on a 59-yard run that put Garden Plain ahead 27-14. On Hesston’s next series, Landwehr had a sack on third down that forced Hesston to punt.
The big plays kept coming for Garden Plain, even after a third-quarter fumble that led to a Hesston touchdown. In the fourth, Cody Hendryx had Garden Plain’s third interception, Hesston was stopped on downs near Garden Plain’s end zone, and Pauly’s 68-yard run put him over 200 rushing yards.
“Cody Hendryx, who made the interception down there, he has not had a lot of varsity time,” Dusenbury said. “To make a play like that at the end, I’m real happy for him. That showed a lot for the kid.”
Pauly, who passed six times, accounted for 37 of Garden Plain’s plays on offense. He had 69 touches last year and more than 1,000 yards, so the plan is to keep him heavily involved.
He showed an ability to handle it and Garden Plain matched his endurance by forcing Esau, who had 285 passing yards, to throw nine incompletions and two interceptions among his final 16 passes.
“We just tried to play fundamental defensive football,” Dusenbury said. “We’re in the right place and (Esau) makes you miss. We’ve got decent coverage and he hits the pass because he’s a very, very good high school athlete.
“Our plan was to try to play fundamental football, and he made us look silly quite a few times.”
GP—Pauly 23 run (kick failed)
GP—Pauly 11 run (Dooley pass from Pauly)
H—Cox 29 pass from Esau (Whitsitt kick)
GP—Pauly 5 run (J. Becker kick)
H—Esau 1 run (Whitsitt kick)
GP—Landwehr 59 run (kick failed)
H—Roth 3 run (Whitsitt kick)
GP—Pauly 68 run (kick failed)
H—Bachman 20 pass from Esau (kick failed)
Rushing—Hesston, Esau 17-91, Roth 9-65, Hostetler 3-(-1); Garden Plain, Pauly 31-286, Landwehr 17-113, Zoglman 3-10, Dooley 1-2, Anderson 12, Ellis 1-(-4).
Passing—Hesston, Esau 16-33-285-3 INT; Garden Plain, Pauly 4-6-48-1.
Receiving—Hesston, Cox 7-140, Bachman 5-86, Nebel 2-40, Toews 2-19; Garden Plain, Dooley 2-18, Wilson 1-22, Landwehr 1-8.