Valley Center’s football team was one defensive stop away from rewriting the record book.
But Great Bend rallied from a 24-14 deficit with two fourth-quarter touchdowns to steal a 28-24 Class 5A quarterfinal playoff victory.
Panther quarterback Jacob Murray led 80 and 87-yard scoring drives after Josh Roeser’s 3-yard touchdown run with 8:41 left.
Murray scored on a 3-yard TD and Great Bend’s defense forced a punt. The Panthers covered 87 yards, capped by a 54-yard TD strike from Murray to Bryce Lytle with 4:17 left.
Linebacker Jensen Randall preserved the victory with an interception.
“Tip your hat to Great Bend,” said Valley Center coach Caleb Smith. “They executed some long pass plays when they had to. They made the plays they needed to make to win the game. They’re a good football team. I wish them the best of luck.”
Valley Center quarterback Wyatt Lange gained 173 yards and scored on a 51-yard touchdown.
Great Bend (10-1) reached the 5A semifinals in 2006. The Panthers will play host to Goddard in next week’s 5A semifinal.
“It’s a game of inches,” Smith said. “It’s a few plays that would’ve changed that outcome. No. 20 (Lytle) is a special player. They did what they had to do to get that win. We had a great game plan, but our pass defense struggled tonight.”
Valley Center (9-2) won two playoff games for the first time since 1996, which was coached by Mike Smith, Caleb Smith’s father.
Valley Center kicker Aaron Coash, kicking 40-yard field goals in pregame, made a 47-yard field goal for a 9-7 halftime lead with 38 seconds left in the half.
Great Bend converted a fumble recovery by Payton Mauler into a 16-yard touchdown pass from Jacob Murray to Brayden Smith.
Valley Center raced 89 yards for a first-half score. Tyler Brown caught a perfectly thrown 2-yard touchdown pass from Wyatt Lange.
Valley Center rushed for 88 yards and passed for 81 yards.
Valley Center limited Great Bend to 63 first-half yards and sacked Murray twice.
“It’s a group of high-character kids,” Smith said of the Hornets. “It’s been a great run and a special season. We played really well offensively and we stopped the run really well.”
GB — Smith 16 pass from Murray (Franco kick)
VC — Brown 2 pass from Lange (pass failed)
VC — Coash 44 FG
VC — Lange 51 run (Terwilliger pass from Lange)
GB — Lytle 10 pass from Murray (Franco kick)
VC — Roeser 3 run (Coash kick)
GB — Murray 3 run (Franco kick)
GB — Lytle 54 pass from Murray (Franco kick)
Rushing — Valley Center, Lange 28-173, Boone 11-52, Roeser 7-24, Rains 3-4, Saunders 1-1. Great Bend, Murray 15-37, Marshall 8-10, Fritz 2-2.
Passing — Valley Center, Lange 8-16-124-1. Great Bend, Murray 21-30-306-1, Lytle 0-1-0-0.
Receiving — Valley Center, Saunders 3-59, Brown 2-12, Terwilliger 4-53. Great Bend, Lytle 8-108, Smith 6-91, Brack 5-94, Marshall 1-10, Burnham 1-3.