GARDEN CITY – At the beginning of the 2010 season, Ian Schaefer wasn’t quite sure the Garden City Bearkats would end up hoisting the UIL Six-Man Division I state championship trophy again.
At the very least, he didn’t want to make a bold prediction. But the more this team came together, got better every week and stayed focused, the more Schaefer knew the Bearkats were on to something special.
“I didn’t know if we could do it or not,” the senior said. “Everybody was asking me and I said ‘Yeah, yeah.’ Then at about the middle of the season, I was like ‘You know, it’s going to happen. We can do it again.’”
Not only did they do it again, they did it undefeated this time around.
The offense was efficient as usual and defensively, the Bearkats got key stops on their way to an 82-68 win over Throckmorton in the UIL Six-Man Division I state championship game Saturday at Shotwell Stadium in Abilene. Along with it being the second consecutive state championship for Garden City, it is head coach Vance Jones’ third state title.
For the Bearkats, winning this game ― believe it or not ― defense was key in addition to their prolific offense.
Garden City limited Throckmorton’s stud tailback Michael Everett on the first drive of the game and forced a three-and-out. It was the only punt of the game and while the two teams eventually traded scores, that stop gave the Bearkats the edge they thought they needed.
“That was huge,” Jones said. “That was our game plan all week. If we could defensively get a stop or two and score then we had a shot, because they’re a great offensive team. They really are. Michael Everett, he’s really awesome. Our kids stepped up. We got those turnovers and we were able to put it in the endzone.”
Brian Hirt came up big on the defensive side of the ball, too. The senior pick off a pass with a little under seven minutes left in the first half and took it all the way back to the Throckmorton 32-yard line. Garden City was already up 24-14, but that interception led to a Brett Chudej’s 27-yard touchdown catch from Blayne Batla – an acrobatic one-handed grab on Chudej’s part.
With just 1:37 left in the first half and Garden City up 36-22, an onside kick recovery from Frankie Zuniga was huge, too. Zuniga also had an onside kick recovery in the semifinal against Follett last week.
That led to a 16-yard run from Josh Colunga ― who was named the game’s offensive MVP ― just before the half and the Bearkats had a stranglehold on the game.
Throckmorton head coach Mike Reed knew plays like the ones Garden City made make a difference at this stage of the game.
“Any time you get to this level, turnovers are going to play a part,”
he said. “We knew coming in special teams was going to be key. That’s part of it, part of the breaks. We couldn’t quite get the breaks to go our way. But definitely proud of the kids’ fight.”
Throckmorton by no means gave up, evidenced by Hagen Bennett’s
interception returned for a 47-yard touchdown in the third. But they got into a scoring contest with the Bearkats in the second half, which usually plays in Garden City’s favor.
Then for one more time, the Bearkats got the rockstar treatment from fans, family and supporters. Players were constantly surrounded by the large number of Garden City fans after the game, taking pictures, celebrating and rejoicing ― a usual sighting after every Garden City playoff game this year.
It shows how much this team has come to mean to the community and for Colunga, it’s something he’ll always remember.
“It’s not hitting me as hard as it will hit me in a little bit or later down the road, but this is an awesome accomplishment that we did right now,” he said. “All the emotions are in the air, going through this again is awesome. It’s just a great feeling.”
GARDEN CITY 82, THROCKMORTON 68
Throckmorton 6 16 8 38 - 68
Garden City 16 30 16 20 - 82
GC - Brett Chudej 49 pass from Blayne Batla (Chudej kick) 7:06
T - Taylor Hardy 55 run (Cole Balthrop kick failed) 5:55
GC - Josh Colunga 11 run (Chudej kick) 3:07
T - Michael Everett 6 run (Balthrop kick) 9:10
GC - Reggie Halfmann 18 run (kick good) 7:52
GC - Chudej 27 pass from Batla (kick blocked) 5:53
T - Hagen Bennett 15 run (kick good) 4:38
GC - Ian Schaefer 4 pass from Colunga (kick good) 1:39
GC - Colunga 16 run (kick good) 0:07
T - Bennett 47 INT return (kick good) 7:47
GC - Schaefer 30 pass from Batla (kick good) 6:18
GC - Colunga 1 run (kick good) 0:23
T - Everett 12 pass from CJ Hanz (kick good) 9:55
GC - Schaefer 32 pass from Colunga (kick failed) 8:14
T - Everett 43 pass from Hanz (kick good) 8:05
GC - Brian Hirt 28 run (kick good) 6:17
T - Gary Farquhar 35 pass from Everett 5:16
T - Everett 13 run (kick good) 2:43
GC - Colunga 8 run (kick failed) 0:55
T - Everett 45 pass from Tucker Brown (kick good) 0:41
First Downs 12 16
Rushes-Yards 20-250 42-296
Passing Yards 222 208
Comp.-Att.-Int. 11-19-1 10-15-1
Punts-Avg. 1-40.0 0-0
Fumbles-lost 4-2 1-1
Penalties 4-25 5-50
RUSHING - Garden City: Colunga 33-216, Halfmann 4-44, Hirt 3-32, Chudej 2-4. Throckmorton, Everett 10-81, C.J. Hanz 3-87, Hardy 3-64, Bennett 1-29, Brown 2-(-16), King 1-5.
PASSING - Garden City: Batla 8-13-1 171, Colunga 2-2-0 37; Throckmorton, Everett 6-10-0 112, Hanz 1-1-0 12, Brown 3-7-0 53, Hardy 1-1-0 45.
RECEIVING - Garden City: Chudej 5-124, Schaefer 4-75, Colunga 1-7; Throckmorton, Everett 5-108, Hardy 2-46, Hanz 1-8, King 2-27, Farquhar 2-60.