Back to state: Garden City thumps Follett for berth in state title game

SEYMOUR — It’s hard to catch Garden City head coach Vance Jones without a smile on his face after the Bearkats’ games. It was no different after his team thwarted Follett 59-14 by halftime in the UIL Six-Man Division I semifinal in Seymour Saturday night.Then again, it hasn’t been different for the last 28 games. “I’m still soaking it in,” Jones said, clinching his sixth trip to a state title game and ensuring the Bearkats a chance to win a second consecutive title next week. “This is outstanding. I’m still on Cloud 9.”That same feeling surrounded the Bearkats as their 28th consecutive victory clinched a berth in the state championship game against Throckmorton at 7 p.m. Saturday at Shotwell Stadium in Abilene. Far from what last year’s playoff matchup was like between Garden City and Follett, the Bearkats were overbearing on the offensive side of the ball with Josh Colunga’s 10 carries for 170 yards and one touchdown and Blayne Batla’s five touchdown passes.An injured Cole Freeman, a fumble recovery by Garden City’s Frankie Zuniga at the 3:03 mark in the second quarter and an onside kick recovery by the Bearkats after a Reggie Halfmann touchdown with 2:05 left in the second was Follett’s undoing.The final score may be a bit surprising to some though. Last year when these two teams met, it was a back-and-forth affair. This year, Follett couldn’t keep up on offense and Garden City forced the Panthers to punt four times in the first and only half.“I thought it was going to be a little closer than it was,” Colunga said. “We didn’t expect to 45 them at the half. But that’s how we play. We just try to get it one play at a time, score every drive and our defense stepped up this week.”Garden City was already up 44-14 when Zuniga recovered a fumble that dropped into his hands, leading to the Halfmann score. After the onside kick was successful, Batla’s 33-yard touchdown pass to Brett Chudej and Colunga’s run on the point after try put the Bearkats up by 45, enacting the mercy rule if it got to halftime.