BroncBUSTED: Butler Grizzlies football bounced from playoffs by Garden City

Charles Chaney
Butler County Times Gazette
Butler's Jordan Kempf catches a pass in the first quarter against Garden City at Broncbuster Stadium in Garden City, Kansas.

GARDEN CITY, KANSAS — The Garden City Broncbusters forced two turnovers and made a goal line stand as they beat the Butler Grizzlies, 27-16 on Sunday in the KJCCC semifinals.

Garden City improves to 7-2 on the year, will play No. 2 Hutchinson in next week's championship game at Riverfront Stadium in Wichita, Kansas. 

For the Grizzlies, their tumultuous season comes to an end. They finish the season officially, 1-8 and unofficially, 7-3.

Butler, who had to forfeit all six of their wins after using an eligible player, blew out Coffeyville last week to set up the rematch from two weeks ago. Butler won that game, 24-23.

"This group, some people may see their flaws," Butler assistant coach Brice Vignery said. "They're about one of the resilient groups we've had in a while."

Butler fell behind 10-2 after the Grizzlies had a punt tipped and Garden City's Keylon Kennedy picked up the punt and returned it down to near the Butler goal line. Two plays later, Dedrick Talbert put the Broncbusters up 10-2 with 2:41 remaining in the first quarter. 

Butler answered back as Gavin Screws found Karter Johnson on the pass for the 23-yard strike, bringing Butler within 10-9 early in the second quarter. 

After Butler had forced Garden City over on downs, they turned it over on the first play of their next possession. It was their first turnover in two weeks. Fast forward and Garden City scored on a 12-yard screen pass to Fuafiva Tulafale that gave Garden City their 17-9 lead at the break. 

Every time it felt as if Butler had a stop, it was a screen, a broken tackle or something that fell Garden City's way. 

"Every game comes down to about one or two plays in a game of inches," Vignery said. "You never know what's gonna happen. You never know when it's gonna catch up to it."

A lot of it was of Garden City's doing. Despite Butler holding the Broncbusters to 3 of 16 on third down, Garden City came back and made Butler pay on fourth down. They were 4 of 6, including a crucial fourth down score. 

Butler fumbled again in the third quarter after a Garden City punt. The Grizzlies' defense, which played lights out, held Garden City the Broncbusters to only 10 points that weren't off turnovers. 

Garden City took Butler mistakes and made them pay. They scored 17 points off Butler mistakes. First one came on a tipped punt when Kennedy returned it inside the 10-yard line. Then, Butler saw Tulafale score after the fumble. 

The next one came when Butler held Garden City to three-and-out and a field goal in the third quarter after a fumble. Butler's defense only allowed 238 yards on the afternoon. 

"Our defense played their butts off," Vignery said. "They had stops on third down and stops on fourth down. All that stuff just comes down to every game comes down to one or two plays."

In the end, penalties came up against Butler. They gave up four first downs on penalties, including two on fourth downs due to offsides calls. 

After Garden City hit a 20-yard field to take a 20-9 lead with 7:41 remaining in the third quarter. Butler responded when Screws hit Jordan Kempf in stride for a 59-yard touchdown pass and pulled Butler within 20-16. 

Screws finished the afternoon 10 of 22 for 193 yards and two touchdowns. A quarterback, who struggled all of last season made a point to step up his efficiency this season. He did, only throwing two interceptions and finished with 16 touchdowns. 

Butler still had an opportunity after getting the ball back at the Garden City 35-yard line. They marched down to the 1-yard line and face a fourth and goal. However, Butler was stopped short at the 1-inch line, giving the Broncbusters the ball back with 3:13 to go in the third. 

Butler would not get across midfield for the rest of the game. 

The Grizzlies will look to regroup and should have a nice chunk of experience returning in Jake Wolff and KJ Shankle in the backfield if they do not choose to go to a four-year school. There will be parts to replace but Butler has some pillars in place. 

"I think we got a good a good recipe for next year," Vignery said. "Just fill in some gaps but right now I'm thinking about these guys in the white jerseys. I'm not even thinking pass a minute from now."

Charles Chaney has been the Sports Editor for the Butler County Times-Gazette since Aug. 2019. You can reach him at cchaney@butlercountytimesgazette.com or on Twitter at @ChuckChaneyBCTG.