Plenty at stake in GC/DC 2019 Hatchet Game
The 82nd annual Hatchet Game happens tonight in Garden City, as a jam-packed stadium will watch unbeaten Dodge City come in to take on the Buffaloes.
The second-longest rivalry in Kansas - they have played every year since 1907 - was enhanced in 1938 with the addition of the hatchet, which serves as the traveling trophy that goes to the winner of the storied rivalry game.
This year, however, the two teams will be playing for a lot more than just a trophy.
While the Western Athletic Conference title only helps with seeding when it comes to the playoffs, there's still something about additional bragging rights that winning the league crown brings to the table. Both teams are unbeaten in WAC play, and a win would give the victor the outright lead for the WAC crown entering the final week of the regular season.
Dodge City holds a 50-30-1 mark over Garden City in games involving the hatchet, and a 74-43-3 edge overall in the series.
The series between the two teams separated by 52 miles started in 1903, when they played in back-to-back weeks. Dodge City won the first game, 34-0, then played to a scoreless tie on Thanksgiving Day the following week.
Those first meetings had some interesting elements. For one, both host teams (the initial game was in Dodge City) provided the transportation for the visiting team to travel. The rematch in 1903 in Garden City featured a post-game dance and meal, in which both teams attended.
For Dodge City (6-0), it's a chance to continue to run the table and retain the hatchet. The Red Demons are 6-0 for the first time since 2010, and are now ranked in two state-wide polls.
For Garden City (2-4), it's a chance to get the hatchet back, as well as formally flush the memory of a 52-2 drubbing at the hands of Wichita-Northwest last week. And, by the way, put themselves in position to claim a WAC title.
The Red Demons, who have won 10 of their last 11 contests, have been doing it with defense. According to Kpreps.com, they're ranked third in Class 6A in points allowed (98 in six games), and the two teams ahead of them are also unbeaten - Derby and Gardner-Edgerton.
DC's offense is led by quarterback Beau Foster, who ran for four scores last week in a 40-21 win over Hays, has thrown for more than 1,000 yards, and has added a team-best 635 yards rushing. Alden Knedler has added 450 yards rushing and 10 TDs, while Matt Friess is the top receiver, hauling in a team-high five TD receptions.
Knedler leads the WAC with the 10 rush TDs as well as four interceptions, and has also caused a pair of fumbles. John Johnson is the top tackler for the Red Demons, being involved in 52 stops.
Garden City is still in transition, as senior signalcaller Carlos Acosta was lost for the season due to an injury a couple of weeks ago. Sophomore Zane Burns has taken over, and has only thrown nine passes. However, he has completed seven of them for 106 yards and a score.
The motor that runs the Buffaloes offense is junior running back Josh Janis. The wrestler, who did not play high school football until this season, has rushed for 602 yards and nine touchdowns. With Acosta's injury, Janis has carried more of the workload for GC.
Seniors Lane Durst and Phillip Biera have been the main targets when the ball does go in the air. Durst has 17 catches for 318 yards, while Biera has 11 catches for 107 yards. Both have caught a TD pass.
Senior Paul Perez leads the defense with a team-high 48 total tackles, while sophomore Terrell Elliot has 32 total tackles, including six for loss. Sophomore Micah Perez paces GC in interceptions (2) and pass break-ups (3, which is tied for the team lead).