Garden City is off to a 6-0 start over the 2016 football season and is currently the #5 ranked team in the latest Kpreps Rankings as they enter week seven of the football season. A big reason for the undefeated start has been seniors Peyton Hill and Jesse Nunez.
Hill, a 6-foot-1, 220-pound, fullback and linebacker, can do a little bit of everything for the Buffaloes. Injuries have slowed him down in missing some games this year, but his week six comeback was huge to propel GC to a 6-0 start. It came with his biggest performance of his career last week in a 221 yard rushing, two touchdown performance in the 46-34 comeback victory over Wichita Northwest. It was a game that they trailed 27-0. Hill has played linebacker, defensive end, fullback, tailback and punter at Garden City. He is one of the most physical players in the state and brings that to the table every down, no matter what position he is playing. Hill, the son of head coach Brian Hill, was an All Non-Senior pick last fall at Sports in Kansas as a specialty player, there isn't very much he can't do as a utility player.
"Peyton is a big part of our offense and a leader. He has the same mindset when it's time to play and we know each other well. We are like brothers. He's a big time blocker on our run plays and I am glad he's on my team." Nunez said.
What really makes Garden City go offensively is its senior stud quarterback Jesse Nunez. Nunez may be undersized at 5-foot-10 and 185-pounds, but is pound for pound one of the toughest quarterbacks in the state. Nunez is a state wrestling champion in 6A last winter in the 170-pound class and went 49-5 on the year as his team also captured the 6A state title. He brings that wrestling mentality to the football field every Friday. Although he is a run first quarterback with 910 yards and and 15 touchdowns over his first six games, he has also thrown for 737 more with seven more scores to make him a dual-threat. Nunez now has 2,350 yards rushing as a three-year starting quarterback with 39 touchdowns and 2,329 passing yards with 21 more scores.
"Jesse means a great deal to me and our team. Our relationship on and off the field could be described as brotherhood. I have never dreaded a moment playing next to Jesse. He is a tough competitor." Peyton Hill said.
It's not all just Hill and Nunez to make Garden City the team that they are in 2016. Zeke Hererra is one of the more underrated players in 6A. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound, senior, linebacker, has 60 tackles and two interceptions from his linebacker spot. Defensive tackle Demarcus Elliott, a physical 6-foot-4, 285 pounder, is one of the best juniors in Kansas this season and has racked up 32 tackles, 11 of them which have went for loss. But where Garden City is most impressive is the offensive and defensive line.
"We average about 275 pounds on the offensive line and have three guys on the defensive line over 260 pounds. They have been the key to our success this season and what we have been able to do. Those big boys up front, we've kind of hitched a wagon up to and that's why we are off to a 6-0 start." Garden City head coach Brian Hill said.
This week is a huge WAC rivalry match-up in the Hatchet game with Dodge City (4-2). Last season the Buffaloes fell to Dodge City 21-20 in week nine of the season, eliminating GC chances to go to the 2015 playoffs. DC losses have came to Great Bend and Wichita Heights, both teams ranked in the top five of 5A.
"They are extremely good and we both know a lot about each other. They had a chance to win in both of their losses. The Hatchet game is one of those things where it doesn't matter what the record is and you're going to get both teams A games. It's really special to be a part of." Garden City head coach Brian Hill said.
Garden City has not made the playoffs since the 2013 season, when they went 8-4 and made the 6A semifinals, falling to Derby 55-17. It's been 17 years since Garden City last made a state title game, when the Buffaloes won it all in 1999. A Western Athletic Conference team has not made a football state championship game in Kansas since Great Bend took runner-up in 5A back in 2006. This season Great Bend (6-0) and Garden City (6-0) are both undefeated, both ranked, and will meet up next week in week eight of the season.
We caught up with the two outstanding seniors Peyton Hill and Jesse Nunez below in the latest edition of Faces in Kansas.
This feature is presented by American Implement of Garden City. Visit us at 2611 West Jones Avenue or give us a call at 620-275-4114. Check out featured John Deere Equipment at www.americanimplement.com. American Implement is a proud supporter of Garden City High School Football. Best of luck to the Buffaloes in this years Hatchet game.
Q&A w/ Peyton Hill
How did you get involved playing football?
I got involved back when I was 4 and 5 years old when I would walk around practices at Garden City Community College. My dad was the offensive coordinator there for a number of years and being around the players and coaches at such a young age, I really didn't know anything else besides football.
What is it like to play for your dad?
Its something I'm gonna miss that's for sure. It's nice to be able to watch film and plan a scheme with your coach and dad. I've wanted to play for him since I was a little guy, because he was always playing games when I'd play mine so I wanted him to be able to see me play. So now that I have the opportunity to share those moments and have him watch the games it’s pretty special.
How’s the season going so far?
Seasons going great. I'm proud of the way our seniors have stepped up and really lead the team. We're a very close group, that plays for one another and I think that's what has gotten us this far. I couldn't ask for any more.
What is it like to play with a very talented quarterback in Jesse Nunez, what does he mean to your team, and whats your relationship like on & off the field?
It’s a duo that I have enjoyed every minute of. We've been at the bottom going 4-5 one year and missing the playoffs, 7-2 last season and missing the playoffs by a single point, and then this season that the story hasn't yet unfolded but we both have high expectations for. We have been through it all together. So Jesse means a great deal to me and my team. Our relationship on and off the field could be described as a brotherhood. On the field we are always seeing who can break open the biggest run, nicest stiff arm, or whatever you have it. I can say there has never been a moment where I've dreaded being on that field alongside him weather that be during a win or a loss. Off the field he's nothing different, just the Jesse we all see on Friday nights, he takes care of his business and again I see him as a brother.
Other guys that have really played well for you in 2016?
Zeke Herrera. I think he is a player that is under looked by many because he may not have the insane stats or the publicity others may but he is a great player and is the core of our defense. He has a great motor and the words lose or can't aren't in his vocabulary. Also Demarcus Elliot, he is a 6'4" 285lbs. Junior that has played both ways for us and has helped tremendously. He is extremely athletic and will be someone to watch.
What are the expectations of this years team?
The expectations are very high as they should be. We have a bunch of guys that have started for going on their 3rd year now, so we expect great leadership and just take our games one by one. Our goals are to go undefeated in the regular season, bring the hatchet back to its home, and make a run in the playoffs for that state title.
What is the Hatchet game like?
The hatchet game is something that not only means a lot to us as players but to our school and community. No matter the records of either team, it seems to be played like we are both undefeated. It's really something you have to be there to witness to understand the atmosphere. There is usually around 6-9 thousand people every year in attendance and it makes it even that much more crazy.
What's game night like in Garden?
I've been on numerous college visits and game night in Garden City is something that is seen at colleges. From our rowdy fans, band, top ranked student section, cannon fired off after touchdowns, and music played it's a loud and energetic place. We have actually had a opposing coach tell the referee that it was too loud his guys couldn't hear his QB's cadence. So it's definitely a mad house.
How would you describe the Garden City offense this year and what style?
Hard nose. Physical. Explosive. Really our offense just has the mentality that people may know where we are going but we will beat you there. So I'd say a smash mouth style of play.
Favorite subject in school?
My favorite subject in school is history.
Plans at the next level?
I plan on perusing a degree in sports medicine or secondary education while playing football. Although I'm undecided as to what college at the moment. I've had a hand full of offers from division 2 schools but as of right now I'm still undecided.
How would you describe yourself as a football player, what all positions can you play, what’s your favorite?
Determined, physical, athletic, and a team player. I've played many positions throughout my high school career. My freshman year I played in a small town of Sidney, NE, and was fortunate enough to have started varsity at free safety. Then once I moved to Garden city I've played Linebacker, outside safety, defensive end, fullback, tailback, and punter. My favorite position would be hard to say, because they each have a different purpose and that's what I love about being able to play so many positions. If I really had to find one I would say fullback or linebacker for the simple fact it's a position that requires physicality.
Best social media app out there and why?
My favorite social media app would be twitter cause you can really get any information you need it's easy to get ahold of coaches, and you get to see everyone's options on how helpless our presidential candidates are this year.
Favorite place to eat in Garden City?
Favorite place to eat in Garden City is Old Chicago.
One thing the average person wouldn't know about you?
That I am in the early stages of starting a foundation for less fortunate kids, to provide them with clothes. This idea struck because my lunch table accepted in a kid that had been having trouble in class and wasn't seen with any friends so we took him in. Then about a week later once it started getting cold outside asked me if had a sweatshirt because he walks to school every morning and doesn't have a jacket. So this made me and some other teammates I sit with, kind of reflect and really made us want to help kids within our community like our new friend Jack.
Q&A w/ Jesse Nunez
How did you get involved with athletics?
I started cause I loved playing street ball with friends. I've always been good at it but I also worked my tail off. So I told my parents to sign me up in the 4th grade.
How does wrestling help you as a football player?
I use my mental toughness and the things I learn in wrestling about being a good athlete onto the field. In the sport of wrestling it's you against one other person so you win or lose it's on you. So when I go onto the field I gotta win against my opponent and when I do my job the whole team will do their job. I'm the leader and I take charge every time.
What is it like to have a player like Peyton Hill on your team?
He's a big part of our offense and a leader as well. He has the same mindset when it's time to play and we know each other well. We are like brothers even before he moved to Garden City. We always got each other's back and he always tells me that "He gots my back" he's a play maker on offense for us and a big time blocker on some of our run plays. I'm glad he's on my team.
What did you do in the off-season to make yourself a better player?
After wrestling season once spring sports starting I started to lift everyday, I went to throw with some fellow teammates, did freestyle wrestling practice. All summer I didn't participate in anything really. I only made it to camp in Tulsa on June 4. After Tulsa I had Strep Throat for over a Month and ended up getting my tonsils removed. Once school started I got back into to it and been working hard everyday. I have big goals.
Describe yourself as a quarterback, what makes you hard to stop?
I'm a leader and I never get down on myself. I lead my team no matter the situation. I'm the lit to the offense so I try and get them lit up to. We are a close group of guys so it's even better because we all been doing it for years together. I'm a tough player and will do anything to help my team win.
What players have stepped up for your team this year?
Brodie Stable our wide receiver has been showing out and doing his job such as Andrew Kruezter another wide receiver for his first year of varsity and he's been doing a good job making big plays as a young guy. Other senior Jason Yi has been doing his job as well making big plays and he's a veteran on this offense as well so he does a good job leading his wide outs. Our offense line is doing a terrific job. We wouldn't be doing what we are doing now without those guys.
What will it take to get the win over Dodge in the Hatchet game, what do you expect the atmosphere to be like?
I expect the atmosphere to be wild especially after them beating us and ending our season last year but I expect my teammates and coaches to get the win and to play our best game and do our jobs. The rest will take care of itself especially if everyone does their job.
How do you feel Western Kansas football compares to the rest of the state, do you feel like sometimes because of the small amount of big schools, teams are forgotten about out West?
Yes, I do believe that they forget about us but it's okay, they can sleep on us. We feel like people don't think we can play football so our job is to show everyone when it's our time.
Plans at the next level?
I hope to play football but I also wrestle as well so idk what my plans are yet. Hopefully I can play sports but I want to major in education maybe even business. I'm just going with Gods plan.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years I plan to see myself as a coach for a good school also married and with two kids living the life with my parents and friends.
One thing the average person wouldn’t know about you?
My parents weren't athletes and no one else in my family ever were in sports. My father had a disability so was never able to play so I always play for him and my mother and the rest of my family. So all my talent is a God given talent and a lot of hard work put into my athletics after many years. I'm a hard and tough worker.
Special Thanks to Adam Shrimplin of Shrimplin Photography for providing the photo of Hill and Nunez, see his work online here