(Photos: Kenny Felt/Captured Images)
But the Greyhounds fought back and Dominique Davis' quarterback sneak with under two minutes remaining to treat FSCC fans to a 14-10 victory. It is Fort Scott's first Jayhawk Conference title since shating the 1974 championship with Hutchinson. It's the first outright title since 1973.
The national-level hype for Saturday afternoon's game between the No. 3-ranked Greyhounds and No. 4-ranked Butler was so high, that the fact that the game would determine the conference champion was lost in it. But Fort Scott's victory at Frary Field broke Butler's string of eight consecutive conference championships and gave the 'Hounds their first championship in 35 years.
With No. 2 Navarro (Texas) beating No. 1 Blinn, 23-20, Saturday, it's anticipated that the Bulldogs will move up to No. 1 and Fort Scott will become No. 2. No. 5 Mississippi Gulf Coast also won Saturday and while logic would seem to dictate that MGCCC would move up to No. 3, with Blinn and Butler perhaps staying in the top 5, it's up to the people who vote in the NCJAA/jcfootball.com poll to determine the order. This week's poll was not expected to be released until Tuesday morning.
The battle in Texas -- where the regular-season championship was in the balance between two unbeaten teams -- featured over 900 yards of total offense with Navarro winning, 23-20 (Details in story at right).
Fort Scott, meanwhile, started seven of its eight drives inside its own 20. Three began inside its own 10. The Greyhounds' average starting field position in the first half was their own 18.
Butler's first drive ended when quarterback Russ Dausin made a bad pitch and Fort Scott's Byron Jerideau recovered it at his own 16-yard line.
The Greyhounds then drove downfield, 84 yards in 14 plays. Conference-leading rusher Jasmin Hopkins ran for 44 of those yards on 9 carries during the drive, including 24 on the first play and 4 on the last one for the game's first score with 7:56 left in the opening quarter. Luke Halsey's extra-point made it 7-0.
The game then became a battle of field position with the teams exchanging punts. The Greyhounds didn't advance into Butler territory again until after 7 minutes remained in the second quarter. Even then, they had to punt but Matt Wheeler pinned the Grizzlies back at their own 4-yard line. Omar Leftwich intercepted Dausin on the first play of the ensuing drive, giving the 'Hounds the ball at the Butler 40.
Fort Scott was only able to advance the ball 4 yards but Wheeler pinned the Grizzlies back at their own 5. They were forced to punt from their own 10 with about 2 1/2 minutes to go but Logan Ortiz boomed an 82-yarder and Fort Scott was forced to start at its own 8.
Fort Scott had the advantage in total offense at the half with 198 yards and 11 first downs. The 'Hounds ran 49 plays to Butler's 39 but it was difficult to overcome the bad field position.
Meanwhile, Butler couldn't take advantage of its superior field position. The Grizzlies had just 4 first downs in the half and 102 total yards. Two of Butler's first downs came on its opening possession.
Butler finally broke the cycle of punting when Ortiz made a 36-yard field goal with 8:45 left in the third quarter to bring the Grizzlies within 7-3.
But then the teams went right back to exchanging punts although Butler wasn't getting such good field position.
Butler threatened to take the lead early in the fourth quarter. Ricky Jacques, Butler's leading rusher, broke off a 33-yard run on the first play of a drive to get the ball down to the Fort Scott 32. Oddly enough, he never touched the ball again.
However, Dausin connected with Dontel Watkins for a 7-yard gain on the next play, and then hit him again on the next. However, Watkins fumbled when the ball hit a teammate's helmet inside the 10-yard line. The ball was fought for and eventually recovered in the end zone by Leftwich for a touchback.
Unfortunately for the 'Hounds, Ryan Downing intercepted Davis two plays later, giving Butler the ball at the Fort Scott 17. Dausin hit Marcus Kinnard from 14 yards out two plays later and Ortiz's extra point gave Butler a 10-7 lead with 8:24 left in the contest.
A reverse on the kickoff didn't work out and the 'Hounds had to start on their own 8. And then a holding penalty pushed them back to the 4. But Davis hit Zach McFall for 20 yards on the second play and Hopkins was stopped on the next play after 14 yards only by a shirttail tackle.
Now at their own 38, the 'Hounds kept marching. Four plays later, from his own 49, Davis tossed a 2nd-and-10 pass to Hopkins, who broke a couple of tackles as he moved the ball 23 yards to the Butler 28.
After two incompletions, Davis hit Hopkins for 4. Then C.J. Fondren made a sliding catch for the first down at the 16.
Davis lost 10 yards on a second-down bootleg. But on third down from the 25, he hit McFall for 23 yards. Hopkins fought for 1 yard up the middle, then Davis snuck the ball over from 1 yard out with 1:37 to go.
"The offense did a great job on that drive," Sims said. "Our defense set them up and gave then the opportunity. This was a game...a victory for the entire team."
Butler recovered a squib kickoff at its own 36. On 3rd-and-7, Dausin fumbled when he was hit as he got ready to throw and Fort Scott recovered at the 37. A personal-foul penalty on Butler after the play was over gave the 'Hounds possession on the 22 with 1:03 left.
Butler used its first time out of the half after Hopkins gained 5 on first down. But then Hopkins went up the middle for 12 on second down with under a minute to go. The 'Hounds ran the clock down, called time out with 19 seconds left to avoid delay of game, then took a knee.
When it was over, Fort Scott had its first victory over Butler since a 1994 playoff game and its first regular-season triumph over the Grizzlies since 1978. Butler had won 36 of the previous 38 meetings (36-1-1).
"I want to credit Butler because they had class," Sims said. "They're a great program and they've been the standard. A program like Butler makes a program like ours better because they push us to be better so we can compete with them."
Even though the 'Hounds scored their fewest points in a victory since beating Coffeyville 10-3 in early 2007, they generated 24 first downs and 421 yards of total offense, not far from their conference-leading average of 432 yards. Hopkins finished with 166 yards on 33 carries as Fort Scott rushed for 206 yards on 56 carries against a Butler defense which had only been allowing 60 yards per game on the ground and 221 per game in total.
Davis completed 19 of 38 passes for 215 yards, the third 200-yard passing game of the season for the Boston College transfer. Josh Baker caught 5 of those passes for 52 yards and McFall caught 3 for 56 yards.
Butler had just 13 first downs and 280 yards of total offense. They had been averaging 388 total yards per game. The Grizzlies, who rushed for 355 yards the week before at Highland, were held to 138 yards on 32 carries. Jacques finished with 81 yards on 12 carries and Rico Brazil gained 66 on 15 rushes.
Dausin completed just 10 of 29 passes for 142 yards. He was 3 of 13 for 43 yards at the half.
Both Fort Scott and Butler will host first-round Region VI playoff games at 1:30 Sunday. Butler will host third-seeded Coffeyville (6-3), which beat Independence, 24-0, in a game that had no beating on seeding. Fort Scott will host Hutchinson, which earned its playoff berth with a 55-14 rout over Garden City Saturday night. The Greyhounds defeated Hutchinson, 31-0, at Frary Field Sept. 26. Hutchinson (6-3) was the No. 4-ranked team at the time but the loss was the first of three straight the Blue Dragons would suffer. Fort Scott was No. 6 at the time of the meeting, then jumper over Butler into the No. 3 spot after the victory.