(Kenny Felt/Captured Images)
The Greyhounds (10-0) lost to the Blue Dragons at Frary Field in first round last season. They haven't lost again in 11 games since then.
"You don't want to lose any games," Fort Scott head coach Jeff Sims said. "But that locked us in for today and our guys were ready to go."
(Kenny Felt/Captured Images)
But next Sunday at 1:30, the Region VI Championship will be held at Frary Field, the same place where, eight days earlier, the 'Hounds defeated Butler, 14-10, to deny the Grizzlies the Jayhawk Conference regular-season title for the first time since 2000 and claim it themselves for the first time since 1974.
"When I was a little kid and when you hit the game-winning shot in a game of H-O-R-S-E, the guy would toss you the ball and say, 'Prove it'," Sims said. "We want to 'prove it.'"
Hutchinson (6-4) and Fort Scott met at Frary Field on Sept. 26 when the visitors were ranked No. 4 in the nation and the 'Hounds were No. 6. But Fort Scott prevailed that day, 31-0. The Blue Dragons went on to lose their next two games (Butler and Coffeyville). They had to regroup and win three straight, including a home game against Garden City on the final day of the regular season, just to make the playoffs.
Hutch turnovers cost the Blue Dragons dearly in the early stages of the first meeting and another early turnover did so again. On an early 3rd-down play, Dragon quarterback Angelo Pease was stripped of the ball by defensive tackle Anthony White and linebacker Andre Clark recovered for the Greyhounds on the Fort Scott 35-yard line.
The 'Hounds marched downfield, eating up nearly 8 minutes on an 18-play, 65-yard drive. Fort Scott set up in a full-house backfield near the goal line and Jonathan Walker, one of the fullbacks, took the ball in for a touchdown on a 4th-down dive play from the 1 with 4:48 to go in the first quarter.
Hutchinson scored twice in the second quarter to take a 10-7 lead. Pease hit Ethan Ungles on a 42-yard touchdown score, which featured some nifty open-field running, with 8:32 to go. The 'Hounds muffed the ensuing kickoff and Hutch recovered. But even though the defense was beginning to show signs of fatigue after being on the field for 17 consecutive plays, they forced the Dragons to settle for Kelly Roberts' 18-yard field goal with 4:46 to go.
"They responded," Sims said. "We're playing good team football right now. We just have to keep the guys focused and healthy. You can tell we've played 10 games. They're not injured but they're sore."
The offense also responded as Hopkins needed only one play to put the 'Hounds back on top. Taking the ball on his own 34, Hopkins ran to his right, ran into his own blocker, cut back left and scampered down the sideline for a 66-yard touchdown run with 4:26 to go.
"They were overplaying it," Sims said of that run. "They said, 'We are not going to let you run this play.' And they (overpursued) it so much, that a great player like Jas can make something happen out of it."
The 'Hounds got another touchdown before halftime on a drive that featured quarterback Dominique Davis. First, Hopkins gained 15 yards on the second play of the drive to get a 1st down at the Fort Scott 48. Then Davis eluded the rush and ran 15 yards before going out of bounds. Next, Davis found C.J. Fondren for 17 yards to the 18. Then he hit Zach McFall for 17 more yards to set up his 1-yard sneak with 12 seconds to go.
Chris Anderson brought Hutch within one score early in the third quarter on a 32-yard TD run. But the 'Hounds responded again as Hopkins went over the right side and rambled in from 48 yards out to make it 28-17 with 10:55 to go.
Fort Scott went on to score two more touchdowns while the defense held Hutch to 26 yards of total offense the rest of the game. But Sims' said it wasn't Hopkins run that sparked the effort but, rather, that Anderson's run kind of shook the 'Hounds up and made them realize the game wasn't over quite yet.
"This is how things are different in junior college," Sims said. "THEM scoring is what sparked us. Because our guys will play to the level of what's happening to them. And then when another team shows them they're still ready to play, then our team perks up and get ready to go. That's why it can be hard to run the clock out. When our guys know I'm just trying to win the game and get it over with, they let up a little bit. We just need to keep moving forward."
The defense forced a punt and the 'Hounds took over at their own 44. Davis scrambled for 10 yards on the first play and Hopkins gained the rest, going through a big hole in the middle from 24 yards out for his third touchdown of the day with 6:48 left in the third.
That made it 35-17 and was Hopkins' last carry of the day. In just over 8 minutes of play in the 3rd quarter, the conference's leading rusher gained 83 yards. He finished the day with 208 yards on 25 carries and the No. 2 spot on Fort Scott Community College's all-time rushing list behind Tommy Reamon.
The rest of the team still had some work to do. Another punt gave the 'Hounds the ball at their own 49-yard line and Davis hit a leaping Chad Peak over the middle on the first play for 35 yards to the 16. Justin Woods, the conference's third-leading rusher, moved the ball the remaining yards, going over the goal line from 6 yards out with 4:26 to go.
Hutchinson tried to get back into the game through the air, but the 'Hounds were denying that as well. Donnell Jones picked off a Pease pass to end the Dragons' next drive. On the following Hutch possession, Steven Ford batted a pass away from a Hutch receiver at the goal line on a 4th-down play.
The secondary doesn't get quite as much ink as the front seven maybe in part because the Jayhawk Conference is a strong running conference. Only two teams in the conference average over 200 yards a game passing. But Jones' interception was Fort Scott's conference-leading 17th of the season and Fort Scott's defensive pass-efficiency rating is the second-best in the KJCCC (95.1).
"Our front seven gets so much credit and does so good because our defensive backs are good," Fort Scott head coach Jeff Sims said. "They can cover those guys who get out there. It's a good, solid defense."
Hutchinson had just 20 yards of total offense in the fourth quarter on 11 plays.
For the game, Fort Scott gained 425 yards of total offense against a team that had been allowing 272 yards per game. The 'Hounds rushed for 268 yards on 56 carries as Woods added 46 yards on 18 carries to the total. Hutchinson was held to 153 yards on the ground and 234 total. Anderson was their leading rusher with 72 yards on 14 carries. The conference's second-leading rusher, Chris Clay, managed only 38 yards on 13 rushes.
Davis had his most efficient day as a Greyhound, completing 13 of 14 passes for 157 yards. Fondren had 4 catches for 43 yards, Peake 4 for 39 and Josh Baker 3 for 39 for a receiving corps that has become better with each game and now has four legitimate threats.
Pease connected on only 7 of 17 passes for Hutchinson for 81 yards. Ungles had 2 catches for 59 yards.
As Sims reflected on the game, he also took a look back at how the program has been built up to this point.
"A lot of credit goes to everyone who's been a part of this program in the last three years," Fort Scott head coach Jeff Sims said. "(Former quarterback) Greg Cross (now at the University of Pittsburgh) helped us win this game today."
NOTES -- Davis has pledged to play at East Carolina University next season, according to a report posted on www.jcfootball.com. For the season, Davis went 27 of 34 for 149 yards against Hutch....
In his two games against Hutch this season, Hopkins gained 319 yards on 51 carries and scored four times against the conference's No. 2 rushing defense, averaging over 6 yards per carry....
Gage McKinnis, a former Uniontown player who played his senior season at Hutchinson High School, did not play again as was the case in the first meeting. He missed that game due to injury and word from one Hutchinson observer was that he had been granted a medical redshirt which will give him an extra year of eligibility that can be used at any level....
FSCC offensive tackle Jermarcus Hardrick has committed to Louisiana State, according to jcfootball.com. Meanwhile, LB LaVonte David hasn't made a commitment but has seven schools interested, including Kansas, Kansas State and Utah....
Former Fort Scott head coach Rion Rhoades (2006), now the head coach at Hutchinson, is 1-3 against the Greyhounds1....
The last time Butler did not appear in the Region VI Championship Game was 2005. Coffeyville defeated Dodge City that year, 33-12, after the Conquistadors upset the then-No. 1-ranked Grizzlies in the semifinals. That game was played in Coffeyville, the last time a championship game was played somewhere other than Wichita. It was also the last season of the eight-team playoff format. Since then, only the top four teams in regular-season play have advanced to the playoffs....
Hutchinson will go on to host the inaugural Salt City Bowl on December 5. The Dragons' opponent will be determined later....
Two top-10 teams to lost over the weekend. No. 3 Mississippi Gulf Coast fell to No. 7 East Mississippi, 75-71, victory in the Mississippi state championship game .
That's not a misprint. And, no, there were no overtime periods. The score was tied at 54-54 after three quarters. There is a link to a story of the game provided on www.fstribune.com/sports/college. Scroll down that page and look for the link under the Mississippi standings.
The other top-10 team that fell was No. 10 Rochester Tech. It lost in overtime to No. 12 Central Lakes in the Minnesota championship game....