(Kenny Felt/Captured Images)
"I have told the team all season that if we play each quarter one at a time, and play them well, good things would happen", Fort Scott head coach Jeff Sims said when asked about the "Play 48" motto earlier in the year.
Forty-eight is the number of quarters played over 12 games, which only teams that qualify for bowl games have a chance to play.
Good things is a understatement as the 11-0 and No. 1-ranked Greyhounds go into this Sunday's national title contest, against the Blinn (Texas) Buccaneers, in the inaugural Citizens Bank Bowl at Carnie Smith Stadium on the campus of Pittsburg State University.
The Citizens Bank Bowl has been sanctioned as the official National Championship Game by the National Junior College Athletic Association.
The Buccaneers, 10-1 and ranked No. 2 in the nation, will be going for a second title for fifth-year head coach Brad Franchione. Blinn won the championship in 2006 with a 12-0 record.
Fort Scott and Blinn both bring explosive offenses to the championship game that could turn into a "if you can do it. we can do it better" type affair.
The Buccaneers are ranked number one in the NJCAA in yards of offense per game with 492 yards per contest while Fort Scott is ranked 14th in the country with 404 yards per game.
Blinn is a "50/50" team, which means it runs the ball and throwss the ball about the same amount of times per game. The Buccaneers average 201 yards on the ground per game and 291 yards through the air.
Fort Scott will look to run the ball first and throw second. The Greyhounds are averaging 266 yards on the ground and 135 yards on the ground in their 12 contests.
Transfer quarterback Cameron Newton, 6' 6" 248-pound redshirt sophomore, leads the way for the Buccaneers with 2,722 yards throwing, which ranks sixth in the country. His 63-percent completion rating leads the nation. Newton played behind University of Florida Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow before transferring to Blinn last season.
Greyhound quarterback Dominique Davis also has Divison I experience on his resume as he transferred in from Boston College during the summer. He started three games as a Eagle last season including, leading the team to victory in the 2008 Music City Bowl. Davis, a 6' 4" 210-pound sophomore, has thrown for 1,406 yards and completed 56 percent of his passes.
Grounding it out is where the 'Hounds look to have the edge has they have all season long. Running behind an offensive line that averages 296 pounds, the 'Hounds running attack has averaged 4.9 yards per rush.
Preseason All-America Jermarcus "Yoshi" Hardrick leads the way at the tackle position. Hardrick is a highly sought after D-I product with schools such as Louisana State and Nebraska pushing to bring the big lineman to their university next season.
Leading rusher and Jayhawk Conference Offensive Player of the Year Jasmin Hopkins loves running behind the "Big Nasty" offensive line group and he leads the country with 1,743 yards rushing in 2009. Hopkins, a 5' 8" 170 pound sophomore, is also nationally ranked in yards per game (158 yards), fifth in scoring (102 points), and first in rushing attempts with 287 carries.
"My boys up front, the 'Big Dawgs,' is the big reason that I get the yards I get. Without them I couldn't do what I do," Hopkins said about the Hounds offensive line earlier this season. Behind them, Hopkins will finish second on the FSCC's all-time career rushing list behind only Tommy Reamon, a star player on the 1970 National Champion team.
Hopkins running mate, sophomore Justin Woods, is 55 yards shy of hitting the century mark for the season with 945 yards on 191 attempts.
The Buccaneers will look at Michael Hayes to run the ball when they go to the ground. Hayes, a 5'9" 190 pound sophomore, has rushed for 1,157 yards on 186 carries and scored 15 touchdowns He is seventh in the nation in rushing and in scoring.
Newton's targets through the air have been wide receivers Darrin Moore and Grant Merritt, who have caught 35 and 31 passes, respectively. The receivers have 1,100 yards combined.
Davis' main receiving weapon comes from First Team All-Jayhawk Conference receiver C.J. Fondren. Fondren, a Pittsburg native, has 30 receptions for 375 yards this season.
On paper, this championship game looks to be a high-scoring game. But Fort Scott's defense has been able to rise to the occasion when it comes face-to-face with the countries best offenses. Against Hutchinson in Week Three, Fort Scott held the Blue Dragons to 266 yards under their rushing average and gave them a goose egg on the scoreboard en route to a 31-0 victory.
In two contests against national power Butler, the 'Hound defense held the Grizzlies to a total of 22 points in the two contests between the teams. As a comparison, Blinn surrendered 17 points to the Grizzlies in a season-opening 24-17 victory.
The Greyhound defense is allowing 272 total yards per outing while Blinn is giving up 270 yards per game.
Linebacker LaVonte David leads the Greyhounds with 111 tackles, a total that is fifth in the nation. He also leads them with a nation-leading 23 tackles for a loss.
With the defensive motto, "11 hats to the ball every play," the All-Conference linebacker David has had a lot of help getting the job done.
Safety Jamel Johnson is second on the team with 70 tackles while linemen Byron Jerideau and Anthony White come in third and fourth with 67 and 60 tackles, respectively.
Sophomore defensive end Zach Bowers leads the 'Hounds with 7 1/2 sacks while fellow freshman end Frank Bryant has a team leading 6 forced fumbles.
Blinn's defensive unit is led in tackles by defensive back Justin Goodman with 75. Another defensive back, Justin Sorrell, is second with 73 takedowns.
Defensive lineman Logan Johnson leads the Bucs with 13 sacks on the season.
Fort Scott's head coach Jeff Sims is 1-0 against Blinn. The 'Hounds beat the Buccaneers in the Heart of Texas Bowl in Copperas Cove, 30-14, last season.
Sims is undefeated in his three seasons at the helm in Fort Scott against Texas colleges, owning a 4-0 record. The 'Hounds head man is 29-5 over these three years with an .853 winning percentage, which is third best on the all-time FSCC coaching list).
In 2009, Sims was voted the Jayhawk Conference Coach of the Year, an honor he perfers to share with his entire coaching staff.
Blinn's Franchione is 45-10 (.818) in his five seasons at the college. His father, Dennis, was head coach at Pittsburg State in the 1980s and this has led to rumors that Brad is a candidate to succeed Chuck Broyles has Gorillas head coach.
Kickoff for the Citizens Bank Bowl is set for 1 p.m. this Sunday. Tickets are still available at Citizens Bank locations in Fort Scott, Pittsburg, Iola, Mound City, Kincaid, Lenexa, and Overland Park, as well as at the Pittsburg State University ticket office. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students K-12 in general admission seating. More information can be found online at www.citizensbankbowl.com.
The radio broadcast rights were won by KSEK-AM "The Ticket" of Pittsburg, which can be received in Fort Scott on 1340 AM.
Fans can also see a live telecast of the game over the Internet at www.njcaa.org/tv.
Should Fort Scott emerge victorious, the Greyhounds will win their fourth national title. The 1970 championship was NJCAA sanctioned. Fort Scott was also voted 1935 National Champions and 1938 Co-National Champions but it is not known what organization sanctioned those polls.