(Kenny Felt/Captured Images)
The first victory of the season was the 30th at FSCC for head coach Jeff Sims, who became just the fourth coach to reach that mark here. Warren Littrell (1931-36) and Jack Welch (1987-92) each won 36 games and Harold Mahanes (1961-65) also won 30 games.
But what made Sims happy is what always makes Sims happy: The team performed better.
"We had a good week of practice and you could see some maturity throughout the week," Sims said. "I really believe that you will see improvement out of this team each week all season long. We're excited to get back to work and continue to see these guys improve."
In other Jayhawk Conference action, No. 4 Butler shredded Highland 56-7, No. 10 Coffeyville dominated Garden City 31-2 and, in a non-conference game, No. 8 Hutchinson bombarded Air Force Prep 45-3. Dodge City had the weekend off.
The Greyhounds worked on finding the best ways to use the personnel they have. Offensively, that meant coming out in a variation of the double wing (some might call it the "flexbone") and worked on establishing some power running. The first drive was an early indication it would work as FSCC (1-1 Jayhawk, 1-2 overall) drove down to the Independence 13 after recovering a fumble to end the Pirates' first drive. However, a fumble of their own on gave the ball back to Indy.
The Pirates (0-2, 0-3) capitalized on the turnover, scoring when quarterback Brodrick Waters rolled to his left on a fourth-and-6 play then threw back to the middle where he found Lavelle Maddox in the back of the end zone from 19 yards out with 5:56 on the clock. Because the Pirates don't really have a kicker, they went for the 2-point conversion and failed.
However, the 'Hounds were able to answer. Chris Smith returned the kickoff from his own 18 to the Independence 46. Nick Woods found 12 yards on the first play. Then quarterback Blaine Dalton found former Labette County High tight end Brannon Green for 12 more to the 20 on a third-and-8 play.
Fort Scott was then faced with a fourth-and-13 from the 23. Dalton found receiver Malcom Moulton for 21 yards to get up first-and-goal. Dalton then snuck it over from the 2 with 1:30 remaining and Drew Russell's conversion kick gave the Greyhounds a 7-6 lead.
Fort Scott got down to the Indy 14 on its next possession early in the second period but Dalton was sacked on fourth-and-6. The Pirates scored from that on another fourth-down play as Waters found Lazerick Richardson from 45 yards out on fourth-and-11 with 3:07 to go. Again, the Pirates went for 2 but failed and so were up 12-7.
Midway through the third, Independence drove down to Fort Scott's 4 where it faced fourth-and-goal. Not wanting to come away without a score, Michael Jeune was sent out to try a 21-yard field goal.
Jeune is Independence's starting middle linebacker. He's also a very good punter and handles their kickoffs. But his field-goal try was low and into the line and Fort Scott took over at the 19.
This time, the Greyhounds were the ones taking advantage of opportunity. Woods found 13 yards on the first play to give them some breathing room. Faced with fourth-and-3 at their own 39, Dalton found Moulton on three consecutive passes. The first was good for 27 yards and a first down at the Indy 34. The next gained 4 yards. The third went for 7 more to the Indy 23.
Then it was back to Woods, who gained 7 yards, then 6, then followed the blocks of back Jonathan Walker, tackle Alex Baker and newly-activated tight end Desmond Kenner into the end zone on the first play of the final stanza.
"I thought we were very physical up front today," Sims said. "Woods is a guy who totally deserves the success he gets. We've never had an issue with his work ethic or anything of that nature."
The Greyhound defense still had work to do to preserve a 2-point lead. Kennard Butler ended Indy's next drive by intercepting Waters. On the next possession, Danny Herring hit Waters as he threw and forced an incompletion on fourth-and-10 from the Fort Scott 40 with 1:17 remaining.
Independence had two time outs, however and were able to force the 'Hounds to make a fourth-down decision. They tried a pitch to Moulton on fourth-and-4 but gained only 2 yards. That gave Independence one last shot from the Fort Scott 44 with nine seconds remaining.
"I've coached 67 games (including other jucos) and that was probably the worst clock management I've had near the end of a game," Sims admitted. "It just doesn't seem like things have come easy this year and we're fighting through it, myself included. I think everybody's pressing."
Independence's coaches did not send Waters out for the game's final play. Instead, they put Destin Stewart, their best receiver, at quarterback. He faded back, tried to scramble and slipped near the line of scrimmage to end the game.
Fort Scott's defense may not have needed the help as it had it's best game of the season, allowing a season-low 327 yards.
"As a team, you're trying to find an identity," Sims said. "You're trying to find what your players' strengths are. We have good talent on this team but you have to put it in the right combination. The longer we work together with the guys, the easier it is to put that combination together."
Fort Scott gained 246 total yards. Forty-nine rushes produced 157 yards, almost a yard better than the average per carry coming into the game. Woods had his college-best with 129 yards on 26 carries.
"We've been here four years and we've done double wing and 3-backs, spread," Sims said. "We're trying to find the (formation) that suits our players. We felt good about that and when we go back and watch film, if it's something will continue to give us success, we'll continue to use it."
Dalton completed 8 of 14 passes for 89 yards. Moulton caught 6 of those for 68 yards.
Waters went 8 of 18 for 145 yards but was just 3 of 10 for 14 yards in the second half. Stewart caught 4 passes for 59 yards.
Indy rushed for 182 yards on 47 carries. The Pirates' fullbacks combined for 127 of those with James Baker going for 80 on 16 carries and Stephen Houston gaining 47 on 16 totes.
The Greyhounds travel to Garden City Saturday for a Jayhawk Conference contest. The Broncbusters have lost two straight games after a season-opening victory over Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
NOTES -- Fort Scott committed just 4 penalties for 21 yards. Independence was called for 13 penalties for 95 yards. Eleven of those were committed by the offense....
Yes, NEO really did beat No. 1 Blinn Saturday night at Miami, Okla. The Golden Norsemen, winless heading into the contest, recovered a muffed Blinn punt at the 7-yard line late in the contest. On fourth down, backup quarterback Will Crowder hit Jermain Sherman for the winning score.
Presuming no one leaps over anyone in the polls, Arizona Western will take over the No. 1 spot in the NJCAA poll this week. Arizona Western beat Phoenix 47-17 Saturday night....
Blinn wasn't the only top-10 team to lose. While No. 3 Mississippi Gulf Coast did shutout Mississippi Delta 52-0 Thursday night and No. 4 Butler got its big win over Highland, fifth-ranked Snow took the long trip to Georgia Military and suffered a 42-21 loss. Georgia Military began the season with a pre-season No. 17 ranking before suffering a season-opening loss at Navarro on Sept. 4 and fell out of the poll....
Rounding out the national top 10 outside of the Jayhawk Conference, No. 6 Ellsworth and No. 7 Grand Rapids were also winners and No. 9 Navarro had the week off...