WICHITA – The Hutchinson Community College football team was picked to finish second in the Jayhawk Conference in 2012, according to a poll of the league’s football coaches.
That poll was announced during the annual Jayhawk Conference media day on Friday in at the House of Schwan in Wichita.
Only defending Jayhawk Conference and Region VI champion Butler was ranked above the Blue Dragons. Hutchinson and Butler meet in the final regular-season game on Oct. 27 at Gowans Stadium. Coffeyville, Hutchinson’s season-opening foe on Aug. 25 at Gowans Stadium, was picked third.
The remainder of the poll was Fort Scott at No. 4, Garden City and Dodge City tied for fifth, Highland was seventh and Independence eighth.
The 2012 Blue Dragons, under sixth-year head coach Rion Rhoades, returns 12 starters (4 – offense; 5 – defense; 3 – special teams) and 27 letter winners (14 – offense; 10 – defense; 3 – special teams) from a 9-3 team that finished second in the league, as Region VI runner-up and Salt City Bowl champion that finished ninth in the final 2011 NJCAA football poll.
Offensively, the Blue Dragons must replace two-time All-American receiver/return specialist Cordarrelle Patterson, two-year starting quarterback Elliott Alford and only have one starting offensive lineman returning from the highest-scoring offense in team history. Still, playmakers return in receivers Jatavius Stewart and Miguel Johns and running backs Terrell Lane and LaQua Mayes.
Defensively, two of the top defensive linemen in the country are back in tackles Toby Johnson and Ben Bradley. Record-setting kicker Michael Mesh, punter Kody Cook and return specialist Stewart bolster the special teams.
This is the third-straight season that Hutchinson has been picked second. The Blue Dragons are in search of their first Jayhawk Conference championship since 1995, the same year they won their last Region VI crown. Hutchinson has been to the Region VI championship game in three of the last four seasons.
Rhoades is just one of three Jayhawk Conference coaches who have been at their school for more than two seasons. Troy Morrell has been at Butler for 13 seasons and Bob Majeski starts his fifth this season at Dodge City. There will be two new head coaches in the league this season – Ryan Held at Highland and Aaron Flores at Coffeyville.
Rhoades has posted a 35-20 overall record at Hutchinson in his first five seasons. He is 19-5 over the last two seasons and 33-13 over the last four seasons.
The Blue Dragons’ first practice will be Saturday morning at Gowans Stadium, exactly three weeks until opening night against the Red Ravens, in a statewide televised game.
(HCC Sports Information)