The Hutchinson Community College Blue Dragons open their 81st season of football on Saturday night when Jayhawk Conference rival Coffeyville comes to Gowans Stadium for a 7:07 p.m. kickoff.
Saturday’s Cox Kickoff Classic game will the second-straight year that the Blue Dragons will have appeared in the statewide television broadcast group’s season-opening telecast. Last season, HCC downed Kilgore College 69-26 at Gowans Stadium.
Game 1 – Cox Kansas Kickoff Classic
No. 10 Hutchinson (0-0, 0-0) vs. No. 17 Coffeyville (0-0, 0-0)
When: Saturday, August 25, 2012
Kickoff: 7:07 p.m.
Site: Gowans Stadium, Hutchinson
TV: Cox Kansas Channel 22 (Mark Ewing, play-by-play; Rich Baldinger, analysis; Chris Allison, sidelines), 7 p.m.
Radio: KHUT-FM (102.9), (Rusty Hilst, play-by-play; Rob Dreher, analysis; Glen Grunwald, sidelines), 6:55 p.m.
Internet/Live Stats: BlueDragonSports.com – Live audiostream, tape-delayed videostream, live stats
Follow the game on Blue Dragon Athletic Twitter
This will be the first time since 2005 and the 26th time overall that the Blue Dragons will open a season against a Jayhawk Conference opponent. The Red Ravens have been that KJCCC season-opening opponent for Hutchinson six times before this occasion, the last coming in 1994.
Saturday’s matchup will be the third meeting against Coffeyville in the last five games dating back to last season. HCC swept Coffeyville in 2011, winning 42-17 in the regular-season finale at Coffeyville and then one week later, eliminated the Red Ravens 45-16 in the Region VI semifinals at Gowans Stadium. For Coffeyville, Hutchinson will serve as Coffeyville’s opponent for the third-straight game, dating back to last season.
Beginning his sixth season, Hutchinson head coach Rion Rhoades has seen plenty of changes to his staff, having to replace both coordinators. Third-year coach Tommy Mangino takes over the offense while first-year coaches Chad Adams and Dion Meneley will serve as co-defensive coordinators. Rhoades will have seven new coaches on his staff this season.
Hutchinson comes off a 9-3 season in 2011 where it finished second in the Jayhawk Conference and advanced to the Region VI championship game for the third time in four seasons. HCC won its third-straight Salt City Bowl, defeating Lackawanna College 70-20.
Hutchinson: Rion Rhoades is in his sixth season with the Blue Dragons. His HCC record is 35-20 in five full seasons and 42-25 in six overall seasons. With one more victory, Rhoades will tie Bill Goldsmith for third on the HCC coaching list.
Coffeyville: Aaron Flores makes his head-coaching debut for the Red Ravens. Last season Flores was the offensive coordinator at Itawamba. Previously, he was the offensive coordinator at Butler.
About the Blue Dragons
Offense: The 2012 Blue Dragon offense will have a tough act to follow as the 2011 unit was one of the top offenses in the NJCAA. HCC set a team scoring record with 601 points (50.1 points per game) and were second in the league and seventh in the NJCAA in rushing at 236.7 yards per game.
Gone is All-American game-breaking receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, record-setting quarterback Elliott Alford and four starting offensive linemen.
Still, there are game-breakers returning in receivers Jatavius Stewart, who posted the sixth-best receiving season in 2011 (47 catches, 741 yards) and Miguel Johns (34 catches, 539 yards). Running backs Terrell Lane (73 rushes, 461 yards) and LaQua Mayes (33 rushes, 221 yards) will give HCC a thunder-lightning mix.
Troy University transfer Luke Barnes will be the starting quarterback. The Fort Walton Beach, Fla., native redshirted at Troy last season.
Defense: As far as the 2012 Blue Dragon defense unit, Rion Rhoades would like to see improvement in several areas. Perhaps the biggest was the propensity to give up the big play in 2011. Of the 35 touchdowns allowed, 25 were from 10 yards or more out.
That dented a solid overall defensive effort last season. Hutchinson allowed 20.9 points, 173.2 rushing yards, 179.6 passing yards and 352.8 total yards per game.
The defensive line will be the 2012 unit’s strength.
Defensive tackles Toby Johnson (College Park, GA) and Ben Bradley (Norcross, GA) have been two of the most highly recruited defensive linemen in the nation after strong freshman seasons. Johnson had 50 total tackles, 10.5 for loss, two quarterback sacks, nine QB hurries. Bradley had 39 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, one sack and five QB hurries.
Freshmen Kenny Flowers and Devondre Campbell will lead the linebacker corps and will have to play big in the absence of injured linebacker Antonio Longino.
The secondary will be young, but talented.
Special Teams: The special teams return nearly completely intact with the exception of Cordarrelle Patterson, who graduated with a school-record six returns for touchdowns.
Michael Mesh (Hutchinson Trinity Catholic) set a record for most extra points in a single season in 2011, converting 73 of 80 point-after tries. He also holds the single-game record of 10 extra points in one game.
Added 4 of 7 on field goals (a long of 36 yards), Mesh was second on the team in scoring last season with 85 points, a single-season team record for a kicker.
Kody Cook, in addition to his receiving and backup quarterback duties, is the returning starting punter. He was an all-conference honorable mention punter after averaging 39,8 yards per punt. He had six punts of 50 or more yards and landed 18 inside the 20-yard line.
Stewart was one of the league’s top punt returners. He averaged 16.2 yards per return with a 66-yard touchdown last season.
About the Red Ravens
Offense: Coffeyville brings in a solid receiving corps with Justin Berry (20 catches, 311 yards) anchoring the position group. The Ravens will have a new starting quarterback as well a four new starting offensive linemen. Garrett Atzenweiler is the top returning running back for the Ravens. He averaged 7.3 yards per carry last season.
Coffeyville averaged 26.7 points, 201.5 rushing yards, 187.4 passing yards and 388.9 total yards.
Defense: First-team All-American linebacker Martrell Spaight (101 tackles) will anchor the Coffeyville defense in 2012. Also returning is cornerback Brandon Willingham.
Coffeyville allowed 22.3 points, 186.8 rushing yards, 134.8 rushing yards and 321.6 total yards per game
Special Teams: Tyler Bishop returns as Coffeyville’s placekicker. He was 18 of 25 on PATs and 2 of 6 on field goals with a long of 32 yards. He also averaged 35.2 yards per punt on 10 punts in his freshman season.
This will be the 80th meeting between Hutchinson and Coffeyville. The Red Ravens have a decisive 54-21-4 overall series advantage, but the Blue Dragons have won 4 of the last 5 meetings.
Hutchinson is 14-21-2 against Coffeyville in games played in the Salt City. HCC is 7-33 at Coffeyville. Last year’s 42-17 win at Coffeyville snapped a seven-game losing streak at Coffeyville and was HCC’s first-ever win at Veteran’s Memorial Stadium.
TV GAMES: This will be the Blue Dragons’ seventh appearance on statewide television and it will be the second-straight season that the Cox Kickoff Classic will be broadcast from Gowans Stadium.
Five of the first six televised games have been produced by Cox Communications, including the last two Salt City Bowls.
HCC is 3-3 in televised games.
SEASON OPENERS: The Blue Dragons are 44-34-2 in season openers. HCC is 9-3 in season openers since 2000 and have won four-straight openers.
HOME OPENERS: HCC is 55-23-2 in Gowans Stadium opening games. HCC has won five-straight opening games at Gowans Stadium and are 10-2 since 2000.
CONFERENCE SEASON OPENERS: This will be the 22nd time in 81 seasons that HCC has opening the season with a Jayhawk Conference Game, the first since 2005. The Blue Dragons are 18-13 in Jayhawk Conference openers to start the season.
BLUE DRAGONS IN THE NJCAA POLL: With the No. 10 preseason national ranking, HCC football has been ranked in 28 consecutive and 38 of the last 40 NJCAA football polls.
The Blue Dragons also have been ranked in 10 of the 14 polls in the Top 10.
HCC VS. RANKED FOES: Hutchinson is now 9-13 against NJCAA-ranked competition under Rion Rhoades. Previous, HCC dropped 22 of 23 to ranked teams.
DRAGON OFFENSE EXPLOSIVE IN 2011: The big-play capability of the 2011 Blue Dragon offense that set it apart from any other HCC team. Last season, the Blue Dragons scored 40 offensive touchdowns - not counting return touchdowns - of 10 or more yards and had 45 scoring drives of five plays or less.
RAVENS’ FLORES KNOWS THE JAYHAWK: While Aaron Flores is in his first season as head coach. In 10 years at Butler, Flores was 105-12, playing in six national championship games.
RAVENS IN 2011: Coffeyville finished third in the Jayhawk Conference, going 6-4 overall and 4-2 in league play. Three of the Red Ravens’ four losses came to Hutchinson and Butler.
(By Steve Carpenter, HCC Sports Information Director)