Coming off a well-placed bye week to get healed up, the 13th-ranked Hutchinson Community College football team gets back to work on Saturday when the Blue Dragons travel to meet the Highland Scotties in a 1 p.m. kickoff at Kessinger Field in Highland.
Two weeks ago, the Blue Dragons needed a big second half to defeat Dodge City 45-10. Last week, the Blue Dragons were off, which allowed several banged-up Blue Dragons to get some needed time off.
While the offense continued to roll - the Dodge City game saw receiver Jatavius Stewart set a single-game receptions record with 12 catches - the defense posted its best overall showing of the season, holding Dodge City to HCC season lows of 10 points, 47 rushing yards, 199 passing yards and 246 total yards.
While the Blue Dragons (3-1, 3-0 Jayhawk Conference) have dominated the series with Highland, the last several times HCC has played at Kessinger Field haven’t always had pleasant outcomes. In 2006, Highland defeated Hutchinson 17-14 for the Scotties first-ever victory over HCC in 24 tries. Two years later, the Scotties downed the Dragons 23-10.
In 2010, HCC broke its two-game Kessinger Field skid with a 49-16 victory.
Last season’s matchup was quite memorable from a Blue Dragon standpoint. The 2011 game at Gowans Stadium saw Hutchinson set an NJCAA modern-day single-game scoring record in a 90-7 trouncing of the Scotties.
But the 2012 Scotties have some new life in first-year coach Ryan Held, who some experts say brought the third-best in-state recruiting class to Highland.
The improved Scotties are 1-3 and 1-2 in the Jayhawk Conference. Last week, the Scotties fell 61-0 to No. 3 Butler. Highland’s lone victory came in a 32-10 triumph over Dodge City on September 8 at Dodge City.
HCC head coach Rion Rhoades will coach his 60th game on the Blue Dragon sideline. He is 38-21 in the first 59 games. The 38 victories rank third on the HCC coaches list behind Charles Sesher and John Matous.
Hutchinson will play in the first of two regular-season day games. The second will be at Fort Scott, a 1 p.m. kickoff on October 20.
Hutchinson: Rion Rhoades is in his sixth season with the Blue Dragons. His HCC record is 38-21 in his sixth season at Hutchinson and is 45-26 in seven overall seasons. On Sept. 8 against Garden City, Rhoades surpassed Bill Goldsmith for third place on the HCC coaching wins list.
Highland: Ryan Held is in his first season with the Scotties. He is 1-3 so far in his first campaign in Northeast Kansas. Held was the offensive coordinator at Butler Community College previous to Highland.
About the Blue Dragons
Offense: Entering Week 6 of the 2012 season, the Blue Dragons have the No. 1 rusher and No. 1 passer in the nation in the offensive huddle.
Quarterback Luke Barnes has been quite impressive in his first four games with the Blue Dragons, completing 112 of 180 passes (62.2%) for 1,414 yards and a nation-leading 353.5 yards per game. Barnes has 17 touchdown passes to just one interceptions.
Joining him in the backfield is sophomore running back Terrell Lane, who leads the NJCAA at 167.2 yards per game. He has 669 yards and a 6.4 yard-per-carry average with five touchdowns. Lane is averaging 174.5 total yards per game and he’s accounted for seven total touchdowns.
Helping Barnes achieve those lofty passing numbers is a deep group of receivers, led by Jatavius Stewart, who is now firmly entrenched all the Blue Dragon career historical receiving charts. For the season, Stewart has 29 catches for 423 yards and five touchdowns, all marks lead or tie for the team lead.
Right on Stewart’s tail is sophomore receiver A.J. Johnson, who has 28 catches for 323 yards and five touchdowns. Sophomore Miguel Johns has 20 receptions for 329 yards and three scores. Sophomore Kody Cook has 15 catches for 107 yards.
HCC is averaging 50.0 points per game (fourth in the NJCAA), 203.8 rushing yards per game (18th in the NJCAA), 363.5 passing yards (leads the NJCAA) and 567.2 total yards per game (second in NJCAA).
Defense: The Blue Dragon defense made great strides against Dodge City two weeks ago, holding the Conquistadors to season-low marks for points, rushing, passing and total yards.
For the season, the defensive averages still aren’t what the coaching staff desires, but they are headed in the right direction. Through four games, the Blue Dragons are allowing 34.8 points, 170.8 rushing yards, 253.5 passing yards and 424.2 total yards per game.
The linebackers continue to set the pace defensively as Devondre Campbell leads the team with 41 tackles. Kenny Flowers has 36 tackles, an interception and fumble return for a touchdown. Aaron Jackson has 29 total tackles.
The Blue Dragons have forced 10 total takeaways. Freshman Terell Hannah is tied for third in the nation in interceptions with three.
After a slow start, just four tackles for loss and one quarterback sack in the first two games, HCC has amassed 20 tackles for loss and six quarterback sacks in the last two games.
Special Teams: Michael Mesh is off to a sizzling start to his sophomore season. In three games, Mesh has totaled 42 points to move into fifth place on the HCC career scoring list. He is 21 of 23 on extra points and is 7 of 7 on field goals, knocking through a career-long 43-yarder against Navarro on Sept. 1.
Mesh has already surpassed his FG total of last season and is 11 of 14 in his career.
Terrell Lane and Luke Barnes are splitting the punting chores. Lane is averaging 46.1 yards per boot and Barnes is averaging 36.8 yards per punt.
Four different Blue Dragons are averaging better than 20 yards per kickoff return. Jatavius Stewart leads at 23.5 yards per return with a long of 62 yards. Kody Cook is averaging 21.8 yards per return and Antonio Johnson is averaging 20.5 yards per return and Johns is averaging 25.5 per return.
HCC has given up kickoff return TDs of 98 and 101 yards this season.
About the Scotties
Offense: While Ryan Held has greatly improved the overall talent pool at Highland, some of the Scotties same old struggles have loomed through the first four games of the regular season.
The Scotties are still struggling to score. Thirty-two of their 51 points scored this season came in one game against Dodge City. The Scotties are averaging 12.8 points, 114 rushing yards and a scant 44.5 passing yards per game.
Quarterback Shenquez Stephens pulls the trigger on the Scotties’ multi-formation offense. He has completed 17 of 43 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown. Stephens has yet to be intercepted this season. Stephens is a true running threat. He is second on the team in rushing with 185 yards and three touchdowns. He has ran the ball 57 times.
Brian Handley is Highland’s top rusher with 227 yards and a 3.8 yard-per-carry average. Keith Marks and Teddy Colbert are Highland’s leading receivers with four receptions lead.
Defense: This is the side of the ball where the Scotties are greatly improved, even though the averages may not quite indicate that unless you look a little deeper. Last season, Highland surrendered 45.9 points and 456.6 yards per game. Through the first four games of 2012, those numbers are at 31.8 points and 404 yards per game (201.5 rushing and 202.5 passing).
Terell Jordan has a team-high 43 tackles with two interceptions, two passes broken up and one forced fumble. Brandon King has 40 tackles and four passes broken up. Tevin Handley had 26 tackles.
Highland has a strong secondary, intercepting nine passes and broken up 11 more.. Contereze Pierce has three picks.
Special Teams: Special teams haven’t been all that special for the Scotties, other than the fact that Brandon King has three blocked kicks this season.
Punting Gary Flack is averaging just 26.7 yards per punt with a net of just more than 21 yards per attempt. Highland is just 2 of 7 on extra points and haven’t attempted a field goal.
Contereze Pierce averages 20.3 yards per kickoff return and Marwin Evans averages 25.3 per return.
This is the 31st meeting all-time between Hutchinson and Highland in a series that dates back to 1970. The Blue Dragons lead the series 28-2.
Hutchinson leads the series in games played at Gowans Stadium 17-0 and leads 11-3 in games played at Kessinger Field.