The Hutchinson Community College football team finished a dominant run to the Kansas Jayhawk Conference playoff championship, capped with a 49-19 victory over Garden City on Sunday afternoon at Riverfront Stadium in Wichita.
But the Blue Dragons (8-2) received bad news when the National Junior College Athletic Association football rankings were released on Monday. They were placed fifth, with a place to be included in the new four-team playoffs for a national championship.
Hutchinson, who won the national title in the spring just six months ago, ended the season on a five-game winning streak, including knocking out two straight ranked teams, No.15 Independence and No.11 Garden City, by a combined total of 91-19.
“There’s no question in my mind that we’ve done enough,” Hutchinson coach Drew Dallas said ahead of the standings release Monday afternoon. “A Jayhawk Conference team needs to be represented in the playoffs. It is without a doubt the toughest conference in junior college football. For me there is no doubt that we are one of the top four teams in the country.
“Some of that is out of our control now, but if you’re asking about the top four teams in the country, there’s no question Hutchinson should be there.”
Hutchinson certainly made a compelling case on Sunday, as his defense forced five turnovers and his offense produced 314 passing yards in just 12 completed passes.
Garden City led 13-7 in the first half, but it was all Hutchinson after that at the first non-baseball event held at the $ 75 million downtown Wichita Stadium with over 2,000 participants.
The Blue Dragons exploded for five unanswered touchdowns between the second and third quarter to win the Jayhawk title.
Quarterback Dylan Laible threw three touchdowns, while Malik Benson caught five catches for 194 yards and Cortez Braham and Micah Woods also added touchdowns. The running combination of Anwar Lewis and Tye Edwards produced 133 yards and four more TDs.
“Our running game has been solid and it took defenses to fill the box for us, which opens up those opportunities for down shots,” said Dallas. “Malik and Cortez are just special players and they have the ability to stretch the pitch vertically and combine it with our running game and that makes you pretty dangerous when you can score in different ways.”
Hutchinson got off the ground after a slow start to the season, which came after a short turnaround after his title race in the spring. The Blue Dragons have lost three of their first five games, although the loss to Butler turned into a win through a forfeit. Hutchinson won all three of their playoff games by a combined 168-19 margin.
“We didn’t do anything in particular, we just kept believing the process would get us there at the end,” Dallas said. “The biggest challenge was to find our new identity because we are a different team than the spring one. We just had to come back and put our feet under us, catch our breath and get our guys up. Our guys were extremely focused and their attention to detail was excellent on a daily basis. “
Hutchinson learned of his fate on Monday afternoon from a playoff selection committee similar to that used in the NCAA’s Division I Football Bowl.
The top four teams are unchanged from last week: Iowa Western (9-0) finished first, followed by New Mexico Military (10-1), Northwest Mississippi (9-2) and Snow (7-1) .
Hutchinson (8-2), who was ranked eighth, overtook Monroe College (10-0), East Mississippi (9-1) and Hinds (8-3) in the new standings.
This story was originally published November 22, 2021 11:14 am.