Game of the season
By J. LEVI BURNFIN
Neither coach can downplay the magnitude of Saturday's Jayhawk conference matchup between Garden City Community College and Butler.
The game is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff at Garden City High School's Buffalo Stadium.
The Busters will be trying to give Butler a second-straight loss Saturday for only the second time in Grizzlies head coach Troy Morrell's 14-years at the helm of the national power. They'll also be trying to end Butler's 17-game winning streak over the Busters.
"Obviously, everybody understands that when Butler comes to town, it's something a little more special," said Busters head coach Matt Miller following Wednesday's practice, after which Miller gave an impassioned speech to his team about the opportunity to beat the six-time national champions.
Under Morrell, the Grizzlies have won three of those national titles and 11 conference titles, and have gone 90-5 in conference play during the regular season. But their last loss came in the Grizzlies' previous game, on Sept. 21, as Highland edged Butler 23-21. The Grizzlies have had two weeks to let their first regular season home conference loss since 1999 sink in. It's been added motivation for Morrell's squad.
"Ya, definitely," Morrell said. "It was an eye opener."
The loss also made Saturday's contest that much bigger.
"This will be a huge, huge, huge test for our program this week," he said. "Saturday, against Garden, in my mind, is a huge game."
It is for both teams.
Five Jayhawk teams enter Week No. 7 with one conference loss, and no team is undefeated. The winner of this game will take a large step towards taking control of the wide-open race.
As the Grizzlies come in fresh off a loss, the Busters will be coming in healthy and with a full team, Miller said, for the first time all season.
"This will be the first game in awhile — since the NJCAA has tried to mess with us, or the conference has tried to mess with us, or some other team tries to splice film to make our kids look bad — this will be the first time that we have a full unit all season, actually," he said, referring to several instances of disagreement between the Busters and the KJCCC, NJCAA and an opposing team.
In the fallout of the loss to Hutchinson on Sept. 7, the Busters had two players suspended by the KJCCC. Sophomore linebacker D'vonta Derricott was suspended for one game under the "targeting" rule, despite not being flagged on the play. Miller did not agree with the suspension. Also, sophomore defensive lineman Ralphael Bernard received a two-game sentence for throwing punches during an on-the-field melee with a Hutchinson player. When Garden City received the tape that Hutchinson — being the home team — sent to the KJCCC, it allegedly omitted Hutchinson's player throwing the first punches.
Also, the NJCAA has recently begun a routine audit on the Garden City football team. It is a random audit of five percent of all member programs, and the Buster football program was selected for this semester.
Freshman quarterback Akeem Jones is also coming off an injury that kept him from starting against Fort Scott on Sept. 28 — backup Jake Curran led the Busters to the 33-14 win. However, Miller said Jones is fully healthy and will be ready to go against Butler.
That's great news for the Busters, which will need the multi-talented Jones at full strength. The dual-threat signal caller has thrown for 1,062 yards and 11 touchdowns on 83-of-156 passing, and has added 144 yards and three scores on the ground, leading the Busters to average 38.8 points and 397.2 yards per game.
He and freshman receiver Brandon Snell, high school teammates, have used their pre-established chemistry to their advantage. Snell has caught 38 passes for 428 yards and six TDs.
They'll face a tough test against Butler, though.
Led by the only returning starter from last season, defensive tackle Owen Williams, the Grizzly defense is only allowing 11.4 points and 223.2 yards per game.
Despite having Williams as the lone returning starter, the Grizzlies are not short on talent on defense. Sophomore linebacker Tyler Hayes originally played for Alabama in 2012, racking up 14 tackles in 13 games as a reserve for the national-title winning Crimson Tide, before being released from the team due to two charges of second-degree robbery in February of this year, according to CBSsports.com.
Hayes leads the team with 44 tackles, 7.5 for a loss, and also has two sacks, an interception and two forced fumbles.
The Grizzlies also have freshman three-star cornerback Shedrick Williams, who has picked off three passes this year, sophomore linebackers, T.J. Fuller, team sacks leader (5), and Phillip Williamson, second-leading tackler, and former Garden City High School star Gabe Luna, who starts at defensive end, racking up 24 tackles and three sacks.
Led by a three-headed rushing attack, the Grizzly offense is averaging 47.4 points and 425.2 yards. Sophomore Chris Carson has rushed for a team-high 245 yards on 55 carries, but sophomore Ty Suggs is right behind with 238 yards on 57 carries.
Added into the mix is freshman Lawrence Mattison, with 34 rushes for 166 yards, a team-best 4.6 yards per carry. As a team, the Grizzlies are rushing for 4.1 yards per carry, running behind three-star left tackle Luke Hayes.
The power running game is complemented by sophomore quarterback Hunter Vaughn, who has completed 61 percent (73 of 120) of his passes for 1,064 yards, 12 TDs and has only been picked off three times.
His ability to take care of the ball may be the deciding factor in the game against a ballhawking Buster defense. In five games, the Busters have picked off 10 passes. They have also recovered seven fumbles, helping them hold opponents to only 20.6 points and 206.8 yards per game.
Because of those numbers, and the history between the two schools, both coaches have a lot of respect for their Saturday opponent.
"We've got a great opponent in front of us," Morrell said.
Miller echoed the same.
"Troy's one of the junior college football coaching legends for a reason," he said, "because he gets his guys able to play. No matter what group he gets in there, he gets them to play hard."
In the 65-year history of the rivalry (since 1948), the Grizzlies and Busters have played 77 times. The Grizzlies lead by only a slim 38-36-3 margin, despite winning the last 17 games.
Know the foe
Who: Butler C.C. at Garden City C.C.
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: Buffalo Stadium, Garden City High School
Last Meeting: 2012 Region VI playoffs, first round, Butler 58, Garden City 17
Series Record: Butler 38-36-3
First Meeting: 1948, Butler 39-0
Largest Margin of victory: 2012, Butler 84, Garden City 13
Garden City (4-1, 2-1)
League: Jayhawk Conference
Mascot: Broncbusters (Brown and White)
Coach: Matt Miller, (1st year)
Probable Starting Lineup:
T--Dontavious Blair, 6-7, 275, So.; Ryan Johnson, 6-5, 330, So.
G--Mitch Moore, 6-2, 275, Fr.; Colby Hamel, 6-3, 305, So.
C--Jason Carreon, 6-2, 295, So.
TE--Alan Kramer, 6-2, 215, So.
WR--Nile Daniel, 6-2, 200, So.; Brandon Snell, 6-1, 205, Fr.
HB--Tyreek Hill, 5-9, 190, So.; Mike Gerst, 5-11, 205, So.
QB--Akeem Jones, 6-3, 207, Fr.
PK--Tyler Peterson, 5-11, 180, So.
E--Richard Obi, 6-3, 255, So.; Ralphael Bernard, 6-1, 290, So.
N--Dondre Elvoid, 6-4, 315, Fr.
MLB--Errol Clarke, 6-3, 240, Fr.; D'vonta Derricott, 6-2, 235, So.
OLB--Dalton Gantz, 6-0, 210, Fr.; Darius Jones, 6-2, 230, So.
CB--Wonderful Terry, 5-10, 180, So.; Tim Hill, 5-9, 190, Fr.
S--Sam Green, 6-2, 210, Fr.; Makail Grace, 6-3, 205, Fr.
P--Tyler Peterson, 5-11, 180, So.
KR--Tyreek Hill, 5-9, 190, So.; Nile Daniel, 6-2, 200, So.
PR--Nile Daniel, 6-2, 200, So.
Aug. 24--INDEPENDENCE, W 67-0*
Aug. 31--at Cisco, Texas, W 35-21
Sept. 7--at Hutchinson, L 34-24*
Sept. 21--AIR FORCE PREP, W 35-34
Sept. 28--at Fort Scott, W 33-14*
Oct. 19--at Dodge City*
*--Denotes Jayhawk Conference game
Butler (3-1, 4-1)
League: Jayhawk Conference
Mascot: Grizzlies (Purple and Gold)
Coach: Troy Morrell (14th year, 175-28)
Probable Starting Lineup:
T--Luke Hayes, 6-6, 300, So.; Steve Wolgomottt, 6-6, 302, So.
G--Parker Whitney, 6-3, 308, So.; Tyler Uselton, 6-3, 322, So.
C--Mateo Kambui, 6-3, 288, So.
TE--Steven Walker, 6-3, 245, So.
WR--Trey Hallman, 5-10, 182, So,; Michael Glatzak, 6-0, 175, So.; Van Powell, 5-11, 189, So.
RB--Ty Suggs, 5-10, 201, So.; Chris Carson, 6-2, 197, So.; Lawrence Mattison, 6-0, 233, Fr.
FB--Riley OHarah, 6-0, 244, So.
QB--Hunter Vaughn, 6-3, 200, So.
PK--Robert Rawlings, 5-11, 193, So.
E--Braden Butcher, 6-2, 230, So.; Gabe Luna, 6-3, 252, So.
DT--Josh Finley, 6-2, 283, So.; Owen Williams, 6-2, 285, So.
OLB--TJ Fuller, 6-1, 190, So.; Phillip Williamson, 6-2, 248, So.; Tyler Hayes, 6-2, 210, So.
MLB--Nick Cook, 6-2, 220, So.
CB--John Knight, 6-0, 197, So.; Shedrick Williams, 6-0, 175, Fr.
S--Darrin Reddick, 6-0, 200, So.; Branden Dozier, 6-0, 203, So.
P--Ty Suggs, 5-10, 201, So.
KR--Callen Hightower, 5-9, 175, So.; Ja'Mon Cotton, 5-7, 180, Fr.
PR--Michael Glatzak, 6-0, 175, So.
Aug. 24--DODGE CITY, W 41-6
Aug. 31--Blinn (Texas) College, W 44-14
Sept. 7--Fort Scott, W 52-14
Sept. 14--INDEPENDENCE, W 79-0
Sept. 21--HIGHLAND, L 23-21
Oct. 5--Garden City