Conqs major surprise in KJCCC football race
By TONY JIMENEZ
Special to The Telegram
Notes & quotes from last Saturday's Jayhawk Community College Conference games...With only two weekends of games left in regular season play, it's interesting to look at the coaches' pre-season poll and see how it differs from the standings of today. The most significant jump has first-year Coach Gary Thomas taking Dodge City from a projected near cellar dweller (sixth) to first place. The pre-season poll and where that team stands now:
1. Butler Tied 2nd
2. Hutchinson Tied 2nd
3. Coffeyville Tied 5th
4. Garden City Tied 5th
5. Fort Scott 7th
6. Dodge City lst
7. Highland 4th
8. Independence 8th
* The remaining conference schedule: Saturday, first place Dodge City (5-1) plays at home against western Kansas rival Garden City, Butler plays at Coffeyville and Hutchinson hosts Fort Scott. On Oct. 26 the biggie finds Hutchinson at Butler in El Dorado in a meeting of second place teams. In a non-conference game, Dodge City plays at Air Force Prep...In Tuesday's NJCAA poll, Dodge City was No. 11, Butler No. 12 and Hutchinson No. 19.
* Last weekend, Dodge City and Highland won key conference games. Dodge City defeated Coffeyville (33-27) and Highland beat Garden City (20-17). In the only other conference game, Hutchinson crushed Independence (58-0) on Saturday after having whipped the Bethany junior varsity (50-0) in a non-conference game on Wednesday. Butler and Fort Scott did not play.
* Dodge City may head the eight-team pack but it has its share of problems. Against Coffeyville, the Conquistadors had three scoring opportunities — two in the red zone --¬ in the first¬ half and came away with zero points. A muffed a punt sandwiched in there didn't help. "We never felt like we weren't in the game, but we needed to execute a little better and finish drives," said Dodge City Coach Gary Thomas.¬ "Coffeyville did an outstanding job of getting pressure on our quarterback the entire game."
To the Conquistadors' credit, in the second half it finished a few drives, got a few stops on defense and forced Coffeyville into passing situations, where the Red Ravens seemed out of their comfort zone, Thomas said.
Overall, Dodge City continues to amaze. "When you're coming off an 0-9 season and get hired late in the recruiting process it's a little unrealistic to think you can come in and compete for a conference championship in the first year," said Thomas. "I was just hoping to bring some stability to the program, be competitive and hopefully put together a good recruiting class this off-season.¬ We're very fortunate to be a little ahead of schedule.¬ We've won some very close games to get here.¬ Credit our players."
* Coffeyville Coach Aaron Flores said his team discovered another way not to finish a game. "We can look good at times, but are still too inconsistent. Dodge City made plays down the stretch and we did not," Flores said.
* Garden City QB Jake Curran (22-of-39 passes with 63 rushing yards) fared well but the offense came up short on a potential game-winning drive against Highland...Defensively the 'Busters were led by back Wonderful Terry, linebackers D'Vonta Derricott and Errol Clarke and linemen Dondre Elvoid and Ralph Bernard — all disruptive at times. And Tyler Peterson continued to be solid in the kicking game with a 27-yard field goal and a 41-yard plus average with his punts.
* Eye-opening statistic in Hutchinson's game at Independence: the Blue Dragons averaged 6.7 yards per rush, the Pirates -0.7. Hutchinson dominated, getting more first downs (20-3) and more yards (486-25) yet had the football less time (32:16-27:44)...Troubling for Hutchinson was the fact it converted only 2-of-12 third down plays. Said Hutchinson Coach Rion Rhoades: "We are getting some players back who were injured in game one. We have not played our best football yet, but we are improving."
* Part of Independence's difficulties have centered around a defense that starts nine freshmen. "That has, for the most part," said Indy Coach Steve Carson, "has gotten a little better. Offensively. we have a long way to go. Hutchinson is a solid team."