Work begins for Busters' coaches

12/10/2013

Immediately following Sunday afternoon's Football Capital of Kansas Bowl loss in Pittsburg, Garden City Community College assistant football coaches Jeff Kelly and Oscar Rodriguez jumped in a car and hit the road for Miami.

Immediately following Sunday afternoon's Football Capital of Kansas Bowl loss in Pittsburg, Garden City Community College assistant football coaches Jeff Kelly and Oscar Rodriguez jumped in a car and hit the road for Miami.

They weren't going for the 80-degree weather — though, to be certain, that was a plus — they were on a recruiting trip.

So despite the disappointing 47-21 loss to Tyler (Texas) Junior College — in much colder weather than Miami — there was no time to be depressed. The minds of the coaches were already on next year.

There was no time to reflect on the up and down season that began on such a high but ended on such a low.

The Busters started the season with a blowout win over Jayhawk foe Independence. The defense showed how much it had progressed over 2012's porous unit, holding the Pirates to negative total yards of offense.

Then, the Busters went on the road to begin their non-conference schedule and overcame several questionable refereeing decisions to beat Cisco, Texas, 35-21, setting up the following week's big conference contest with Hutchinson.

That's when the talented Busters started to get in their own way, committing 20 penalties for 160 yards and falling just short, 34-24, to the Blue Dragons in Hutchinson.

The Busters rebounded for a 35-34 win over non-conference Air Force Prep at home two weeks later, as freshman quarterback Akeem Jones led a feverish comeback in the fourth quarter to overcome a 13-point deficit. He hit on a pair of touchdown passes and lifted the Busters to their closest win of the season.

The next week, in a torrential downpour in Fort Scott, the Busters routed the Greyhounds 33-14 to move to 4-1 and were looking down the barrel of a monumental matchup at home with conference power Butler. A win could change the course of not only the season for the Busters, but perhaps a program that had been the regional power not so long ago.

Instead, the Buster offense stalled out, the team committed 11 more penalties and they fell 20-10 to the mighty Grizzlies. That loss turned out to be a turning point for the season after all.

Jones was replaced at quarterback by Jake Curran, who performed admirably, but not well enough to turn the tide; the Busters were upset at home by Highland in a 20-17 nail-biter, ending all post-season chances the Busters once seemed a lock to make.

But instead of falling apart, they responded with an all-out dominating win over rival and then No.11-ranked Dodge City on the road.

Then it all fell apart — again.

The Busters were hit with the news that they would have to forfeit their first three wins of the season due to an administrative error, plunging the Busters' record to 2-6 instead of 5-3.

The players were defiant, wearing T-shirts with "6-3" written on them before their next game at Coffeyville, the record they could have had without the forfeits and if they beat the Red Ravens.

But neither happened.

They fell 37-34 in double overtime, and dropped to 2-7, seemingly ending the season that started with high hopes.

They did end up getting the bowl bid, and accepted, even though they would be without star middle linebacker D'vonta Derricott and head coach Matt Miller because they would have to serve one-game suspensions at the bowl.

That left the Busters with too much to overcome in the tough loss in Pittsburg to finish the season.

But none of that matters now. The minds of the coaches are already on next season — and this time, this talented coaching staff will have an entire offseason to recruit, to convince 20 out-of-state athletes, and many more in-state players, to come to western Kansas, to be a part of the rebuilding of a once storied JUCO program.

And that process started before this year's team even took off their shoulder pads for the final time.

Sports Reporter J. Levi Burnfin can be emailed at lburnfin@gctelegram.com

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