GARDEN CITY - Saturday night’s main event was not a middleweight bout taking place on pay-per-view, but a heavyweight slugfest that took place at Broncbuster Stadium, with the Hutchinson Blue Dragons taking on No. 11 Garden City.
Through a flurry of punches, mistakes and near knockouts, it was the Dragons that were left standing at the end, sacking Garden City quarterback Terry Wilson on fourth down to hang on to a 31-28 win.
The two teams combined for eight offensive touchdowns, when a year ago, they combined for just two in the Busters’ 16-14 win in a defensive battle.
In a five-minute span in the third quarter, the two teams exchanged a pair of touchdowns each.
“I felt the only way to beat Hutch was to open it up and throw the ball, a lot, and give ourselves an opportunity to score points and win the game,” GCCC head coach Jeff Sims said. “I told our coaches coming out at halftime, 35 points will win the game, and it would have.”
But the Dragons’ defense stiffened, just two weeks after an Iowa Western defense stopped a last-minute Hutchinson drive that could have won the game. Saturday, Blue Dragons' coach Rion Rhoades was happy to have the last stop.
“No question,” Rhoades said. “Getting a win is a lot better than the alternative.”
The Dragons, who never trailed, were only in the position of having to hold on late because they allowed the Busters to score a quick touchdown with just more than two minutes to play, and then the Busters recovered an onside kick.
With just one timeout, the Busters drove down to Hutch territory, and had a chance to steal the game. But on fourth down, the Dragons got pressure on Terry with just four rushers, and sacked him to end it. One Hutch kneel ran the rest of the time off the clock.
“I expected us to play better defense,” Rhoades said. “Credit to the (offensive coordinator) at Garden City for doing a really good job. He gave his team a chance to win, and we didn’t play very good on defense — a couple of busted coverages. It’s really disappointing to give up that many points.
“Again, Garden’s got a good football team, so to get out of a conference game on the road with a win is a good thing.”
Both team’s defenses slogged through mistakes in the secondary that allowed wide open receivers deep, resulting in touchdowns. The Busters hit on one for a 65-yard pass from Wilson to Aaron Willis to cut Hutchinson’s lead to 28-21 in the middle of the third quarter.
The Dragons also got a pair of long passes that set them up on the goal line, and running back BJ Emmons turned them into short touchdown runs — Emmons had four short rushing touchdowns, and just 65 rushing yards on 25 carries.
The Busters out-gained the Dragons 411 yards to 334, but had two turnovers to Hutchinson's none.
In 60 minutes of action between the Dragons and Busters in 2016, there were only two offensive touchdowns. It took just more than seven minutes Saturday to equal that, with the Blue Dragons going 56 yards in eight plays on their first possession to score, capped by Emmons’ 1-yard run.
The Busters answered on their first possession, as well, with a highlight reel tip by Remi Simmons and catch by Nigel Kilby of a Wilson pass on fourth down from the Hutch 5 to draw the Busters even at 7 with 7:40 left in the first period — Kilby and Wilson connected three times on TD passes Saturday.
The score would remain the same deep into the second.
Neither team would score until the Busters took a risk and ran a fake punt facing 4th-and-5 deep inside of their own territory and were stopped a yard short. Hutch took over at the Buster 28. Then, the Buster secondary blew a coverage, leaving two Hutch receivers wide open, and Cam Jones nearly overthrew Juwaun Johnson, but he made a diving catch at the Buster 1. Two plays later, and Emmons was back in the end zone, powering his way in from the 1 to give the Dragons a 14-7 lead with just 1:26 remaining in the half.
That’s where the score would stand into the break.
The Busters’ nearly tied it on the second half’s opening kick, when Charles West exploded through his blocks and needed to beat just the kicker to reach the end zone, but his slight move to the outside tripped him up, and he went down at the 46.
No matter. The Busters took advantage of the good field position, and quickly drove down the field to draw even at 14, capped by Wilson’s second connection to Kilby — this time, it was on purpose — in the right corner of the end zone from 12 yards out. The nine-play, 54-yard drive took just 2:24 off the clock.
The Blue Dragons’ answer took just 2:20, eclipsing 63 yards on five plays to pull back ahead, with Emmons scoring on his third short TD run of the night. Emmons and the Dragons made it a 28-14 lead just 2:25 after that, with Emmons scoring his fourth short TD run of the game.
And capping a five-minute frenzy of action was Wilson’s 65-yard strike to Willis — his first catch of the season.
Hutch made it 31-21 on Luke Niemeyer’s 27-yard field goal with 7:02 left.
That’s where it stood deep into the fourth. The Busters threatened with more than four minutes to play, but Wilson threw his second pick over the middle.
But a Hutch three-and-out gave the Buster offense the ball back, and they drove 55 yards in six plays to pull within 3, capped by Kilby and Wilson’s third TD connection.
The ensuing onside kick was picture-perfect by Buster kicker James “Dom” White, who tapped it up the middle and just at the 10-yard mark, Matt Terrell fell on it.
The Busters drove to within striking distance, but the sack ended it.
Hutchinson hosts Highland at noon on Sept. 23 in its next action, while the Busters have a bye.