This week’s matchup for the Garden City Community College football team is unlike any other this year.
Yes, the Independence Pirates are the reigning KJCCC champions. And yes, the NJCAA 13th-ranked Pirates (1-1) and No. 7 Busters (2-0) have some bad blood between them, considering the smack talk that was featured in Netflix’s docuseries "Last Chance U," which followed Independence during the 2017 season.
But the series is returning to Independence in 2018, as well, and the bright lights of Netflix is what makes Saturday’s 7 p.m. game in Independence unique, at least according to GCCC head coach Jeff Sims.
“We’ve talked about it a little bit this week, as far as understanding the hoopla,” Sims said. “I don’t think we understood the size of the hoopla last year.”
Last season’s game finished with a 27-23 Independence win, en route to the Pirates winning the conference by a game over the Busters, who finished second.
But for Sims, It’s not about that.
“I’ve talked less about Indy having a good team last year, and more about the Netflix thing,” Sims said. “For 18-year-olds, it’s a really big deal for them.”
That doesn’t mean Independence does not have another good team this year, as well.
“They’re long and athletic,” Sims said. “They’re as talented a football team as anybody in the country. They have a lot of guys who are big, and strong and can run. They’ve got a lot of great players, so it’s going to be a challenge to compete against them.”
Independence’s perspective was not available this week because head coach Jason Brown declined to be interviewed.
“I don’t do any interviews anymore,” Brown said in the middle of a minute-long, expletive-filled explanation. “I don’t want nothing to do with you (expletive) guys.”
But if last year’s game gives any insight into this year’s, then Brown very much would like to beat the Busters, and more specifically Sims, who he disparaged in on-air interviews on "Last Chance U."
The Pirates are scoring 32.5 points per game after beating Dodge City 38-20 in Week 1 and then losing to Hutchinson 37-27 in Week 2.
But after rushing for nearly 5 yards per game in 2017, the Pirates have managed just 2.7 so far this season, the worst in the KJCCC.
Their leading rusher is Corinthian Cunningham at just 60 yards.
Meanwhile, the Busters are averaging 5.8 yards per rush, and are averaging 34.0 points per game, and Charles West and Dedrick Mills are both averaging more than 160 yards per game on the ground.
But can the Busters translate that on the road at Independence?
“For us, we haven’t traveled well to Indy since I’ve been at Garden City (0-2),” Sims said. “We’re really trying to improve upon that.”
Netflix just adds to the pressure.
“I talked to them in today’s meeting, in that you have an opportunity to embrace the occasion and rise to it, or let it be overwhelming,” Sims said.