On Saturday at Coffeyville, the Garden City Community College football team is trying to accomplish something only a few Broncbuster teams have done previously — win three in a row vs. Coffeyville.
In series history — 77 games beginning in 1950 — the Busters have only managed to beat Coffeyville at least three times in a row just twice previously, winning three consecutive games from 1970 to 1972 and four consecutive games from 1999 to 2001.
The No. 2-ranked Busters (7-0, 4-0) are looking to add to that count at 7 p.m. Saturday at Coffeyville (3-5, 2-4). The Busters won in 2016 (39-13) and in 2017 (41-32), chipping away at Coffeyville’s dominant series lead of 49-27-1.
The Busters come into the game with more than just series bragging rights on the line, having secured the No. 2 spot in the NJCAA rankings — and therefore a future chance to play for the national championship — for three consecutive weeks.
Simply, if the Busters win the rest of their three regular season games, they will be playing for a national championship for the second time in three seasons. But Coffeyville will be looking to deny them that chance.
To do so, the Red Ravens will have to play their best game of the season. Coming in, the Red Ravens are allowing 28.6 points per game and scoring just 24.6, both in the bottom three of the KJCCC.
And prior to a 21-16 win over last-place Independence, the Ravens had lost four in a row — though, three of the games were decided by nine points or fewer.
"They’ve had a couple of tight games," GCCC head coach Jeff Sims said. "I think sometimes things have got to bounce your way and things haven’t bounced their way. Coach (Aaron) Flores was ill for a long time, so I think they may be moving in the right direction."
Flores missed all of last year with acute interstitial pneumonia, and then had a double-lung transplant in the offseason to return to the sidelines this year.
It’s almost like he’s rebuilding the program again," Sims said, "and I think they’ll probably be pretty dangerous the longer he’s there.”
Meanwhile, the Busters have continued to roll, racking up nearly 1,100 rushing yards in their last three games, winning all by at least 20 points. They’re averaging 325.9 yards per game, with Charles West averaging 153.1 yards per game (6.6 yards per carry) and Dedrick Mills 147.0 ypg (6.1 ypc).
The Busters even got a breakout game from reserve running back Ellis Merriweather in their 51-31 win over Highland last week, as the freshman had 94 yards on 11 carries, filling in for a banged up Mills.
“Ellis is always available and he’s a really talented player, and he’d probably start on any team in the league," Sims said. "It's just, those two other guys are some of the best in the country."
The Red Ravens’ defense has struggled to stop the run, giving up 180.8 yards per game, making it a foreboding matchup for Coffeyville.
So the Ravens’ offense may have to find its rhythm — when they’re on, they can score points. They have posted point totals of 50, 47 and 38, but have also scored as little as 6, 0, 14 and 16 in others.
They’re led by quarterback Carson Proctor, who is completing just 50.3 percent of his passes (72 of 143), but has thrown 10 touchdowns to just four picks. Deshawn Massey leads the way on the ground with 58.1 yards per game and three scores.
“They always have speed," Sims said of the Ravens. "They’re always an athletic team. They are always well-coached, so they always present challenges because when you have athleticism and speed, that creates opportunities for them to score and things like that.”
And the Busters gave up several big plays to Highland a week ago.
“When big plays are happening, it’s usually mental mistakes," Sims said. "It’s usually not a physical thing. I felt we we weren’t as detailed as we needed to be, so we made sure we focused on those things this week."
But how do the Busters, who have a big matchup looming at No. 4 Hutchinson next week, avoid overlooking the seemingly over-matched Red Ravens?
“Try to give them as many examples as possible to make them believe they’re at risk," Sims said. "Ohio State lost last week at 7 o’clock. They’re one of the best teams in the country and they went into a hostile place and lost.”