The Garden City Community College Broncbusters were picked to finish third in the KJCCC a month ago during the conference’s media day. Ironically, the Busters were also picked third in the NJCAA poll released Monday of this week.
Nothing’s really changed for the Busters in that time. They still have a new head coach, Tom Minnick, and still a new athletic department with Athletic Director Greg McVey, but the polls provide a glimpse into the perceived depth of the Jayhawk Conference.
And there’s no doubt the Busters will have to go through some good teams to defend their KJCCC crown. On top of that list is Hutchinson, which the Busters edged in a 24-21 instant classic a year ago at Gowans Stadium.
Those two teams are set to meet on Nov. 2 in Garden City, before the Busters finish off the regular season at Butler on Nov. 9.
Hutchinson and Butler were the two teams picked to finish above the Busters in the KJCCC.
Here’s a glimpse of what the Busters will face this season, in order of KJCCC poll.
1. Hutchinson (at Garden City, Nov. 2)
The NJCAA 5th-ranked Blue Dragons finished second overall in the KJCCC in 2018, thanks to that loss to Garden City, going 9-3 overall and 6-1 in the league. They routed Navarro College, 35-6, in the Salt City Bowl.
The Dragons are coached by conference elder Rion Rhoades, who is 94-48 as he enters his 13th season.
The Dragons return eight starters and 26 players from that team, 13 on offense, 12 on defense and one on special teams, according to the team website.
“The strengths of our team the year, it’s really hard to say, but I do think we have a solid group of proven players,” Rhoades said.
2. Butler (vs. Garden City, Nov. 9)
The 10th-ranked Grizzlies finished third in the KJCCC in 2018, going 8-4 overall and 5-2 in the league, with losses to Garden City and Hutchinson. Head coach Tim Schaffner enters his fifth season at 32-14 overall and fresh off a two-touchdown comeback win over Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in the Midwest Bowl.
Butler returns six lettermen on offense and 10 players with experience on defense.
“We’re really deep (on the offensive line) this year,” Schaffner said. “We’ve always kind of prided ourselves on being good on the offensive line.”
4. Highland (vs. Garden City, Oct. 19)
The 16th-ranked Scotties finished fourth in the KJCCC in 2018, going 6-4 overall and 4-3 in the league, with losses to Garden City, Hutchinson and Butler. Head coach Aaron Arnold enters his sixth season at the helm, with a 28-24 overall record.
Arnold said the Scotties had just three “main” returners, including standout cornerback Brian George.
“We’ll be starting a lot of freshmen,” Arnold said. “Our goal is to never start a freshman, but at this level, you’ve just got to.”
5. Coffeyville (at Garden City, Nov. 26)
The Red Ravens finished fifth in the KJCCC in 2018, going 6-5 overall and 3-4 in the league, with losses to Garden City, Hutchinson, Butler and Highland. Head coach Aaron Flores is entering his eighth season and his second since missing a season due to a double lung transplant.
He’s 43-32 overall.
The Ravens’ biggest returner likely is running back Marco Lee, who was the third guy in the backfield a year ago.
6. Independence (at Garden City, Sept. 14)
The Pirates finished tied for last in the conference a year ago at 2-8 overall and 1-6 in the conference, with their lone conference win coming over Dodge City in the season opener.
With the lights of Netflix’s docuseries ‘Last Chance U’, plus mercurial head coach Jason Brown, now gone, Kyoshi Harris has taken over as head coach. He served as the offensive line coach at Independence for the past two years.
Harris said the Pirates only have six returners total.
7. Dodge City (vs. Garden City, Aug. 31)
The Conquistadors also have a first-year head coach in Ricky Coon, who takes over from Gary Thomas, who had revived Dodge City’s program, only to see the Conqs fall to 2-9 overall and 1-6 a year ago.
Their lone win came over Fort Scott in the final game of the season.
Coon is a former Dodge City player, and most recently Coon was an assistant at Southeast Missouri State University.
“People like winners and they like beginners, and we’re a beginner,” Coon said with a smile about his program. “There’s a lot of uncertainty right now.”
8. Fort Scott (at Garden City, Sept. 28)
The Greyhounds were a trendy pick in 2018 to make a big jump forward, only to have the team stumble to 2-8 overall and 1-6 in the league. Their lone win came over Independence.
Now, third-year head coach Kale Pick is a shaky position, being picked to finish last once again after going 6-14 combined in his first two seasons.
The Greyhounds do return their leading receiver from a year ago, Jon Jiles, who led the league with 66.7 receiving yards per game and six receiving touchdowns.
The Busters also have a tough slate in their non-conference schedule, hosting No. 6 Snow (Utah) College to open the season Saturday and Ellsworth on Sept. 7.
They also hit the road to No. 2 Iowa Western on Sept. 21 and No. 14 Iowa Central on Oct. 5.