Garden City falls to Hutch in football championship

GCCC Sports Information Services
Garden City Community College running back Devion Hodges breaks up the middle on a run during the KJCCC championship football game on Sunday at Riverfront Stadium in Wichita.

WICHITA  - As Garden City Community College can easily attest to, nobody in the country is playing better football than Hutchinson. Sunday's performance proved that and then some.

Dylan Laible threw for 314 yards and three touchdowns, Anwar Lewis reached the end zone three times on the ground, and No. 8 Hutchinson blew by the 11th-ranked Broncbusters, 49-19 in the Jayhawk Conference Championship Game at Riverfront Stadium. It was the Blue Dragons first region title since 1995.

"That team deserves a chance to play in the national playoffs," Garden City Head Coach, Tom Minnick said after the game. "In my opinion, they are the best team in the country."

Hutchinson's three-week postseason run was nothing short of breathtaking. They outscored Highland, Independence, and Garden City by a combined, 168-19.

"We just got outplayed by a really good football team," Minnick said. "I have a lot of respect for those guys, and they have a ton of respect for us."

The Blue Dragons deserve a ton of credit for this 20-point blowout. But in all honesty, the Broncbusters were their own worst enemy all day. They turned the ball over five times, their most in a game since a nine-giveaway debacle verses Coffeyville on Nov. 8, 2014.

"You can't turn the ball over against that team and expect to win the game," Minnick said. "We gave them way too many opportunities."

Despite being down two starting offensive linemen including Isaiah Adams, the top left tackle in Junior College football, the Broncbusters showed plenty of fight early in this one. After the teams exchanged punts to begin the game, Garden City drove 35 yards in nine plays to reach the Hutchinson 12. But after failing to move the chains on third down, Jason Hernandez drilled a 29-yard field goal to give the Broncbusters a 3-0 edge.

Garden City Community College defensive backs Vaai Seumalo and Jacob Hollins, right, tackles Hutchinson Community College running back Tye Edwards during the KJCCC championship football game on Sunday at Riverfront Stadium in Wichita.

"We kicked field goals instead of scoring touchdowns, that was the difference in the game," Minnick explained.

Garden City had a chance to open a double-digit lead the next time they had the ball, marching to the Blue Dragons' 13-yard line. But on third-and-9, Rhett Ricedorff, who became the first Broncbuster quarterback since Denarious Graham on Nov. 8, 2014, to throw four picks in a game, was sacked by Albert Nunes. Hernandez was then summoned again and connected from 42 to make it 6-0 with 1:56 left in the first.

Those missed opportunities would prove to be a bad omen.

On Hutchinson's ensuing possession, Laible hit Malik Benson on a go route for an 82-yard touchdown that gave the Blue Dragons a 7-6 edge.

"Our defensive back lost his footing, so it was a pretty easy pitch and catch," Minnick said.

Garden City regained the lead on the first play of the second quarter thanks to a little trickery from offensive coordinator Ryan Felker. On first-and-goal from the 10, the Broncbusters used their own twist to the famous 'Philly special' when wide receiver David Elder connected with Ricedorff for a 10-yard touchdown to put the Broncbusters in front, 13-7.

It was the last time Garden City celebrated all day.

Hutchinson immediately responded with an 11-play, 76-yard drive that Laible polished off with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Micah Woods. Lewis added a five-yard scoring run following Dylan Kedzior's blocked punt, and the Blue Dragons took advantage of a questionable pass interference penalty against Keylon Kennedy in the end zone when Tye Edwards twisted his way in from two yards out to make it 28-13 at the half.

"Give Hutchinson credit because they turned all of our mistakes into points," Minnick stated. "That's a good football team."

The Broncbuster fortunes turned from bad to nightmarish on the third play of the third quarter when Ricedorff's pass was intercepted by Davion Westmoreland. Five plays later, Lewis raced 20 yards to the end zone to make it 35-13. Later in the quarter, Laible hit Cortez Braham for a 40-yard score that gave Hutchinson a 35-point advantage. It was all part of a stretch where the Blue Dragons scored 35 unanswered points.

"The big play killed us today," Minnick said.

Ricedorff finished 19-of-52 for 229 yards for Garden City, which suffered its most lopsided defeat since a 41-14 loss to Iowa Western in 2017. Devion Hodges carried the ball four times for 53 and a score, and Elder caught eight balls for 70 yards.

Laible was 12-of-26 for 314 yards, three touchdowns and one pick for Hutchinson, which beat Garden City for the third straight time. Lewis had 20 carries for 72 yards, and Benson reeled in five balls for 194 yards and a score.

Garden City  6; 7; 0; 6; - 19

Hutchinson  7; 21; 14; 7; - 49