With several key components returning from a 10-2 Salt City
Bowl championship team, the Hutchinson Community College football team
was picked to finish second in the preseason Jayhawk Conference Coaches
Poll announced at the league’s annual media day on Friday at the Kansas
Sports Hall of Fame located in the Wichita Boathouse.
The Jayhawk Conference coaches unanimously picked defending conference,
Region VI champion and national runner-up Butler to win the 2011
conference title. The Blue Dragons, who finished fifth in the final
NJCAA poll of 2010, were the solid second pick.
Coffeyville was picked third and upstart Independence was picked
fourth. The Pirates were picked to finish last in 2010 and made a run
into the Region VI playoffs. The remainder of the 2011 preseason poll
has Fort Scott, 5th; Garden City, 6th; Highland, 7th; and Dodge City,
Fifth-year Blue Dragon head coach and LHS graduate Rion Rhoades has 12 starters (five
offense, six defense, 1 specialists) and 19 overall lettermen back from
a season in 2010 where the Blue Dragons won 10 games for the first time
since 1995 and for just the fourth time in program history.
He talked on Friday about being happy with the strides his program has
made in four years, but the Blue Dragons were not satisfied getting only
to this point. The Blue Dragons have played in two of the last three
Region VI championship games and have won back-to-back bowl games.
“What puts it in perspective, you look at last year and the only team
we have to beat is Butler, and that’s true,” Rhaodes said. “Both those
10 wins didn’t come without a lot of energy and the ball bouncing our
way. Butler’s not the only team we have to worry about. They are on top
and at some point you have to knock them off, but just getting to that
point is as much of a challenge as winning that game.
“The only game we are worried about right now is Kilgore on August
Offensively, the Blue Dragons return starting quarterback Elliott
Alford, game-breaking receiver and All-American Cordarrelle Patterson,
running back Derek Campbell and center Taylor Peak from an offense that
set a team records for points scored and had the second-best scoring
average in team history.
Defensively, the linebackers appear to be the strength of the defense
led by Markus Golden and Shane Smith. Safeties Spencer Vangerbogart,
Bradley Gallon and cornerback Duane Sims all return.
It’s the second time in three seasons the Blue Dragons were picked as
high as second in the preseason poll. The Dragons are looking for their
first league and region championship since 1995.
The Blue Dragons open fall camp on Thursday, August 4 with the season
opener only three weeks later against Kilgore at Gowans Stadium.
According to the league poll, all will once again be chase Butler and
veteran coach Troy Morrell. The Grizzlies finished 11-1 last season,
losing only to Navarro 13-12 in the NJCAA championship game in Pittsburg
in an 11-1 season. The Grizzlies return four starters and 14 lettermen.
Last season HCC and Butler met in a battle of the top two teams in the
nation. The 2011 showdown will be in Week 9 on Oct. 22 at Gowans
Coffeyville started the season 6-0 and was ranked No. 3 in the NJCAA
poll before faltering down the stretch with a five-game losing streak
and a bowl loss in a 6-5 season. The Red Ravens, look to former head
coach Skip Foster to bolster an inconsistent offense.
Second-year Independence coach Steve Carson had eight starters
returning from a 4-6 team that held a 10-point lead in the third quarter
of the Pirates Region VI semifinal playoff game against Hutchinson last
season at Gowans Stadium. Carson will have two major holes to plus with
the graduation of quarterback Broderick Waters and linebacker Mike
Curtis Horton takes over at Fort Scott after former head coach Jeff
Sims took the top recruiters job at Indiana a couple of weeks ago.
Eleven total lettermen return, eight on offense.
Garden City is under new leadership with Jeff Tatum taking over the
Broncbusters after a sub-par 3-6, sixth-place showing. Only four
starters return for 2011.
Linebacker Logan Eck and a solid receiving trio returns at Highland as
the Scotties look to improve on a 2-7 season.
Dodge City went 0-9 last season, but head coach Bob Majeski is
confidence that his team will be better in 2011. A revamped coaching
staff and a good number of returning players have the Conqs thinking
with a positive attitude.
Jayhawk Conference Preseason Coaches Poll
5. Fort Scott
6. Garden City
8. Dodge City