Top Ranked Hutch holds off #2 Butler, 35-27

HUTCHINSON, Kan (Release) - The No. 1-ranked Hutchinson Community College football team needed to do something it hadn’t accomplished since 1995 to retain the nation’s top ranking.

Mission accomplished.

Hutchinson defeated Butler at Gowans Stadium for the first time in 24 years as the top-ranked Blue Dragons downed the No. 2 Grizzlies 35-27 in front of 3,671 rain-soaked fans at Gowans Stadium.

The Blue Dragons improve to 5-0 for the first time since 2014 and takes over sole possession of first place in the Jayhawk Conference at 3-0. Butler falls to 5-1 and 3-1 in the KJCCC.

Hutchinson defeats Butler in back-to-back games for the first time since 1995. The Dragons won 27-13 in El Dorado last season.

Blue Dragon quarterback Mark Wright led the Blue Dragons to touchdowns on their first three possessions of the game to build a 21-0 lead. Then leading 28-7 midway through the third quarter, the game was delayed for 38 minutes because of lightning in the area, which seemed to stymie Hutchinson’s momentum.

Backup quarterback Jack Samsel ignited the Grizzlies after taking over for injured starter Steven Frank. He threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns while running for another as Butler pulled within 35-27 with 4:01 to play in the second half.

Butler had the final possession of the game takin the ball over at its own 33 with 2:07 to play. Despite two Latrell Bankston quarterback sacks on the drive. The Grizzlies converted two third downs – one by penalty and then a 13-yard pass – and drive to the Dragon 25. Facing 2nd and 10, defensive end Dionte Gipson sacked Samsel for an 8-yard loss. Out of timeouts and with the clock running, the Grizzlies were called for a false start. Out of timeouts, a 10-second run-off was administered which ran out the clock.

Wright combined for 316 total yards of offense to lead Hutchinson, which had 403 total yards. Wright completed 10 of 17 passes for 195 yards with three touchdowns. He also had his second 100-yard rushing game of the season, going for 131 yards on 1 carries with a touchdown.

The Blue Dragons out-rushed Butler 208-67, but the Grizzlies threw for 339 passing yards and out-gained the Dragons 406-403.

Hutchinson drove the opening possession of the game 79-yards in eight plays. The drive was set up with a Wright 66-yard run to the Butler 5. Wright powered in from a yard out for a 7-0 Hutch lead with 11:34 to go.

After holding the Grizzlies on downs on their first possession, Wright showed his elusiveness. He got away from a near sack and flipped a pass to Kendall Cross, who made it a 69-yard touchdown catch and run for a 14-0 lead with 7:37 to play in the opening quarter.

Hutch’s third possession, which was 67 yards on seven plays, was capped by an athletic catch by Craig Burt 29-yard touchdown reception with 4:03 to go. The Dragons lead 21-0.

The Grizzlies cashed in on a break when Blue Dragon punter Nolan Arrington couldn’t handle an errant long snap. George Qualls caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Frank to cut the Dragon lead to 21-7 with 9:27 to play in the second quarter.

Butler had the opening possession of the second half. The Blue Dragons got their opening takeaway of the game on the third play of the possession as Kirmari Gainous got a sack fumble and Bankston recovered the loose ball at the Butler 22. Four plays later, Cross had his second touchdown of the game on a 4-yard run to give the Dragons a 28-7 lead with 12:39 remaining in the third quarter.

After the 38-minute rain delay, Butler got going. Qualls make his second touchdown reception of the game late in the third quarter when he caught a 17-yard pass from Samsel to cut the Dragon lead to 28-14 with 1:54 to go in the third.

Samsel’s 4-yard scramble with 11:20 to go in the final quarter cut the Dragon lead further, but the point-after try was wide left and Hutchinson led 28-20 with 11:20 to go in the final quarter.

Hutchinson immediately answered that Butler charge when Tinsley caught a 46-yard touchdown pass from Wright with 9:01 to go in the game. Five minutes later, The Grizzlies cut the Hutch lead to 35-27 on a JaQuay Lane 15-yard touchdown catch.

The Blue Dragons went three-and-out and punted to set up the final drive of the game.

Hutchinson travels to Highland next Saturday at 1 p.m. in Highland.