[ By STEVE CARPENTER ]
[ BLUE DRAGON SPORTS INFORMATION ]
Photo courtesy of Allie Schweizer, Blue Dragon Sports Information
HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Not known as a passing team, Eastern Arizona stung the Hutchinson Community College football team with a pair of first-half passes and the Gila Monster defense hit the Blue Dragons for two more big plays of Saturday’s ninth-annual Salt City Bowl at Gowans Stadium.
The results of those four plays were the bulk of a 48-34 Eastern Arizona victory, snapping Hutchinson’s seven-game bowl winning streak.
Hutchinson closes the 2017 season at 7-5. Eastern Arizona, which has won the past two Salt City Bowls, finishes at 8-4.
After the teams traded first-quarter touchdowns, Eastern Arizona quarterback Quaderius Clemmon hit Christopher Brinson with a Salt City Bowl record 84-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-7 EAC. Just 56 seconds into the second quarter, Salt City Bowl Defensive MVP Dreshun Miller intercepted a Blue Dragon pass and returned it for a SCB record 78-yard return for a touchdown and a 21-7 lead.
The Gila Monsters struck again late in the half after the Blue Dragons pulled within 28-20. Eastern scored on a halfback pass from the game’s offensive MVP Wilber Cooper, 30 yards to Isaiah Esdale with 48 seconds remaining in the half to give the Gila Monsters a 34-20 lead at halftime.
Quandre Mosely had a second Gila Monster interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, returning it 40 yards which put the game out of reach for the Dragons at 48-27 with 2:23 remaining in the game.
The Blue Dragons were outgained by Eastern Arizona 405-312. The Blue Dragons rushed for 182 yards and passes for 130 yards. The Dragons had three turnovers, which gave EAC 14 points.
Chris James was Hutchinson’s leading rusher with a career-best 56 yards on 10 carries and a 3-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Dezmon Jackson was next with 44 rushing yards on six carries. DeShawn Waller and B.J. Emmons both had 40 yards rushing.
Cam Jones completed 4 of 15 passes for 90 yard with two touchdowns. Eric Forrest was 2 of 3 for 10 yards.
Marquis Whitmire had two receptions for 32 yards and a touchdown. Allen Bishop had two catches for 12 yards. Jaylen Erwin and Jawawn Johnson each caught touchdown passes.
Quen Head led the defensive charge for the Blue Dragons with nine tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss. Adrien Cross and Lewis Wallace had seven tackles each.
Eastern Arizona ran for 239 yards and passes for a season-high 166 yards. The Gila Monsters had possession of the football for 37 minutes, 6 seconds.
Cooper was the game’s leading rusher with 72 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns in addition to his 30-yard touchdown pass.
Eastern Arizona scored first on a 13-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by Ishois Times’ 4-yard touchdown run. The Dragons immediately responded with a Johnson 38-yard touchdown reception to finish off a three-play, 65-yard scoring drive and tie the game at 7 with 4:54 to play in the opening quarter.
Eastern scored the next two touchdowns on Brinson’s 84-yard touchdown reception and Miller’s 78-yard interception return to lead 21-7 with 14:04 to go in the second quarter.
Emmons pulled the Dragons back to a one-possession game with an 18-yard touchdown run with 12:36 to go, but the PAT attempt was blocked. Hutchinson trailed 21-13. After a 10-play, 63-yard scoring drive by Eastern, the Dragons came right back with a 69-yard scoring march in seven plays capped by James’ 3-yard run. Hutch trailed 28-20 with 2:46 to go in the half.
Eastern Arizona struck with another big play on the Cooper halfback pass to Esdale and the Gila Monsters took a 34-20 lead at halftime.
The Blue Dragons had the only points of the third quarter on a tremendous catch in the end zone by Jaylen Erwin, who caught a 39-yard TD strike from Jones with a one-handed grab, at the same time getting one foot inbounds for the score. The Dragons cut the lead to 34-27 with 9:36 to go.
Hutchinson’s momentum stopped late in the third quarter when after tacking the ball over at the EAC 22, the Blue Dragons’ weren’t able to score points as a bad field-goal snap forced a Jose Parga 34-yard attempt to just miss wide left. EAC capitalized and marched 80 yards in 10 plays with Cooper going the final 6 for his second rushing touchdown of the game and the Gila Monsters led 41-27 with 12:09 to play.
Mosely’s interception for a touchdown came at the 2:23 mark to go to give Eastern a 48-27 lead. The Dragons scored the final points when Whitmire caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from James with 42 seconds remaining in the game.
GAME NOTES – The Blue Dragons are now 11-7-2 all-time in 20 bowl appearances. … The Dragons are now 6-1 in the Salt City Bowl.