[ By STEVE CARPENTER ]
[ BLUE DRAGON SPORTS INFORMATION ]
DODGE CITY, Kan. — A blocked field goal and punt return for touchdowns, a goal-line stand and other interception deep in Blue Dragon territory were the key plays in the Hutchinson Community College Football team snapping a three-game losing streak on Saturday.
The Blue Dragons earned their seventh victory of the season and helped head coach Rion Rhoades reach a milestone victory with a 27-6 triumph over the Dodge City Conquistadors at Dodge City’s Memorial Stadium in the 2017 regular-season finale for both teams.
Hutchinson improves to 7-4 overall and finishes 4-3 in the Jayhawk Conference. Dodge City falls to 4-7 and 1-6. Next up for the Blue Dragons will be the Salt City Bowl on December 2 at Gowans Stadium against an opponent yet to be determined.
Saturday’s victory was Rhoades’ 80th victory on the Blue Dragon sidelines. He reached the 80-win mark faster than any coach in Blue Dragon history, doing so in 124 games. John Matous did it in 129 games and Charles Sesher did it in 134 games.
The Dragons used four key sequences to keep Dodge City at arm’s length on Saturday. The biggest of those four plays occurred on the final play of the first half.
With Hutchinson leading 7-0, Dodge City had driven to the Blue Dragon 3-yard line. With the Conquistadors lined up for a 24-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the opening half, Michael Witherspoon came from the right side to block the field goal and Jerry Jacobs picked up the loose ball and returned it 86-yards for a momentum-swinging touchdown. Hutch’s point-after try was blocked, but instead of being tied for leading by only four points at halftime, the Blue Dragons led 13-0.
Earlier in the second quarter, the Blue Dragons protected their 7-0 lead when Jacobs intercepted his fifth pass of the season after the Conquistadors had driven to the Hutchinson 23.
With the Dragons leading 20-0, Dodge City had second-and-goal at the Blue Dragon 1 to start the fourth quarter. Two-straight run stops led by Jeffmario Brown made it fourth down. The Dragons then stopped the Conquistadors when Brown and Caliph Brice sacked Caden Walters for an 8-yard loss to turn the ball over on downs.
Marcus Edwards had the final dagger for the Blue Dragons when he returned a punt 53 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter – the Blue Dragons’ first punt or kickoff return for a score this season.
Hutchinson’s defense held Dodge City to 237 total yards and only 51 yards rushing. Hutch had three quarterback sacks. Hutch held Dodge City to 1 of 14 on third-down conversions, 1 of 3 on fourth down and 1 of 4 on Conquistador red zone chances.
The Blue Dragons had only 206 total yards offensively on Saturday – 125 rushing yards and 81 passing yards.
Quarterback Eric Forrest was 12 of 18 passing for just 69 yards. Jaylen Erwin, DeShawn Waller and B.J. Emmons had two catches each.
Emmons was Hutch’s leading rusher with 51 yards on nine carries. Dezmon Jackson had 46 rushing yards and Andrew Lee had 40 rushing yards.
Another key figure in the Blue Dragon win was punter Donovan Gagen. He punted eight times for an average of 38.9 yards per punt and a 34.8-yard net average. Gagen dumped four balls inside the 20, including one into the coffin corner at the Dodge City 1. He had a long punt of 51 yards.
The Blue Dragons scored the game’s first points on their second drive of the game. Emmons finished off a seven-play, 73-yard scoring drive with a 2-yard plunge over the top of the pile for a 7-0 Hutch lead with 7:51 remaining in the opening quarter.
Leading 13-0 in the third quarter, the Blue Dragons forced one of Dodge City’s 10 punts and took over at the Dragon 43. The Dragons needed seven plays to cover the 57 yards, the final coming on an Otis Williams 20-yard touchdown run to make it 20-0 Hutchinson with 2:57 to play in the third quarter.
GAME NOTES – The Blue Dragons snapped a two-game losing streak to Dodge City. … Hutch is now 47-36-4 all-time against Dodge City and 22-21-2 in games at Dodge City. … Marcus Edwards had a game-high 148 all-purpose yards with six punt returns for 112 yards and one kickoff return for 44 yards. … Deveonte Wyatt blocked an extra point for the Blue Dragons in the fourth quarter. The ball was returned by Storey Jackson for an apparent defensive 2-point conversion, but the score was wiped out on a penalty.