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Hutch-Butler battle is big for both sides

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010, at 12:02 a.m.

For the second week in a row, the biggest junior-college football game in the nation resides in Kansas.

And if this is football Armageddon, both Butler Community College coach Troy Morrell and Hutchinson coach Rion Rhoades are welcoming the end with a smile on their face.

"I don't want to say this is what we live for, but it's definitely why we do what we do," Morrell said. "It just doesn't get any better than this."

The No. 1 Grizzlies, fresh off last week's 38-26 win over then-No. 3 Coffeyville, host No. 2 Hutchinson (7-0, 5-0) at 7 tonight at Blackmore Stadium in El Dorado.

If Butler (8-0, 6-0) wins, it will clinch its ninth Jayhawk Conference title in the last 10 years. A win by the Blue Dragons snaps a 15-game losing streak to Butler dating back to 1997 and gives them a share of the league title for the first time since 1995.

"It's just the buzz that comes with a game like this, you can't ignore it, you can't get away from it," Rhoades said.

The Grizzlies have already defeated three ranked teams this season — Navarro (Texas) in their opener, Fort Scott and Coffeyville — but the Blue Dragons have yet to face a ranked opponent.

"One thing we pointed out to our guys is that not a lot of people get the opportunity to play college football; and out of that group, how many get to play in a 1 vs. 2 game like this?" Rhoades said. "I feel really good about this group. I wouldn't want to go to battle with any other group of kids."

Two things Rhoades' group has been good at this season — scoring points and pass defense — will be put to the test today.

The Blue Dragons average 45 points and have shown they score by ground or by air. They've also allowed just 72 passing yards per game, best in the nation.

"The thing Hutch has done this season is add that second dimension where they're throwing the ball," Morrell said. "And they've got two guys in (Angelo) Pease and (Jamal) Womble that are capable of running the ball as good as anybody."

Womble is third in the league in rushing with 655 yards and Pease is fourth with 613.

Butler has the No. 7 passing offense in the nation, and quarterback Zach Mettenberger has thrown for 1,820 yards, 23 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

The Grizzlies' defense is led by defensive end Cornelius Carradine, who has 79 tackles and 10 1/2 sacks. Butler held the Red Ravens to negative-18 rushing yards last week.

"What we've been able to do well this year is identify players that have talents to fit our system," Rhoades said. "And our coaches have done an outstanding job of putting those guys in spots where they can make plays."

Check Tony Adame's small-college blog at blogs.kansas.com/statecolleges. Reach him at 316-268-6284 or tadame@wichitaeagle.com.

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