FORT SCOTT — The opportunity was there for Butler to return the heartache from two weeks ago. Instead, the Grizzlies got another heartbreaker of their own.
Fort Scott defeated Butler 13-12 in the Region VI championship game, securing its right to play for the national title and beating the Grizzlies for the second time in 16 days.
No. 2 Fort Scott (11-0) got another break when No. 1 Navarro lost to No. 3 Blinn 45-34 in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference title game on Sunday. Fort Scott will likely move up to No. 1 in the new NJCAA rankings and stay in Kansas for the Citizens Bank Bowl in Pittsburg on Dec. 6.
"I think it would be a blessing and a pleasure to play in the Citizens Bank Bowl," Fort Scott coach Jeff Sims said. "People in southeast Kansas have worked their butts off to make it a possibility and we'd be honored to play in it. They have put it together for us and we've earned the right to play in that game. Tell Blinn to get on the bus and come up to Kansas, let's go."
Butler's fate isn't as clear cut. With a record of 8-3, where, when and if the Grizzlies get a chance to play in a bowl game is still up in the air.
"We just got to get an opportunity to play," Butler coach Troy Morrell said. "It doesn't look like we'll get an opportunity. Hopefully we'll get an invite by somebody."
Special teams miscues for Butler were the difference.
A blocked punt recovered in the end zone by Fort Scott's Dennis Herbin with 10 minutes to play put Fort Scott ahead for good. It was the only score in a second half that saw only one completed pass.
The usually reliable Logan Ortiz and Butler's kicking game, which had missed only one extra point through the season, failed to convert both extra-point opportunities. One was blocked while the other snap couldn't be handled.
"I felt like we played good enough to win, we just didn't get it done at the end," Morrell said. "The blocked punt was the turning point in the ball game. Our punt team had been outstanding, our special teams had been outstanding all season long and it comes down to a blocked punt and two missed extra points."
On a cold, rainy and muddy field, both teams struggled to hold on to the football much less score touchdowns. Butler had 12 of the game's 20 fumbles, eight by quarterback Ross Dausin, who struggled with the snap and handoffs. Dausin's last fumble came on Butler's last chance to win, a fourth-down play with two minutes to go.
"It's difficult to get things going when it's hard to hold on to the ball," Dausin said. "Just to make a basic center-quarterback exchange was difficult. We needed to do a better job of executing on offense and conditions made it rough for us."
Dominique Davis scored the game's first touchdown for Fort Scott on a five-yard touchdown run with 14 seconds left in the first quarter. Butler answered with 12 consecutive points in the second quarter.
Dalando Henderson scored his sixth rushing touchdown of the year. Then, after a Jasmin Hopkins fumble, Dausin found tight end Jordan Voelker for a nine-yard touchdown pass.
Hopkins, the Jayhawk rushing champion, carried the ball 43 times for 159 yards.
It's the first time since 1997 that Butler has lost more than two games. The loss also snaps a three-year reign as Region VI champions for the Grizzlies.
Butler (8-3) 0 12 0 0 — 12 Fort Scott (11-0) 7 0 0 6 — 13
F—Davis 5 run (Halsey kick)
B—Henderson 1 run (kick blocked)
B—Voelker 9 pass from Dausin (kick failed)
F—Herbin blocked punt recovery in end zone (kick failed)
Rushing—Butler, Dausin 19-(-61), Jacques 16-46, Brazil 9-32, Maddox 8-32, Henderson 3-11, Watkins 1-3, Johnson 1-2. Fort Scott, Hopkins 43-159, Davis 5-(-1), Bennett 3-(-4), Woods 2-3.
Passing—Butler, Dausin 4-14-62-2. Fort Scott, Davis 1-3-9-0.
Receiving—Butler, Davis 2-45, Voelker 1-9, Soft 1-8. Fort Scott, Baker 1-9.