There was a football game in El Dorado in 2010, between No. 1 Butler and No. 2 Hutchinson with national championship implications.
There have been the four Region VI title games in the last five years.
And then there was what happened on Oct. 26.
“That one might be the most memorable of all the games, to me, but not for the reasons everybody might think,” Butler coach Troy Morrell said. “Sure, people want to talk about the six overtimes and all the missed kicks but what I’ll remember is how great both defenses played.”
Sixth-ranked Butler (8-1) beat Hutchinson 19-16 in six overtimes just 15 days ago and faces the Blue Dragons again on Sunday in the Region VI championship game — the fourth year in a row the two teams have played in the final game. It will also be the last time the teams play twice in the regular season, with Jayhawk Conference teams going to an 11-game regular season and the Region VI playoffs going extinct in 2014.
“The thing that (Hutchinson coach) Rion Rhoades and his staff do so well is see new things, adapt their gameplan to what they need to do to win,” Morrell said. “They coach their guys up so you can’t put much into the last time we played them or any time we’ve played them. They’ll think of something new.”
Something old has been Morrell’s mastery of Rhoades’ teams over the years — in his one year as Fort Scott’s coach in 2006 and seven seasons as Hutchinson’s coach, Rhoades is 0-13 against Morrell and Butler, with losses in the Region VI title game in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
October’s game was the closest Rhoades has come to beating the Grizzlies — Hutchinson kicker Ryan Weese missed four field goals in overtime before Butler’s Robert Rawlings converted a 21-yard field goal in the sixth overtime for the win.
That Butler’s defense played so long and only gave up 16 points lends itself to Morrell’s point.
“Our defense has played really well all year,” Morrell said. “A lot of guys that were backups last year and stepped into roles and our only returning starter, (defensive tackle) Owen Williams really playing well all year.”
The Grizzlies are first in the Jayhawk in total defense (240.3 yards), scoring defense (11.3 points) and rush defense (66.3 yards).
Both teams are already qualified for bowl games. Hutchinson, win or lose, will likely play in the Salt City Bowl for the fourth straight season.
Butler will also be in a bowl game, win or lose. A loss would likely put the Grizzlies in the Citizens Bank Bowl in Pittsburg for the third time in four years. Win and their destination becomes a lot more foggy because of two other Top 10 games on Saturday — No. 2 East Mississippi played No. 4 Jones County and No. 5 Scottsdale played No. 7 Mesa.