Rion Rhoades is up early.
The Hutchinson Community College football coach isn't flaunting this, or trying to pull off a Todd Haley-esque "never see my kids awake" moment for the sake of the interview... he's just a guy who has had a long week and it shows in his voice.
After the then-No. 4 Blue Dragons' 31-0 shellacking last Saturday at the hands of No. 3 Fort Scott, it's to be expected.
Hutchinson (3-1 overall, 2-1 Jayhawk) dropped nine spots to No. 13 in this week's poll after the disheartening defeat.
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"Last Sunday was tough for all of us," Rhoades said. "The loss stung, and what hurt more than anything was how we played... it was a challenge for all of us to move on, but I think we've done a good job at that."
Friday, Rhoades was awake and starting his day at 4:45, up early because he has none other than No. 4 Butler (4-1, 3-0) coming to town for a game that lost a bit of its luster after the Blue Dragons' loss, although not enough to take the shine off what should be a packed Gowans Stadium tonight.
"This is something we've talked about, something we anticipate as part of going on the road," Butler coach Troy Morrell said. "We've got to be able to play in tough environments."
Since an opening-game loss to No.1 Blinn (Texas), the Grizzlies have rolled off four straight wins behind a balanced offensive attack and a defense spearheaded by defensive ends Scott Smith (6 1/2 sacks) and Cornellius Carradine (5 1/2 sacks).
Smith, a sophomore transfer from California, is an imposing 6-foot-7. 265 pounds. Carradine, a freshman who committed to Illiniois out of high school, goes 6-4, 245.
"It's part of the remarkable thing that Troy and his staff do," Rhoades said. "They get new guys in and they acclimate them to their system so quickly. They have so many good athletes and so much speed it makes them difficult to prepare for."
Preparing for the Blue Dragons may be just as difficult. Hutchinson averages 318.3 yards per game rushing and has three running backs — Chris Anderson, Chris Clay and Romero Cotton — in the top 10 in the league in rushing.
"Stopping the run is a huge key," Morrell said. "In that offense, you've got to worry about who is going to have the ball all the time... and it could be the running backs, the quarterback or even a wide receiver they put in motion."