At halftime Saturday night, fifth-ranked Butler had yet to score in an ugly display of football, giving Dodge City some hope of upsetting the three-time defending Jayhawk Conference champion Grizzlies.
But in the second half, Butler’s execution started to click, and the Grizzlies found their scoring touch and romped past the Conquistadors 41-6, at BG Sports Complex.
“Once you start scoring like that, it just breaks their will, and the game ends up like that,” said sophomore tight end Steven Walker, who scored one of the Grizzlies’ touchdowns on a 2-yard pass play.
The Grizzlies’ defense was a constant, however, limiting Dodge to 178 yards total offense for the game – just 43 in the first half, which ended in a 0-0 tie.
“We keep playing defense like that, we’re going to win a lot of games,” Butler coach Troy Morrell said.
Morrell’s halftime message was a simple one, Walker said.
“Coach just said we just needed to get down to basics,” he said. “We had been driving them all the way down the field; we just had to finish. Coach just harped on the finish, and we just went out there in the second half and actually finished.”
Morrell said he told them: “Just keep playing.”
Another key to the Butler triumph was an element that has been a hallmark of Butler football. The Grizzlies recovered three Dodge fumbles in the second half and intercepted one pass. Meanwhile, Butler avoided committing any turnovers in the game, further frustrating the Conquistadors.
“That was huge,” Morrell said. “If you take care of the football, you’re always going to give yourself a chance to win.”
The Grizzlies (1-0, 1-0) broke through 3:04 into the third quarter, when sophomore kicker Robert Rawlings – who had missed two tries and suffered a botched snap in the first half – connected from 29 yards out.
About four minutes later, sophomore running back Ty Suggs took a handoff from Hunter Vaughn, then lobbed a 2-yard toss to Heights product Walker for a 10-0 lead.
Dodge City (0-1, 0-1) showed some fire when freshman quarterback Deondre Ford hit William French in stride for a 33-yard scoring play for Dodge’s lone points.
In the fourth quarter, sophomore linebacker Dominik White intercepted Ford and returned the ball to the Dodge 3. Three plays later, Vaughn spun his way into the end zone.
From there, Butler put the game on cruise control. White outraced Ford when the snap went over the Conquistador quarterback’s head, recovering at the Dodge 39. Three plays later, Vaughn connected with Steve Williams to the Dodge 3, setting up a 1-yard score by fullback Miles Thomas.
Then, Dodge reserve quarterback Charlie Wilson lost the ball, which popped up to Butler freshman lineman Javone Boyd, who took in for Butler’s final points.
B – Rawlings 29 FG
B – Walker 2 pass from Suggs (Rawlings kick)
DC – French 33 pass from Ford (kick failed)
B – Carson 3 run (Rawlings kick)
B – Rawlings 21 FG
B – Vaughn 1 run (Rawlings kick)
B – Mil. Thomas 1 run (Rawlings kick)
B – Boyd 6 fumble recovery (Rawlings kick)
RUSHING – Dodge City: Gabriel 6-40, T. Thomas 14-38, Wilson 5-(-8), Ford 4-(-13). Butler: Mattison 14-81, Carson 15-55, Suggs 12-33, Cotton 4-31, Palmer 3-26, Miles Thomas 3-7, Vaughn 4-3, Plump 1-2.
PASSING – Dodge City: Ford 13-21-1-113, Wilson 2-3-0-8. Butler: Vaughn 12-19-0-183, Suggs 1-2-0-2, Glatczak 0-1-0-0, Palmer 1-1-0-16.
RECEIVING – Dodge City: Foster 5-27, French 4-49, Robinson 3-25, Michael Thomas 1-9, T. Thomas 1-6, Brittain 1-5. Butler: Hallman 4-51, Walker 2-26, Glatczak 2-20, Hightower 1-42, Williams 1-25, Elliott 1-17, Powell 1-15, Mattison 1-7, Oharah 1-(-2).
No. 6 Hutchinson 44, No. 12 Coffeyville 14 — The Blue Dragons opened the season with a big road win behind 228 yards passing and two touchdowns from Luke Barnes. Ryan Weese added three field goals and Chris Murray returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown to give Hutchinson a 27-7 lead late in the third quarter.
In other Jayhawk action, Highland pulled off an upset, defeating Fort Scott 48-31 and Garden City demolished Independence 67-0.