By STEVE CARPENTER
Blue Dragon Sports Information
WICHITA, Kan. — The No. 8-ranked Hutchinson Community College football team won its first Jayhawk Conference Playoff championship since 1995 on Sunday and completed a dazzling three-week run in doing so.
Quarterback Dylan Laible threw for better than 300 yards for the fourth-consecutive game, the Blue Dragon defense forced five takeaways and special teams added a huge blocked punt as Hutchinson rolled in the final three quarters to defeat No. 11 Garden City 49-19 at Riverfront Stadium in Wichita.
The Blue Dragons made their statement for a potential bid to the NJCAA National Playoffs and a chance to defend their national championship, improving to 8-2 overall and closing the season with five-straight dominating victories. The Blue Dragons are now 4-2 against NJCAA ranked opponents.
The Blue Dragons last won the KJCCC playoff championship game in 1995, a 34-22 win over the Broncbusters in Garden City.
Over their three-game KJCCC playoff run this season, the Blue Dragons outscored Highland, No. 5 Independence and No. 11 Garden City 168-19 and outgained their opponents 1,507-658. The Blue Dragons forced 10 takeaways and had just one turnover.
On Sunday at the home of the Wichita Wind Surge baseball team, the Blue Dragons rolled up 442 total yards (315 passing, 127 rushing), while holding the Broncbusters (7-3) to 299 yards (209 passing, 90 rushing).
Laible became the first quarterback since PJ Peters in 1995 to throw for 300-plus yards in four consecutive games on Sunday. Laible completed 12 of 27 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns. Laible completed touchdown passes of 82 yards to Malik Benson, 9 yards to Micah Woods and 40 yards to Cortez Braham.
Laible also moved past Peters into fourth place on the Blue Dragon career passing yards' list with 3,333 yards. He became just the third quarterback in Blue Dragon history with 40 or more career touchdown passes, now with 42. With 2,551 passing yards and 29 touchdown passes for the season, Laible is No. 3 in single-season history in both of those categories.
Benson had another huge came with five receptions for 194 yards and a touchdown. The 194 yards is the fourth-best receiving game in Blue Dragon history. Benson became just the fourth Blue Dragon receiver to reach 1,000 receiving yards in a season, now with 1,032 yards. Cortez Braham had three receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown. Braham is now No. 5 in career receiving yards with 1,324 yards and now eighth in career receptions with 62.
Running back Anwar Lewis became the 18th Blue Dragon running back to surpass 1,000 yards in a season with 69 yards on 21 carries with three rushing touchdowns of 5, 20 and 4 yards. Lewis now has 1,065 yards for the season to become the first Blue Dragon to reach 1,000 rushing yards since Dezmon Jackson in 2018. He remains ninth on the career list with 1,600 yards. Tye Edwards had 65 yards on 19 carries and a 2-yard touchdown.
Defensively, the Blue Dragons forced five takeaways. Hutchinson's four interceptions from Davion Westmoreland, Deshon Singleton, Jordan Huff and Emmanuel Mann tied for third most in HutchCC history, the 11th time the Blue Dragons have had four interceptions in a game. Linebacker Martavius French had nine total tackles and R.J. Evans had six. The Blue Dragons had 10 tackles for loss, including three quarterback sacks and seven quarterback hurries.
One of the biggest plays of the game came from special teams when Dylan Kedzior blocked a Garden City punt in the second quarter that set up a short Blue Dragon touchdown that gave Hutch a 21-13 lead.
Garden City quarterback Rhett Ricedorff was 19 of 52 passing for 199 yards and four interceptions. Manace Freeman had 60 rushing yards on five carries. David Elder had eight receptions for 66 yards.
The Broncbusters moved the ball easily in the first quarter, racking up 129 yards against Hutchinson. The Blue Dragon defense managed to get key late stops on Garden's first two possessions and the Busters had to settle for Jason Hernandez field goals of 29 and 42 yards to lead 6-0 with 2:01 to play in the opening quarter.
That changed on one play when Benson caught a Laible pass for an 82-yard scoring strike with Benson out-sprinting the Busters the final 50 yards for a touchdown. The Dragons led 7-6 after one quarter.
Garden City regained the lead at 13-7 on the first play of the second quarter when, on a trick play, Ricedorff caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Elder. The Blue Dragons had an immediate answer as Woods' 9-yard touchdown reception finished off a 76-yard, 11-play scoring drive for a 14-13 Dragon lead with 9:35 to go in the period.
The Busters threw three-straight incompletions on their next possession, which preceded Kedzior's blocked punt that was recovered at the Garden City 5. Lewis scored on the next play for a 21-13 Dragon lead with 9:00 to play in the period.
The Blue Dragons added an Edwards 2-yard touchdown run with 2:01 to play for a 28-13 Hutchinson lead, which was the score at halftime.
Garden City received the second-half kickoff. On the fifth play of the drive, Westmoreland intercepted the ball at the Garden City 35. Lewis made it 35-9 with a 20-yard touchdown run with 11:35 to play in the third quarter. The Dragons capped a 35-7 run through the middle two quarters with an Edwards 2-yard touchdown run for a 42-7 lead with 8:45 to play in the second quarter.
Garden City's Devion Hodges scored on a 22-yard touchdown run with 10:09 to play. The Dragons answered that with a 4-yard Lewis touchdown for a 49-19 lead with 6:27 to go.
GAME NOTES – Blue Dragon head coach Drew Dallas reached 16 wins, which is the second most by a Blue Dragon coach in team history. Andy Hill had 18 wins in his first two seasons. The Blue Dragons are now 41-40 all-time against Garden City. The Dragons are 43-42 all-time in KJCCC/Region VI playoff history, including 2-5 in championship games.