By STEVE CARPENTER - Blue Dragon Sports Information
For the second-straight week, the No. 1-ranked Hutchinson Community College football team finds itself in the thick of an NJCAA Top 10 national matchup.
The Blue Dragons (4-0, 3-0 KJCCC) travels to No. 7 Independence (3-1, 3-1 KJCCC) at 7 p.m. on Sunday at Emmott Field in Independence.
Last Sunday at Gowans Stadium, the top-ranked Blue Dragons took care of business against No. 3 Garden City, defeating the Broncbusters 23-7.
Defense was the headliner against the Broncbusters. National Defensive Player of the Week Daishon Folsom led a Blue Dragon defense that held the Busters to seven points, 201 total yards and a negative 16 yards rushing. Folsom was in on two of five Blue Dragon quarterback sacks. The Dragons also pressured Garden City's Mike Irwin eight other times. Hutchinson's defense, which hasn't allowed more than 10 points in a game this season, also had nine total tackles for loss and 11 passes broken up.
Hutchinson will need a similar defensive effort against Independence, which is currently the NJCAA's top offensive scoring team at 48.3 points per game. The Pirates are also No. 2 in the nation in rushing offense at 267.8 yards per game. Tavion Thomas is the nation's sixth-leading rusher at 104.0 yards per game with five touchdowns. Thomas averages 8.2 yards per carry. Thomas didn't play last week in Independence's 68-10 win at Highland. Running back Pat Bowen stepped in and rushed for 214 yards and three touchdowns against the Scotties on only 11 carries.
Independence is the defending Jayhawk Conference champions. The Pirates' only blemish on a 3-1 record is a 14-10 loss to then No. 3 Garden City at Emmott Field on April 17. The Pirates had a 10-0 lead entering the fourth quarter, but the Busters rallied for the victory.
Independence head coach Jason Martin is the third head coach for the Pirates in three seasons. Martin has been a part of the Independence program throughout that period as an assistant.
Sunday's matchup between the Blue Dragons and Pirates will be the 84th in a series that dates back to 1930. Hutchinson leads the overall series 55-23-5, winning last season 31-21 at Gowans Stadium.
The Blue Dragons bid for their eighth 5-0 start to a season in team history.