Courtesy of HutchCC Athletics
The No. 1-ranked Hutchinson Community College football team starts it postseason road at Gowans Stadium for the second-straight season.
The Jayhawk Conference champion Blue Dragons (10-0) will play No. 4 East Mississippi (9-2) in the NJCAA Division I national semifinals at 2 p.m. on Saturday, December 2 at Gowans Stadium.
No. 2 Iowa Western (10-1) will play No. 3 Kilgore (9-1) in the other national semifinal at 2 p.m. on Sunday, December 3 in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
The winners will meet at 7 p.m. on Wednesday December 13 at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The Blue Dragons rolled through the Jayhawk Conference season undefeated and clinched a second-straight unbeaten regular season with a 42-28 victory over No. 2 Iowa Western on November 11 at Gowans Stadium.
The Blue Dragons lead the nation in scoring defense at 10.2 points per game. They also lead the NJCAA in rushing defense at 53.5 yards allowed per game.
Hutchinson has KJCCC Defensive Player of the Year Daniel Brown headlining the defensive unit. Brown leads the nation in quarterback sacks with 17.5 sacks. Safety Ryan Nolan leads the NJCAA with seven interceptions. KJCCC co-Player of the Year Samari Collier guides a Blue Dragon offense that averages 39.1 points and 383.5 total yards per game. The Dragons lead the nation with 31 rushing touchdowns.
East Mississippi rolls into the national semifinals on a seven-game winning streak, including three victories in the Mississippi Community College Athletic Conference playoffs. EMCC defeated previous No. 3 Copiah Lincoln 27-20 in the MCCAC championship game on Saturday to earn a spot in the semifinals. The Lions vaulted over Snow College into the No. 4 spot in the poll.
EMCC has the fourth-highest scoring offense in the NJCAA at 38.3 points per game. The Lions are fourth in total offense at 425.5 yards per game. Quarterback Ty Keyes leads the NJCAA with 29 touchdown passes, and he's second in passing at 268.6 yards per game.
Defensively, East Mississippi is allowing 19.7 points and 318.2 total yards per game.
Hutchinson will be making its 27th all-time football postseason appearance. The Blue Dragons are 16-8-2 all-time in NJCAA postseason bowl or playoff games.
EMCC will be playing in the four-team playoff – instituted by the NJCAA before the 2021 season – for the first time. East Mississippi will be making its second-ever trip to Kansas. The Lions defeated Garden City 10-9 in the 2018 NJCAA Championship game at Carnie-Smith Stadium in Pittsburg. East Mississippi has won NJCAA national titles in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2018.
The semifinal matchup will be the first game ever played between Hutchinson and East Mississippi. The game will be only the second time ever that the Blue Dragons play a team from Mississippi. The last time was the 2021 Salt City Bowl when Hutchinson defeated Hinds 66-34 on December 4, 2021 at Gowans Stadium.
The Blue Dragons are the No. 1 seed in the Division I national playoff for the second-straight season. Last year, the Blue Dragons rolled into the national championship game with a 38-7 semifinal victory over Coffeyville in the semifinals at Gowans Stadium. The Dragons then fell to Iowa Western in the 2022 championship game in Little Rock.
The Dragons bid for their third birth in the national championship game. Hutchinson won its only football national championship with a 29-27 victory over Snow College on June 5, 2021 at Little Rock.
Hutchinson has now been ranked in 32 consecutive NJCAA rankings, the third-longest consecutive run in the national poll in program history. The Blue Dragons were ranked in 45-straight polls from 2010 to 2013 and in 38 consecutive polls from 2018 to 2021.
The Blue Dragons have been ranked at No. 1 for 12 consecutive weeks.