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July 25, 2014
Hutch again picked a bridesmaid
WICHITA - With plenty of key positions to fill from a sophomore-dominated team last season, the Hutchinson Community College football team continues to be held in high regard by the Jayhawk Conference football coaches.
The Blue Dragons were picked to finish second in the 2014 coaches' preseason poll released at Jayhawk Conference Football Media Day on Friday at Newman University. It's the fifth-straight season that Hutchinson has been chosen to finish second in the league's preseason poll. The Dragons are looking for their first Jayhawk Conference football championship since 1995.
Blue Dragon head coach Rion Rhoades discussed his 2014 team's prospects to a large contingent of statewide media. Rhoades also talked about the Jayhawk Conference's new scheduling alliance with the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference. All eight Jayhawk teams will play the three ICCAC schools to fill out 10 of the allotted 11 regular-season games. All 11 teams have the option to fill the 11th date and there will no longer be Region VI playoff games.
"This is going to be exciting to see how this plays out," Rhodes said of the scheduling alliance. "The level of football is going to be very good."
In addition to the Jayhawk Conference coaches, ICCAC commissioner Thom McDonald spoke via Skype and Iowa Western coach Scott Strohmeier was in attendance to talk about his football team.
The Blue Dragons come off an 8-4 season in 2013. HCC tied for second in the Jayhawk Conference, was Region VI runner-up and won a fifth-straight Valley of the Sun Bowl. The Blue Dragons finished No. 18 in the final NJCAA football poll.
The Blue Dragons have nine starters (4 offense, 5 defense) and 19 lettermen (11 offense, 8 defense) returning from last season.
Offensively, HCC will have to replace record-setting quarterback Luke Barnes and eventual starter Frankie Seurer - he took over after Barnes was lost for the season in Week 8. The Dragons will also have to replace four offensive linemen - Jess Westmoreland and Teralle Johnson were two year starters - and the offensive backfield will be completely re-tooled.
Defensively, sophomore defensive ends Jeremiah Ledbetter and Marquavius Lewis are both being heavily recruited. Claude George and Darius Wright were starting linebackers last season. The biggest loss defensively came in the secondary, where All-American Jaylon Myers and All-Jayhawk performers Shattle Fenteng and Christian Goodlett have moved on.
"The turnover from last year is probably the most as we have had since I've been here," Rhoades said. "This is probably the most talented team we have had coming in. It's our job as coaches to mold this talent into a team, help them play together and allow them to use their talent."
For the 12th consecutive season, the Butler Grizzlies were picked to win the Jayhawk Conference championship. After Hutchinson, Dodge City was picked to finish third. The Conquistadors had a breakout season in 2013 in which they won four games in the fourth quarter or later, including a regular-season overtime victory over Hutchinson in Week 3.
Coffeyville was picked fourth. Garden City and Highland tied for fifth. Fort Scott was picked seventh and Independence was picked eighth.
The Blue Dragons open practice on August 7. Twenty-one days later, the 2014 season will open with the Bethany College Junior Varsity.
HCC will be at home for the first two weeks of the season, playing host to Fort Scott on Sept. 6. The Blue Dragons' first road game comes at Butler on Sept. 13. It will be the earliest Hutchinson and Butler have played in a season since 1997.
The first Iowa matchup comes one week later when Iowa Central comes to Gowans Stadium on Sept. 20 for a 1 p.m. kickoff. The Dragons then go on the road for two straight games to Dodge City and Coffeyville before coming home in consecutive weeks against Garden City and Highland on Oct. 11 and 18.
HCC will have its two longest road trips of the season on Oct. 25 and Nov. 1 with back-to-back trips to Iowa to play Iowa Western and Ellsworth, respectively. HCC will close out the regular season at home at 1 p.m. on Nov. 8 against Independence.
JAYHAWK CONFERENCE PRESEASON COACHES POLL
3. Dodge City
T5. Garden City
7. Fort Scott