October 23, 2011

Butler handles Hutch, 28-10, to win conference title

HUTCHINSON, Kan. – The Butler Grizzlies are yet again the undefeated Jayhawk Conference football champions after a 28-10 win over Hutchinson at Gowans Stadium in front of 5,400 spectators on Saturday night.

"It feels really good, I can promise you that, coming in here with a big crowd and a lot of anticipation for this game," Morrell said. "I'm just really proud of the way that our kids played. It's never easy coming here."

Butler finishes with a perfect 7-0 record in conference games for the second straight year. The Grizzlies have won 10 of the past 11 conference championships and 12 of the past 14 dating back to 1998, compiling a record of 93-5 in conference play during that time.

Butler struck quickly against Hutchinson, scoring on a 68-yard catch-and-run by Devin Clarke on a pass from Chandler Whitmer on the second play of the game that put Butler ahead 7-0.

The Butler defense then forced Hutchinson to punt, but the ball was fumbled away by Clarke and Hutchinson took advantage, eventually kicking a field goal that made the score 7-3.

In the second quarter, Hutchinson put together three straight first downs to get deep in Butler territory, but Blue Dragon quarterback Elliott Alford was hit and fumbled the ball with Butler's Dyllon Knox recovering at the 10-yard line.

The Grizzlies took advantage of the shift in momentum, capping a 90-yard touchdown drive with a 49-yard touchdown pass from Whitmer to Jacob Hurla, making the score 14-3.

Hutch would commit another costly turnover on its next drive, when Alford was intercepted by Dylan Schellenberg at Butler 11-yard line. Neither team would score again in the first half.

The Grizzlies appeared to take control of the contest to start the third quarter, when Whitmer hooked up with Kendall Wrenn for a 78-yard catch-and-run touchdown completion that made the score 21-3 with 10:41 left in the period.

But moments later, Hutchinson's Cordarrelle Patterson returned the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown that made the score 21-10.

Butler went three-and-out on its next possession and a short punt gave Hutchinson good field position at its own 44-yard line. The Dragons drove inside Butler's 5-yard line and eventually faced fourth-and-one at the 4. Hutchinson elected to go for it, but the fourth down pass attempt was batted down by Butler linebacker Rahman Swain, preserving the 11-point Butler lead.

In the fourth quarter, Butler struck again from long distance when running back Jasper Sanders took a direct snap and went 80 yards for a touchdown to seal the win for the Grizzlies, making it 28-10 with 11:30 to play in the game.

Sanders finished with 103 yards, the fourth time in the past five weeks he has rushed for more than 100 yards. Whitmer had his fewest completions in any game this season with nine, but had 273 yards passing, an average of better than 30 yards per pass. Kendall Wrenn had 103 yards receiving, his fourth straight game over the century mark in yards. The Grizzlies rolled up 461 yards of total offense.

Defensively, Butler posted its seventh straight game without allowing an opposing offense to score a touchdown – a span of 28 straight quarters. Butler opponents have scored three touchdowns in that span, but two came on special teams (a punt return by Dodge City and kickoff return by Hutchinson) and the other came on a fumble return by Air Force Prep.

"You can't say enough about our defense," Morrell said. "All game long they were backed up. You have to take your hat off to coach (Tim) Schaffner and the rest of the defensive staff and you have to have players who can make plays. The guys carried out the schemes tonight and contained an offense with an awful lot of weapons and an awful lot of speed.

"We came up big in the red zone a couple of times with interceptions and big plays. That's what we talked about, not letting them in there. We're going to bend a little because they are a good team and they are going to make some plays. We just couldn't break and bless their hearts, they didn't."

The regular season is now completed for Butler. The Grizzlies will have a bye next weekend and will be the top seed in the upcoming Region VI Playoffs. While official pairings haven't been released, it's expected Butler will face Dodge City on Sunday, Nov. 6 at 1:30 p.m. at Galen Blackmore Stadium.

"We're going to heal up a little bit and get our batteries recharged and find some renewed energy to finish this thing off," Morrell said. "The main thing is to continue to work hard and get better."