COFFEYVILLE – The Butler football team put itself in the driver's seat for a conference championship and a No. 1 national ranking with a thrilling 42-39 come-from-behind victory over Coffeyville at Veterans Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
The Grizzies, currently ranked third in the NJCAA, knocked off No. 1 Coffeyville despite trailing by 12 points in the third quarter. The win, coupled with a loss by No. 2 Snow (Utah), should put Butler atop the national polls on Tuesday.
In addition, Butler is now the lone undefeated team in the Jayhawk Conference at 8-0 overall and 5-0 in conference play. Coffeyville now sits in third place at 7-1 overall and 3-1 in conference games. Dodge City is in second place at 6-2 overall and 4-1 in league play.
Butler which led 21-19 at halftime on the strength of its passing game, fell behind after two turnovers early in the third quarter. From that point on, the Grizzlies used a strong running game and stingy defense to dominate the final 22 minutes of the contest.
Both teams got three passing touchdowns in the first half, but Coffeyville had one extra point attempt blocked and missed another. Butler's Justice Hansen threw touchdown passes of nine and 17 yards to Byron Pringle and a 34-yarder to Diantae Thomas.
Each time, Coffeyville quarterback Riley Ferguson would answer with a touchdown pass of his own – two to Cedrick Wilson and a 60-yarder to Juwann Winfree with just 2:02 left in the first half.
Butler had the ball to start the third quarter and running back Kobe McCrary would break free for a 65-yard run down the left sideline. As he was being tackled, however, he reached for the goal line but fumbled the ball out of the end zone, turning into a touchback for Coffeyville.
The Red Ravens answered with a 7-play, 80-yard drive capped by a 21-yard touchdown pass from Ferguson to Alfonso Onunwar, giving Coffeyville its first lead at 26-21 with 12:04 left in the third.
Butler would turn it over with another fumble on its next possession when the Grizzlies failed to cover a lateral pass. Coffeyville once again easily moved down the field, scoring on a 5-yard pass from Ferguson to tight end Trevor Neloms. The Red Ravens had their largest lead at 33-21 with 7:45 to play in the third.
Butler stayed committed to the run game and the strategy began to pay off as McCrary started gouging the Coffeyville defense. He would score on a 9-yard run to get Butler within a touchdown at 33-28 with 4:07 left in the third.
The Butler defense held Coffeyville to a three-and-out on its next possession. After getting the ball back, quarterback Justice Hansen found a wide open McKinley Johnson for a 53-yard gain, nearly scoring. One play later, Kobe McCrary crashed into the end zone with a 1-yard touchown run and Butler was back in front 34-33 with 46 seconds left in the third quarter, despite a missed extra point kick.
Butler would move into the red zone in the fourth quarter before the drive stalled and Lane Brewer was called upon to try a 25-yard field goal that was blocked.
The Butler defense continued to hold Ferguson and the high-powered Coffeyville offense at bay, forcing four straight punts as the game clock wound down.
The Grizzlies would take nearly five minutes off the clock with an 8-play, 50-yard drive that was capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Michael Mason. At that point, Butler led 40-33 with 2:40 to go.
Butler head coach Tim Schaffner was faced with a decision of kicking an extra point or going for two. After taking the third and final timeout, Schaffner and the Grizzlies called for Kobe McCrary to run the ball and he found the end zone to make it a 42-33 lead.
The Coffeyville offense would face fourth-and-10 on the ensuing drive and Ferguson ran for 11 yards. After that, he completed six straight passes, including a 19-yard strike across the middle to Juwann Winfree to make it a 42-39 game with 1:08 to play. Coffeyville faked a kick on the extra point, as holder Cale Murphy attempted to run up the middle, but was stopped just shy of the end zone.
Coffeyville was forced to attempt an onside kick an the ball was recovered by Diantae Thomas. A 16-yard run by Kobe McCrary put the game on ice for the Grizzlies.
McCrary ran 27 times for a career-high 250 yards in the win. He ran for two touchdowns to give him 19 on the season, which leads all players in NJCAA football. Quarterback Justice Hansen completed 19-of-39 passes for 294 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran the ball 14 times for 33 yards. McKinley Johnson had three catches for 116 yards. Butler had 595 yards of total offense, including 301 yards rushing.
Coffeyville's Riley Ferguson passed for 480 yards, completing 41-of-60 attempts with no interceptions and six touchdowns, while three different Coffeyville receivers had more than 100 yards, led by Juwan Winfree's eight catches for 154 yards.
While the Butler defense was tested by the powerful Coffeyville offense, the Grizzlies were led by DeMarcus Lloyd, who had 15 tackles (11 solo) including four tackles for loss. He made tackles on fourth down to stop two consecutive Coffeyville drives in the second quarter. Lloyd also forced a fumble. Tramal Ivy and Zach Befort each had a sack in the game, each coming in the second half to stop Coffeyville drives.
Butler will now put its undefeated record and likely No. 1 national ranking on the line this coming Saturday with a 7 p.m. kickoff against Garden City (1-7 overall, 1-5 conference). The Broncbusters have lost seven straight - including a 36-20 loss Saturday at Fort Scott - after a win in the season opener against Highland.