The Butler football team laid claim to at least a share of the Jayhawk Conference championship, holding off Highland for a 27-18 win on Saturday afternoon at BG Products Veterans Sports Complex.
The fifth-ranked Grizzlies finish conference play at 6-1 and are now 9-1 overall. Butler maintains a half-game lead over Dodge City, which is 5-1 in league play after a 34-28 win at Coffeyville on Saturday night. Dodge City will host Highland in its final conference game next Saturday.
Butler laid its claim to the title after taking advantage of six Highland turnovers in the game, including five interceptions in the first half.
Highland took the opening kickoff and drove 62 yards in seven plays, scoring on a 33-yard touchdown pass as Highland converted on a fourth down play. The extra point kick missed and Highland's lead was 6-0.
Butler also scored on its first possession. The Grizzlies had good field position after a long kickoff return by Keshaun McGaugh put the ball near midfield. Eight plays later, Kobe McCrary crashed into the end zone from a yard out. Lane Brewer's extra point kick put Butler ahead 7-6 with 10:32 left in the first quarter.
The first of Butler's five interceptions was made by Aaron Peak, stopping a Highland drive into Butler territory. Butler put together a 10-play, 86-yard drive and scored on another Kobe McCrary run, this one from five yards out. Another Brewer kick made it 14-6 with 6:02 left in the first quarter.
Moments later, a short pass was tipped and intercepted by linebacker Tony Jones. He broke several tackles and stayed on his feet long enough to find the end zone for a 28-yard return. Another Brewer kick put Butler ahead 21-6 with 5:45 left in the first quarter.
A third straight Highland drive would end on an Ocrtavious Morgan interception, giving Butler the ball at the Highland 11. Butler failed to score, however, getting stuffed on fourth down at the 5-yard line.
Butler would get its fourth interception of the first quarter as DeMarcus Lloyd picked off a pass with 50 seconds left in the period. Butler, however, again was stopped on fourth down.
Octavious Morgan made his second interception and Butler's fifth, setting the stage for a 25-yard field goal by Lane Brewer. Butler led 24-6 with 8:38 left in the first half, but would not score again in the first half.
Highland would get another touchdown on a fourth-down conversion, as running back Isaiah Ming caught a short pass from quarterback Khalil Render and ran 28 yards to the end zone. That cut Butler's lead to 24-12 with 5:41 left before halftime.
That would be the score at intermission as Butler had one more defensive stop in the second quarter, that coming from DeMarcus Lloyd as his tackle stopped a Highland drive at the Butler 15 with just 1:11 left in the half.
Highland scored first in the third quarter. After a 52-yard punt that pinned Butler back at its own 1-yard line, the Grizzlies fumbled the ball back to the Scotties two plays later. The Scotties scored on a 3-yard run by Isaiah Ming. The two-point conversion run was short and Butler held on to a 24-18 lead with 11:18 left in the period.
Butler got 62 yards on the ensuing kickoff return by McKinley Johnson, setting up at the Highland 28-yard line. Butler's drive would stall, but the Grizzlies got another short field goal from Lane Brewer, this one from 24 yards out that made it a 27-18 game with 9:14 left in the third quarter.
Neither team would score again. Butler's defense would come up with three more fourth-down stops, with another drive ending in a punt after a sack by Mychealon Thomas.
Butler was outgained by Highland 333 to 263. Kobe McCrary had 27 carries for 85 yards for the Grizzlies. Butler's Justice Hansen completed 11-of-23 passes for 103 yards, while Colton Howell played the fourth quarter for Butler, completing 2-of-6 passes for 32 yards. Julian Burris was Butler's leading receiver with four catches for 62 yards.
Defensively, DeMarcus Lloyd had 14 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss. He also forced a fumble and recovered it, in addition to the interception and another pass breakup.
Butler will have one more game to finish the regular season, playing a non-conference game on the road next Saturday at Ellsworth, with the kickoff at 1:30 p.m. The Panthers overcame a 35-0 deficit at Hutchinson Saturday to win 42-35.