#3 Butler handles Highland 33-7 in conference opener

#3 Butler handles Highland 33-7 in conference opener

Butler football opened Jayhawk Conference play in dominating fashion Saturday with a 33-7 rout of Highland at BG Products Veterans Sports Complex.

The third-ranked Grizzlies (3-0 overall, 1-0 KJCCC) took a 19-0 lead into halftime and scored touchdowns on their opening two drives in the second half en route to the home victory.

Quarterback Steven Frank completed 15-of-23 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns – both to wide receiver George Qualls, who also had a team-high four receptions for 83 yards. Running back Brock Sturges paced the Grizzly ground game with 97 rushing yards on 19 attempts and one touchdown.

For the third straight game, Butler racked up over 400 yards of offense – finishing with 423 total yards and having a balanced attack (231 passing, 192 rushing). However, the Grizzlies managed just 23 yards on their opening two drives, yet still led 3-0 due to having good field possession. In Highland's first two possessions, the Scotties' offense went three-and-out and had minus-5 yards.

Starting from Highland 37-yard line on its second drive, Butler gained just 15 yards on eight plays – getting a Sturges two-yard run on a 4th-and-1 and a 39-yard field goal from Jacob Abel.

Once Butler's offense started moving, Sturges and Qualls were the key playmakers as the Grizzlies scored touchdowns on back-to-back drives.

After a 34-yard pass completion to Donmonic Parks to the Butler 28-yard line, Grizzly defensive lineman Derick Newton recovered a Damarco Fishback fumble forced by Maurice Farr. Three plays later, Sturges kept his balance on a missed tackle and broke away from the Highland defense for a 36-yard touchdown run to put Butler up 10-0 with 5:25 remaining in the opening quarter.

Highland's next drive ended with a turnover on downs at the Grizzlies' 23-yard line, while Butler quickly moved the ball across midfield with three first downs – including a 10-yard Frank scramble and a 14-yard pass completion to Jermaine Ziegler.

Two plays later, Qualls got behind the Scotties' defense on a post route and caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from Frank for a 16-0 Grizzly lead less than a minute into the second quarter.

Abel capped a 13-play, 59-yard drive by kicking a 26-yard field goal with 6:59 before halftime, giving Butler a 19-0 advantage through the break.

Butler scored consecutive touchdowns on its first two drives to open the second half, with the Grizzlies piecing their longest drive of the night – 75 yards in 12 plays – for a 26-0 lead.

Frank had three passes over 10 yards on the drive – including a 24-yard pass to Ziegler down to the Highland 4-yard line. On the next play, Nick Davenport subbed in at quarterback and ran in a keeper for the touchdown.

With 6:28 remaining in the third quarter, Highland got on the scoreboard with its only touchdown of the night, as Joseph Cambridge found Kajuan Jackson near the far side of the end zone on a six-yard scoring pass.

Butler answered with its final touchdown as the Frank-Qualls combo connected again on a 24-yard score at 3:43 left in the quarter.

A 35-yard kick return by JaQuez Durham gave the Grizzlies good field position at its own 38-yard line. Frank would complete consecutive passes to JaQuay Lane for 17 and 11 yards on the drive. Three plays later, Frank threw over the middle for Qualls, who broke a shoestring tackle for the touchdown.

Held to a season-low in points (7) and rushing yards (23), the Scotties finished the contest by turning the ball over on downs in their final three possessions.

Defensively, the Grizzlies were led by Maurice Farr and Ezekiel Robbins, who both finished with six tackles each.

Butler continues conference play with a road contest next Saturday against rival Coffeyville (0-3, 0-1), who dropped a 45-17 contest at Iowa Central. The Red Ravens are off to their worst opening start since 1973. Kickoff from Veterans Memorial Stadium is at 7:00 p.m.

NOTES: Butler won its seventh consecutive game over Highland and now lead the series 33-11-1 all-time vs. the Scotties. Since 1979, the Grizzlies have won 25 of the last 27 games over Highland… With the win, Grizzly head coach Tim Schaffner now has 35 career wins and moves into fourth all-time, passing James Shibest (1996-99)… Butler moved to 3-0 for just the second time under Schaffner… Butler has now gained over 400 yards of total offense in three consecutive games, marking the first time the Grizzlies have reached that achievement since the final three games of the 2014 regular season… Taiten Winkel hit a booming 74-yard punt in the fourth quarter, which registers as the fourth-longest punt in Butler history. Logan Ortiz holds the Grizzly school record with an 82-yard punt back on Oct. 31, 2009 at Fort Scott.