After another very successful season, the Hutchinson Community College football team will compete in the fourth-annual Salt City Bowl on Saturday at Gowans Stadium.
The No. 14 Blue Dragons (8-3) will take on Iowa Central (6-4) at 1:07 p.m. The game will be televised statewide on Cox Kansas Channel 22 and also broadcast (audio only) live on the Blue Dragon Sports Network with a video tape delay. The game can also be heard live on Blue Dragon Flagship Station KHUT-FM (102.9) and KWBW-AM (1450).
The Blue Dragons will be making their 17th bowl appearance in team history and fourth in a row. HCC is currently on a team-record four-game bowl winning streak, winning the last three Salt City Bowls and the 2004 Heart of Texas Bowl.
Iowa Central will be making its 25th overall bowl appearance, the 14th under veteran head coach Kevin Twait and the first against a Jayhawk Conference opponent. The Tritons are 13-10-1 overall and 9-4 under Twait in bowl games. The Salt City Bowl will be the 10th different bowl game the Tritons have played in their history. Iowa Central has won six-straight bowl games.
Saturday's matchup will be the first ever between Hutchinson and Iowa Central. It's the first time since 1974 and only the seventh time ever that the Blue Dragons will play a team from the state of Iowa.
Hutchinson comes into the Salt City Bowl after dropping a 26-16 decision in the 2012 Region VI Championship Game on Nov. 14 at El Dorado. The Blue Dragons have appeared in three-straight and 4 of the last 5 Region VI championship games under sixth-year head coach Rion Rhoades.
Hutchinson has won at least eight games for the third-straight season, only the second time that has happened in team history. HCC has won 41 games since the start of the 2008 season. A win on Saturday would match the best five-year run in team history of 42 victories set between 1946 and 1950.
Iowa Central also lost its last game of the season, falling to Ellsworth Community College, 42-10 on Nov. 3 in the semifinals of the Midwest Football Conference Playoffs.
One matchup to watch is Hutchinson's rushing offense, ranked No. 2 in the Jayhawk Conference and No. 15 in the NJCAA at 205.7 yards per game, against Iowa Central's rush defense, which is ranked No. 4 in the NJCAA at 61.9 rush yards allowed.
Hutchinson: Rion Rhoades is in his sixth season with the Blue Dragons. His HCC record is 43-23 in his sixth season at Hutchinson and is 50-28 in seven overall seasons. On Sept. 8 against Garden City, Rhoades surpassed Bill Goldsmith for third place on the HCC coaching wins list.
Iowa Central: Kevin Twait is in his 17th season with the Tritons. He has a record of 162-52. Iowa Central has eight regional championships under Twait.
Blue Dragon Bowl History
The fourth-annual Salt City Bowl will be the Blue Dragons' 17th bowl appearance in the program's 81-year history.
The Blue Dragons are 8-6-2 in bowl games. The Salt City Bowl is the eighth different bowl the Blue Dragons have participated in. HCC has won a school-record four-straight bowl games.
Last season, HCC defeated Lackawanna College 70-20. Two years ago, the Blue Dragons downed Eastern Arizona 42-21 and three seasons ago, the Dragons rallied to defeat New Mexico Military 22-14.
Before 2009, the last bowl game HCC played in was the 2004 Heart of Texas Bowl against No. 14 Tyler Junior College. Kicker Kevin Coleman kicked five field goals, including a school-record 47-yarder to lead the Blue Dragons to a 15-10 victory over the Apaches.
The Salt City Bowl will be the sixth time that Hutchinson has played a bowl game on its home turf. In addition the three Salt City Bowls, Hutchinson played in the 1947 and 1949 Salt Bowl.
This will be the 10th bowl that Hutchinson has played within the borders of Kansas. HCC has played two bowls in Hutchinson, the 1969 and 1970 Sterling Silver Bowls in Sterling, Kan., and the 1948 and 1949 Wheat Bowls in Wichita.
This will be the first time that Hutchinson will play a team from the Midwest Football Conference.
HCC head coach Rion Rhoades played on the 1993 and 1994 Blue Dragon bowl-eligible teams that qualified for the Valley of the Sun Bowl.
Blue Dragons' 2012 Season Recap
The Blue Dragons won at least eight games for the third-straight season, finishing 8-3 overall, second place in the Jayhawk Conference and as Region VI runner-up.
Offensively, the Blue Dragons were among the best in the nation through the season, 45.6 points and 506.2 yards of total offense. HCC rolled up more than 700 total yards three different times.
HCC had a potent run-pass game going with running back Terrell Lane leading the ground game and freshman quarterback Luke Barnes throwing to a talented group of receivers, HCC averaged 205.7 yards rushing and 300.5 yards passing. Lane and Barnes were the No. 1 NJCAA-leading running back and quarterback for most of the season before clipping to No. 2 before the bowl season.
Defensively, the 2012 Blue Dragons got off to a rough start, but turned things around with a tremendous five-week run to close the season.
In HCC's first three games, the defense was stung for averages of 43.0 points, 212.0 rushing yards and 271.7 passing yards per game. Over the next five games, the Blue Dragons surrendered averages of 8.6 points, 70.8 rushing yards, 142.8 passing yards and 213.6 total yards per game.
Sophomore kicker Michael Mesh has been outstanding in his sophomore campaign, booting 58 of 63 extra points and 12 of 14 field goals, including a record-tying 47-yarder in the Region VI Championship Game vs. Butler.
The Blue Dragons had seven All-Jayhawk Conference first-team selections and 24 overall All-League selections in 2012.
Iowa Central's 2012 Season Recap
The Tritons had a fast start out of the gate in 2012, winning5 of their first 6 games. That streak vaulted them into the NJCAA poll at No. 16 on Oct. 9.
The Saturday after that poll, Ellsworth went to Fort Dodge, Iowa, and upset Iowa Central 24-17 to start a closing stretch of 3 losses in 4 games and a fall from the national poll. Part of that stretch were two losses to Ellsworth and a 73-7 loss to No. 1 Iowa Western.
Running back Jontel Clayton is a first-team all-Midwest Football Conference selection who leads the Tritons' potent rushing attack. Iowa Central's other first-team all-conference selection is punter Mitch Bonnstetter.
Safety Joe Feldspausch and kicker Alden Haffar are second-team all-MFC selections for Iowa Central, while offensive lineman Colton Boas, wide receiver Jaquon Goodman and defensive end Ronelle McNeil were honorable mention selections.
Breaking down the Blue Dragons
Offense: Entering the 2012 bowl season, the Blue Dragons rank fifth in the NJCAA in scoring offense (45.6 points per game) and fifth in total offense (506.2 yards per game.
Freshman quarterback Luke Barnes is No. 2 in the NJCAA in passing at 291.8 yards per game. Barnes has broken single-season team records for passing yards (3,210), touchdown passes (36), completions (260) and total offense (3,206). He is completing 63.1 percent of his passes (260 of 412).
Sophomore Antonio Johnson has team-single-season record 66 receptions for 799 yards and 11 touchdowns. Sophomore Jatavius Stewart, who has missed three games with injuries, has 58 receptions for 807 yards and nine scores. Sophomore Miguel Johns has 54 catches for 843 yards and eight touchdowns. Sophomore Kody Cook has 40 receptions for 381 yards and two scores.
Sophomore running back Terrell Lane has nine 100-yard games, including three 200-plus and a school-record 308 yards, this season. Lane is No. 2 in the NJCAA in rushing with 1,536 yards (now No. 2 on HCC's single-season rushing list) on 236 carries. He is averaging 6.5 yards per carry and has 15 rushing touchdowns.
Freshman Orange Mooney who missed two games because of injury, is averaging 52.9 yards per game and 5.7 yards per carry. LaQua Mayes had a career-high 168 yards against Independence on Oct. 13. He is averaging 39.4 yards per game.
HCC is averaging 205.7 rushing yards and 300.5 in the air.
Defense: After three rough outings to start the season, the Blue Dragon defense showed tremendous improvement in the final two-thirds of the season.
In HCC's first three games, the defense was stung for averages of 43.0 points, 212.0 rushing yards and 271.7 passing yards per game. Over the next five games, the Blue Dragons have surrendered averages of 8.6 points, 70.8 rushing yards, 142.8 passing yards and 213.6 total yards per game.
Linebacker Kenny Flowers leads the Blue Dragons with 96 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss. He also has two fumble recoveries, one interception, one forced fumble, five quarterback hurries and four passes broken up and a safety to his credit.
Linebacker De'Vondre Campbell has 83 total tackles and an interception return for a touchdown. Linebacker Brock Long has 74 tackles.
Freshman Terell Hannah has a team-high five interceptions, two fumble recoveries and seven passes defended. Shattle Fenteng has four interceptions and Christian Goodlett has three picks.
Special Teams: Michael Mesh has totaled 96 points to move into third place on the HCC career scoring list. He is 58 of 63 on extra points and is 12 of 14 on field goals, tying a school-record 47-yarder against Butler on Nov. 11.
Terrell Lane and Luke Barnes have split the punting chores. Lane is averaging 41.9 yards per boot and Barnes is averaging 35.2 yards per punt.
HCC has been strong in the return game. The Dragons are averaging 18.2 yards per kickoff return. HCC is averaging 13.9 yards per punt return. Miguel Johns and LaQua Mayes have returned punts for touchdowns this season.
Scouting the Tritons
Offense: Iowa Central's offensive strength has been its rushing attack in 2012. The Tritons are averaging 28.4 points per game and are rushing the ball at a clip of 227.8 yards per game.
All-Conference running back Jontel Clayton is Iowa Central's top rusher with 954 yards, 10 touchdowns and an average of 4.4 yards per carry. He had a high of 195 yards against North Dakota State College of Science.
Kippie Ward and Ron Thompson have both rushed for more than 300 yards this season and Wes Burnside has rushed for 277 yards.
Quarterback Chris Bell played in the first nine games of the Tritons' season. Bell has completed 62.6 percent of his passes (72 of 115) for 912 yards with eight touchdowns and five interceptions. Teag Klyn is 5 of 26 for 21 yards and a touchdown in five games.
The Tritons are passing for an average of 99.3 yards per game. Brandynn Clark has a team-high 21 receptions for 385 yards and four touchdowns. Willie Williams has 19 receptions for 159 yards, while Jaquon Goodman has 17 catches for 253 yards and two TDs.
Defense: Iowa Central boasts the No. 4 rushing defense in the NJCAA this season, allowing just 61.9 yards per game.
That rush defense is led by all-conference second-team safety Joe Feldspausch and honorable mention defensive end Ronelle McNeil.
The Tritons have been susceptible to the pass this season. Iowa Central is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 75.3 percent for an average of 215,4 yards. The Tritons have allowed 349 or more yards four times, including 480 through the air against Iowa Western.
Special Teams: All-Conference placekicker Alden Haffar has kicked 5 of 6 field goals and is perfect on 31 extra-point attempts this season. All-Conference punter Mitch Bonnstetter is averaging 40.5 yards per punt with a long of 55 yards.
Keagan Parks is averaging 31.5 yards per kickoff return with one touchdown. He is averaging 15.0 yards per punt return.
This is the first meeting between Hutchinson and Central Iowa. It's the first and only the seventh meeting between the Blue Dragons and an opponent from the state of Iowa.
HCC is 2-0 vs. Graceland, playing in 1955 and 1956; 1-0 vs. Ellsworth, playing in 1972; and 1-2 vs. Iowa Falls, playing in 1971, 1973 and 1974.