By Bailey Pennycuff / Co-Sports Editor

An obvious influential player for Hutchinson Community College on Saturday’s game was sophomore quarterback Mark Wright.

Saturday was an intense matchup between the highest-ranked teams in the NJCAA, and Hutch maintained the No. 1 ranking. The Blue Dragons faced No. 2 Butler on Saturday at Gowans Stadium, resulting in a 35-27 win.

Throughout the intense football game, Wright achieved a total of 330 yards, 195 of which were passing, and 135 yards rushing.

Wright helped the team in different ways as well, ways in which many fans may not even notice.

“He made it easier on us because Butler’s defense had to watch out for him, by him scrambling around and making things happen,” sophomore defensive linemen Latrell Bankston said of Wright.

Wright looks out for his teammates, doing anything he can to make their jobs easier. The better his throws are, the easier it is to catch. He knew his defense needed help in the second half of the game.

“Mark puts it on the money and we just go try to make a play. He’s a good quarterback because he has legs and has a good arm. He’s pretty accurate too,” sophomore wide receiver Mitchell Tinsley said.

The Blue Dragons had a strong start on Saturday. Going into the second quarter, the score was 21-0.

“We really wanted to have some explosive plays to start the game off and I think it was very important that we did,” Wright said. “We came out swinging and they didn’t respond well. I think without us coming out swinging, the outcome of the game would have been different.”

Wright proved he is a player who makes things happen. He had one rushing touchdown and was only sacked one time by the second-ranked defense in the nation.

Over the last two years, Wright’s football career has been interesting. He started his freshman year at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa. 

However, the bumpy road started before his college career.

“I missed my whole senior year of high school because of injury,” Wright said. “Then, going from a community college who went like 1-9, and now I’m at the No. 1 JUCO in the country … it’s just been an up-and-down ride.”

Although his career has had rocky points, obviously the positive points have shined through.

“Transitioning from Ellsworth to Hutch has been pretty smooth thanks to the coaches and players on our team, welcoming me in with warm arms,” Wright said.

Hutch has felt like the place where Wright fits in, and he knows how challenging it is to compete in such an intense football team.

“When I got here, the program was just ran different. Different than any other program in the conference, or any JUCO. No disrespect to Ellsworth, but we just hold each other accountable, leadership, responsibility, all those good traits I learned here,” Wright said.

Coming into Hutch, no one knew Wright would be such an influential player.

“In the beginning, we were trying to shift gears a little to have more of a mobile quarterback compared to what we had last year,” Blue Dragons coach Rion Rhoades said. 

“We thought, ‘Hey we’ll give him a shot,’ that’s really all it was. I would say it was kind of a shot in the dark to be quite honest with you.”

Mark’s personality and the way he plays seems to be a perfect fit for this football team.

“The most important thing to mention about mark is that mark is a phenomenal young man,” Rhoades said. 

“He’s got a real calm spirit, very competitive though, works hard. He’s a good leader, our guys listen if Mark says something.”

Because of his hard work, he has become a five-game starter on a football team of this caliber.

“Everybody wants somebody tall, maybe someone better looking (from a football standpoint), but Mark’s really effective and I love that about him,” Rhoades said. 

“I just love who he is, he’s really a good guy. He has a positive effect on the personality of our team.”

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