By Joel Muhs
Sports Editor

For the first time in the 97-year history of Hutchinson Community College, the Blue Dragon football program will begin a march to defend a national title.

The Blue Dragons open the season Saturday when they visit Coffeyville.

HutchCC captured its first ever national title in football after beating Snow College 29-27 back in June in Little Rock, Arkansas, but the Blue Dragons have a short turnaround after their 2020 season was delayed until spring 2021 due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, which has given coaches and players a limited amount of time to enjoy the title.

“We’re really just trying to figure out a way to keep the momentum going. With college football, once you’re in the season, you’re always tired, so it’s really no different from any other year from that standpoint,” second-year coach Drew Dallas said in regards to the fatigue from the short turnaround. “But obviously there’s a reason there are offseasons in football, not only from a physical aspect, but just the mental side of things and trying to make sure our guys stay fresh.”

With only three months separating the last Blue Dragon kickoff, health and motivation are two of the many, and biggest, factors that come into play. However, sophomore quarterback Dylan Laible says otherwise.

“No, not really,” Laible said after being asked about lag from the previous season. “We’ve all been recovering our bodies a lot more than usual because of the quick turnaround, but all of us right now are healthy and ready to go.”

HutchCC enters their 2021 campaign with lofty expectations yet again after being preseason ranked No. 1 for the second straight season, which mounts pressure for the defending champions.

“I think there’s always pressure to (win the title), but there’s no more pressure from anywhere else than the pressure we put on ourselves to go out and do it. We got a target put on our back last year (season) being ranked No. 1,” Dallas said.

After a national title and back-to-back preseason No. 1 rankings, the target on the Blue Dragons back continues to grow.

“Everyone plays their heart out against us. We’re the team that everyone wants to play and every team wants to give their best shot against us,” Laible said.

In order to run it back and make it back to the national title game in Little Rock, HutchCC will most likely have to go undefeated for the second straight season.

“You can’t win them all without winning the first one and we’re going to say the same thing about the second one. We know the ultimate goal is to go out and win every football game and that’s what we want to do, but you can’t accomplish that without winning one game at a time,” Dallas said.

In his first year, Dallas achieved something that hadn’t been done in Blue Dragon football history – win a national championship. Although championships are the impact Dallas wants to leave on the field, he wants to leave a lasting impact on his players off of it.

“I think we’ve really made an emphasis to make sure that our football team understands that there’s more to life than football. The academic side has to be there and making good choices on and off the field. That stuff is important. We really want to try and continue to mold them to be great men of character, not just for our football program’s sake, but so when they’re put in situations to go lead somebody that they can be leaders within their community,” Dallas said.

Whether it’s winning championships on the field or creating a winning environment off of it, HutchCC looks to build a long and memorable legacy within its football program. For this season, however, that legacy march starts in Coffeyville.

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