By Joel Muhs
It went from near celebration to immediate heartbreak for the Hutchinson Community College football team, as the Blue Dragons dropped a thriller to No. 3 Independence 33-28 at Gowans Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
After a promising start that led to a 21-7 lead after the first quarter, the HutchCC offense stalled out after mustering a total of seven points for the remainder of the game. The Blue Dragons let an 11-point fourth quarter lead slip away, which included a 53-yard Independence touchdown pass with six seconds left in the game.
“We had the lead and we gave it up,” HutchCC coach Drew Dallas said. “That’s the disappointing thing, is we didn’t do the things we had to do to seal the football game. We had an opportunity to not turn the football over and not give up big plays, and we didn’t do that. If we do those things we win that game easy.”
The loss drops the Blue Dragons to 2-3 after coming off back-to-back wins against Fort Scott and Garden City. Following HutchCC’s first national championship in school history the previous season, the loss to the Pirates likely ends the faint hopes the Blue Dragons still had to run it back as national champions, but the Blue Dragons look to rebound and finish the season strong.
“We got a game against Highland next week and we got to hop on the bus and go out there and have a good trip and find a way to go and win a football game,” Dallas said on being able to refocus to finish out the season. “It’ll be a character check. We can go lay down and pout about it and whine, or we can step up and go out and play football and go try and get another win.”
Although the national playoffs appear to be out of reach, the Blue Dragons have another playoff to crash, which would be the conference playoffs. However, HutchCC looks to find more consistency from start to finish and fewer turnovers in order to close out games.
“We didn’t need to turn the football over, that’s what killed us right there was the two turnovers in the third quarter and the one at the beginning of the fourth (quarter),” Dallas said. “We played situational football and it didn’t work out. When you turn the football over and you give up those big plays, situational football doesn’t matter because those things override it. We had a game plan and stuck to it, but it didn’t work out.”