At about 1:40 on Monday afternoon, my stomach was turning and my heart was torn.
Since I’ve come to Hutchinson Community College I’ve fallen in love with the sports teams, the people, and this place I get to call home for the next two years. So this hurt me when the NJCAA tweeted out the final polls that showed the four teams who will be participating in the first-ever four-team NJCAA playoff.
Hutchinson was placed at No. 5.
Despite the Blue Dragons’ outstanding resume, and last year’s championship win, the pollsters deemed them not a top-four caliber team. This was shocking, considering the Butler forfeit, the Independence 42-0 blowout win after losing to the Pirates on a last-second score to win in the regular season, and Sunday’s 49-19 win over Garden City to win the Jayhawk Conference championship.
There are a few reasons that I’m mad about this. And mad is honestly an understatement.
Chuck Chaney, the award-winning Sports Editor for the Butler County Times-Gazette, tweeted out after the rankings came out “as I was told, the voters see Hutch as a 3-loss team despite the forfeit. That was their downfall”.
On Saturday, September 11, Butler did win a football game against the Blue Dragons. It came out later in the year that they used an ineligible player throughout the regular season, and thus, made the Grizzlies forfeit all their regular-season games. The ineligible player actually scored against the Blue Dragons and contributed regularly to the Butler offense. That’s, point-blank, not allowed. So when you get caught not following the rules and a game gets forfeited and taken out of your loss column, that counts as a win.
That’s an official win, and the voters don’t know what happens in that game if the ineligible Butler player didn’t play, therefore they shouldn’t assume the Blue Dragons would’ve still lost if Butler wouldn’t have played an ineligible player.
The Blue Dragons played five games against ranked teams this year. They were 3-2 in such games. They played 18 games (one game vs. Fort Scott was canceled) from March to November, as Covid forced the fall 2020 season to be played in the spring of 2021. Every game Hutch played this calendar year came vs. another NJCAA team. The Blue Dragons didn’t play one prep school or junior varsity. No free games, just a dog fight every weekend in a hard-ass conference that you have to do your best every week to be successful in.
The list of pollsters includes one from the three-team Iowa conference. Snow is fourth and owns the last spot in the playoffs and will face Iowa Western. Iowa Western won the battle earlier in the year 17-14. I don’t think Iowa Western wanted Hutchinson to get in this playoff. That is not a team you want to play in the first round. And no disrespect to Snow, last season’s national runner-up to Hutchinson, but Snow doesn’t have the resume that Hutchinson does. The Badgers haven’t proven themselves as the Blue Dragons have. The Badgers have played three games this season against non-NJCAA teams. In Hutchinson’s last 60 scheduled games (one cancellation), three came against non-NJCAA teams.
Hutchinson made a remarkable playoff run this year to win the tough Jayhawk Conference. The Blue Dragons completed two shutouts, 77-0 against Highland and 42-0 against Independence which was No. 5 during that game and ended up at 14 in the rankings. Then in the championship game, the Blue Dragons dominated Garden City, winning 49-19. They outscored playoff opponents 168-19, outrushed opponents by 175 yards, and threw for 634 more yards, all with having only one turnover all postseason and 14 sacks on defense.
Say I am biased. Say a two-loss team from Kansas doesn’t deserve to get in. But don’t deny facts, and the facts show the Blue Dragons are a top-four team and they just got the short end of the stick from the pollsters.
Ben Short is an Abilene freshman studying journalism.