By Sam Ojeda / Staff writer

The fans at Gowans Stadium were ready for kickoff Saturday for the NJCAA semifinal. This matchup slated the No. 1 Hutchinson Blue Dragons vs. No. 4 Coffeyville Red Ravens.

Before narrowly missing the playoffs last season, the Blue Dragons took home the national championship, and they looked to get back to the championship with a win Saturday. 

The Blue Dragons did just that, rewarding the home crowd with a 38-7 win.

The last time Hutchinson and Coffeyville faced off, it was a defensive battle. The Blue Dragons held the Red Ravens to 221 total yards of offense and won 14-9 in favor of the Blue Dragons which overcame their defeat at Coffeyville last year, which helped knock the Blue Dragons out of the playoffs. 

  • Photos by Josie Schrag

Penalties were the story in the first half. Neither team was able to stay disciplined with a total of 24 penalties in the first half. HutchCC had 12 penalties in the game. The Blue Dragons have averaged 6.9 penalties per game this season. 

Blue Dragons coach Drew Dallas said he knew his guys were frustrated with the mistakes. “Once we got through a slow half of frustrations, myself included, we took a deep breath and knew we were back into it,” Dallas said.

The Blue Dragons had eight first-half penalties.

“We went into the half with a lead, even still with not everything going our way,” Dallas said.

The Red Ravens lined up for a field goal early in the first quarter. It was blocked by freshman Jerrell Boykins Jr. but it was nullified because of a roughing the snapper penalty. Dallas was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and those penalties would push the Coffeyville offense down the field, eventually resulting in a touchdown. 

But that would be the only score for Coffeyville’s offense. Hutchison.s’ offense took over from there.

The dynamic duo in the rushing attack for HutchCC proved unstoppable. Sophomore Dylan Kedzior led the Blue Dragons with 156 yards and 2 touchdowns. Freshman back Ed Williams provided a lot of big plays for the Blue Dragon offense. He averaged 11.0 yards per carry. 

Dallas said he was was happy with the performance of his rush offense

“Dylan Kedzior continued to impress like he has all season,” Dallas said. “For Ed Williams to step up and play as he did in the first half, it was great.”

Kedzior has built up his game all season and did it once again, as he became the Jayhawk Conference player of the year..

“We executed the game plan and did what we were coached to do all week,” Kedzior said. “I kept doing what I always do and I’ll keep building.”

The Dylan Laible and Malik Benson passing connection did not slow down either. The two sophomores connected on a third-quarter 63-yard pass and catch to make it 17-7.

“My quarterback called the fade like we have all season, and we knew how to get into the end zone from there,” Benson said.

Benson would finish with 7 catches, 114 yards receiving, and two touchdowns, which all were game-highs.

The big play is what set these teams apart. Hutch did not allow the big play and they broke down the Coffeyville defense effectively. The Coffeyville defense was unstoppable all season. It was not hard for the Blue Dragons to dismantle it. They finished 460 yards of total offense to 110 yards for the Red Ravens. The Benson-Laible touchdown was only one of the multiple big plays.

Kedzior had a tough 74-yard touchdown run to put the Blue Dragons up 24-7 early in the fourth quarter. Kedzior also had a 29-yard rush into the red zone to set up his first touchdown run and sophomore running back Tim Byrd Jr. came on in the fourth quarter and took the ball 41 yards on the ground, to set up the second touchdown connection for Laible and Benson to make it 31-7.

The game was sealed with a 4-yard touchdown rush by sophomore quarterback Colin Shields for the final score..

HutchCC will now travel to Little Rock, Arkansas for the NJCAA National Championship game. The game will take place on Dec. 14.

Dallas said he thinks there will be no problem getting his team ready.

“Anybody who has trouble getting ready for a national championship, then we would not be here,” Dallas said. “We are going to trust the process and execute all parts of the football game.”

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