By Sam Ojeda
Hutchinson Community College has a revenge game coming up at 1p.m. Saturday at Gowans Stadium. The top-ranked Blue Dragons take on Iowa Western in a rematch of last season’s NJCAA National Championship in Little Rock, Arkansas.
HutchCC lost last season’s game 31-0.
This game means a lot to the Blue Dragons as it’s not only against Iowa Western, but it would also secure the top-ranking in the country and an undefeated regular season headed to the playoffs.
The Blue Dragons secured the Jayhawk Conference championship last week in a 42-8 victory over Independence CC.
Blue Dragons coach Drew Dallas recognizes what this game means to the guys who were there last season.
“We do have guys on the team that were around and experienced that feeling of losing to them in the championship game,” Dallas said.
But Dallas also recognizes that his guys are mature.
“I’m sure to some extent they will be hungry to go out and make a statement, but in all honesty, our guys do a great job each and every week of just preparing to win a game against whoever we are playing,” Dallas said.
Sophomore quarterback Jake Parker is excited to see the matchup.
“I think this game is going to be a way to measure ourselves against a really elite squad,” Parker said. “This game will help us with insight and game planning for if we see them again in the playoffs.”
In all likelihood, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game, both teams will be in the playoffs and both could also host a semifinal game the first weekend in December. With a loss, either teams could have the same number of losses as other playoff teams, but with better wins. Dallas said he is aware of this but believes it does not affect his team.
“Our focus is always to just find a way to go 1-0 each week,” Dallas said. “We certainly know that winning this game solidifies a home playoff game and that is important to us. Our approach won’t change, but the outcome just means a little more.”
Parker said the Blue Dragons have been waiting for this game all year.
“This game has been circled on the calendar since last year’s game,” Parker said. “We want to come at these guys and show them who we are now compared to last year’s team.”
But with a high quality game comes high quality emotions.
“Emotions will always be a big part in big games,” Parker said. “The team that can keep it business but also play with passion will have the advantage for sure.”
Dallas personally does not change his mindset for any opponent, even potential rival Iowa Western.
“For me personally, it’s about just trying to get our team to play to the best of our capability each week,” Dallas said. “This week and this opponent doesn’t change that. All that matters to me is that we play well, and I am confident that if we do, that we will love the result.”
Star defensive lineman Danny Saili is looking forward to Saturday, “I am hype and ready for this game. Just ready to make a big statement. I have confidence in our defense to be mentally ready on their own because of the altitude of this game”
Regardless of expectations or feelings by anyone, this game matters for both teams. Bragging rights and an undefeated record is on the line.