HutchCC Sports Information
IOWA FALLS, Iowa – The No. 12-ranked Hutchinson Community College football team became bowl eligible for the first time in three seasons after grinding out a 25-13 victory over the Ellsworth Panthers in the mist of Cadet Field on Saturday.
The Blue Dragons earned their sixth win of the season (6-1) to earn bowl eligibility and win their fifth-straight game, the longest winning streak since 2014. Hutch also broke a two-game losing streak to the Panthers.
Game time was pushed back two hours to 3 p.m. because of potential severe weather. While the bad weather never materialized, it rained before kickoff and mist and light rain persisted throughout the game.
That put the Blue Dragons into ground-game mode as Hutchinson slugged out 307 rushing yards on the slick and muddy Cadet Field natural grass surface. Sophomore Otis Williams had a season-high 122 rushing yards on 12 carries to lead the ground attack. Dezmon Jackson had 73 yards on 11 carries. B.J. Emmons had 70 rush yards on 16 carries. Quarterback Cam Jones had two rushing touchdowns, both 1-yard quarterback sneaks.
Overall, Hutchinson outgained Ellsworth 337-267. The Dragons out-rushed the Panthers 307-118. Ellsworth had a 149-30 passing yards advantage.
The Blue Dragons had to overcome three first-quarter turnovers, but never trailed in the game. The Dragons lost the opening kickoff on a mishandled pooch kick, but Ellsworth came away scoreless. Despite the three giveaways, Hutch led 9-7 after one quarter.
The Dragons didn't take advantage of six Ellsworth turnovers, scoring only three points off them. Those points came on a Luke Niemeyer 22-yard field goal that gave the Blue Dragons a 12-7 lead. That field goal also made Niemeyer the Blue Dragon career leader in made field goals with 13, surpassing Michael Mesh (2011-12).
Jones was 6 of 14 passing for the Blue Dragons for 30 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Leroy Watson had two catches for 15 yards and a touchdown.
Quarterback Paris Chambers was Ellsworth's leading passer and rusher. Chambers completed 10 of 24 passes for 149 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions. He had 81 rushing yards on 11 carries.
Hutchinson opened the scoring with a six-play, 52-yard drive that was capped off on Jones' 8-yard touchdown pass to Watson with 4:46 to play in the opening quarter for a 7-0 Dragon lead. That lead was short-lived as on the first play of Ellsworth's scrimmage after the kickoff, Chambers hit Drew Greenhaw for a 55-yard touchdown catch and run and the game was tied at 7 with 4:27 remaining in the quarter.
The teams traded possessions and Ellsworth was forced to punt from its own 2. The punt snap went right throw ECC punter Austin Kneeland's hands and out of the end zone for a safety and the Blue Dragons led 9-7 with 1:55 to play in the first quarter.
The Blue Dragons recovered an Ellsworth fumble in the second quarter and drove the ball to the Panther 4 before the drive bogged down and Niemeyer's booted his record-breaking 22-yard field goal to give the Dragons a 12-7 lead with 7:36 to play in the second quarter.
Hutch's defense forced a punt deep in Ellsworth territory and took over at the Panther 35 with 4:48 remaining in the half. Five rushing attempts later, Jones got into the end zone from a yard out. The two-point conversion was no good and Hutch took an 18-7 lead into halftime.
Ellsworth took the opening drive of the second half right down the field and scored when Tenkenrick Roberson scored on a 2-yard run with 12:48 to go in the third quarter. Ellsworth missed on a two-point try and Hutch's lead was down to 18-13.
Three of Hutch's four third-quarter possessions ended in Ellsworth territory, but no points resulted. Finally, the Dragons made it a two-possession game when Jones' second 1-yard quarterback sneak on the first play of the fourth quarter gave the Dragons a 25-13 lead with 14:57 to play in the game.
Ellsworth looked to make it a one-possession game again with a march to the Hutch 11, but Henderson intercepted the pass of the season in the end zone to thwart the threat.
The Blue Dragons return to Jayhawk Conference play with a Noon kickoff in Gowans Stadium next Saturday against the Butler Grizzlies.
GAME NOTES – The Blue Dragons' 307 rushing yards was their second-highest rushing total this season. … The Blue Dragons' six takeaways are a season high. … The Dragons are now 4-4 all-time against Ellsworth with three wins coming in Iowa Falls. … The Blue Dragons were 4 of 7 in red-zone chances with three touchdowns and a field goal.