The Blue Dragon defense devours Ellsworth, holding the Panthers to 133 yards in a 41-16 season-opening victory on Thursday night at Iowa Falls, Iowa. (Nathan Addis/Blue Dragon Sports Information)
The Blue Dragon defense devours Ellsworth, holding the Panthers to 133 yards in a 41-16 season-opening victory on Thursday night at Iowa Falls, Iowa. (Nathan Addis/Blue Dragon Sports Information)

Hutchinson CC Sports Information

IOWA FALLS, Iowa – The Hutchinson Community College football team overcame an inauspicious start and set a new program record for consecutive opening-game victories on Thursday night.

After Ellsworth intercepted a pass for a touchdown on the second series of the season, the No. 5-ranked Blue Dragons quickly rebounded and scored 20 first-quarter points and rolled to a 41-16 victory over the Ellsworth Panthers at Cadet Field.

Hutchinson (1-0) won its record 12th-straight season-opening game. The Blue Dragons previously had 11-straight opening-game wins from 1994 to 2004. The current streak started in 2008.

The victory was also Hutchinson head coach Rion Rhoades' 97th as a coach in the Jayhawk Conference (13 years at Hutchinson and one at Fort Scott) and 90th victory with the Blue Dragons. Rhoades' 97 wins ties him with former Blue Dragon coach John Matous for fourth place on the all-time Jayhawk Conference coaching wins list.

Ellsworth stunned the Blue Dragons early in the first quarter when Omunique Wilkerson intercepted a Mark Wright pass and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 10:05 to play in the first quarter.

The Dragons immediately answered with a six-play, 55-yard scoring drive. Wright found Karim Brown, who made a dazzling 24-yard touchdown catch against tight coverage just 2 minutes, 16 seconds later. The extra-point try was blocked and Hutch trailed 7-6 with 7:49 to play in the quarter.

Hutch dodged a bullet on Ellsworth's next series. A muffed punt by Mitch Tinsley gave the Panthers the ball right back. Hutch eventually forced another punt and Tinsley made amends for the previous mistake. He caught a 66-yard touchdown strike from Wright to give the Blue Dragons their first lead at 13-7 with 2:37 to go in the opening period.

The Dragon defense posted the points. Isaiah Todd intercepted a Panther pass and worked his way to the left sideline for a 55-yard touchdown return. The Dragons lead 20-7 with 45 seconds to play in the first quarter.

Hutchinson out-gained Ellsworth 464-133 in the game, rushing for 185 yards and passing for 279.

Wright had a solid Blue Dragon debut going 12 for 19 for 271 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He also rushed for a touchdown and was Hutch's leading rusher with 47 yards on nine carries.

Brown had six catches for 78 yards. Tinsley finished with four catches for 85 yards.

Kendall Cross had eight rushes for 36 yards. Erin Collins had eight carries for 35 yards and Tiyon Evans had two carries for 32 yards.

The Blue Dragon defense held Ellsworth to just 18 yards passing, completing just 1 of 6 passes. The Panthers had 115 rushing yards.

Hutch took a 27-6 lead 4:24 to play in the second quarter. Wright's 2-yard rushing touchdown capped a 99-yard scoring drive in seven plays. Pinned back on its own goal line, Wright got the Dragons out of the hole with a 66-yard pass to Craig Burt.

Ellsworth cut the Dragon lead to 27-13 late in the first quarter. Panther QB Yannie Scott scrambled for a 25-yard touchdown with 53 seconds to play in the half.

Hutchinson's lone third-quarter scoring drive was 15 plays over 67 yards. Kendall Cross closed that drive out with a 1-yard run with 4:24 to play in the third quarter.

Ellsworth added a fourth-quarter field goal, but the Dragons posted one more score when Shariff Brown scored from a yard out with 1 minute to play to give Hutch a 41-16 lead.

The Blue Dragons are now 6-4 all=time against Ellsworth.

Next up for the Blue Dragons is their 2019 home opener against Independence on Saturday, August 31 with a noon kickoff at Gowans Stadium.