Hutchinson, Kans. (KSNW) — Three of the top-10 junior college football teams in the nation are right here in Kansas. The top spot currently belongs to the undefeated Hutchinson Blue Dragons.
Hutchinson slammed Garden City last weekend 65-7 to improve to 7-0. The Blue Dragons’ roster includes 27 players from the state of Kansas, including the top-ranked junior college recruit in the entire country.
There’s a cool, fall breeze blowing through the Hutchinson Community College campus. It’s midweek, so all is pretty quiet now. That will all change on Saturday when the Blue Dragons’ football team takes the field at Gowans Stadium.
“One thing I’ve noticed is just really packed stands,” said sophomore wide receiver Malik Benson.
“For junior college, it’s a great atmosphere,” said longtime Blue Dragons fan Michael Lizalde.
Undefeated Hutchinson is the number-one ranked JUCO team in the nation. The Blue Dragons have held the top spot for the last three weeks.
“I think it means the world to everybody around here,” said freshman kicker Cole Segraves of Maize. “It seems like everybody from Hutch supports all the sports here, and I think that’s pretty cool.”
Lynita Ummell manages the Hutch Community College student bookstore. She says business is brisk at the bookstore’s stadium pop-up shop on game days.
“The newspaper said they hadn’t seen that many people in the stands in a while. So, that explained why we were so busy,” said Ummell.
“This year, you know, since we’re undefeated and everyone in the town is at the games, they just walk around on campus, the dorms, classes, teachers. They all just want to know what’s next for the Blue Dragons,” said Benson, an All-American out of Lansing.
Lizalde is a lifelong Hutchinson resident who organizes the tailgating outside of Gowans Stadium.
“Being number-one is important because it validates the work that has been done up to this point. Being number-one in the country is something to be proud of, but it’s not the goal because number-one at the end is the goal,” said Lizalde.
“Hutch is a special place. And number one, it’s because the community and the people that surround the program and are involved in our program on a daily basis. There’s a lot of people here in town that are excited about the success we’re having,” said Hutch Head Coach Drew Dallas.
Dallas is a Salina Central grad who played quarterback at Fort Hays State and Kansas Wesleyan. He led Hutch to the NJCAA national championship in the spring of 2021. His current team is riding a 13-game winning streak.
“I think we’re just able to communicate and compete at the national level because of the support that we have from a facilities standpoint. We really feel like we have the best in the nation at this level. And again, that goes back to administration and leadership,” said Dallas.
It also helps that Hutch boasts the number-one junior college recruit in the nation. Benson, who caught 43 passes for 1,229 yards and 11 touchdowns in 11 games as a freshman, is committed to play at Alabama.
“I’m very thankful for Hutch for giving me the opportunity. Thankful for Coach Dallas,” said Benson. “I would just say to any kid that’s looking to go JUCO, I would definitely say come play for the best JUCO in the nation.”
Holding the number-one ranking with three games to go in the regular season is nice, but the Blue Dragons know there’s much more work to be done.
“1-and-0. That’s all we’re really focused on,” said Dallas.
“If we don’t play in the national championship, then the number-one, it was really for nothing,” said Benson. “I’m just telling my teammates every single day, we just got to keep doing it. Keep going and try to be 1-and-0 every week, every day.”
The Blue Dragons host Highland Community College tonight at 7:00 at Gowans Stadium.