Hutchinson Community College was out to prove its first No. 1 NJCAA ranking in program history was no fluke.
And the Blue Dragons looked every bit the part in downing No. 7 Iowa Western 34-27 at Titan Stadium and handing the Reivers their second straight loss.
Hutch never trailed and outgained Western 370-230 in a well-balanced attack that saw 12 Dragons record at least one reception.
Despite 104 yards rushing and two touchdowns by ZaQuandre White, the Reivers managed just 46 yards on the ground with 50 of them coming on one play.
That’s because eight Hutchinson sacks accounted for a loss of 60 yards in the game for IWCC.
Iowa Western coach Scott Strohmeier said his team had a difficult time handling the Dragons’ defensive front.
“Part of it was their defensive line. We struggled moving them. We just couldn’t get the creases. They had more guys than we could block.
“They forced us into a lot of different things and took us out of some stuff. We didn’t protect well enough. We didn’t throw it well enough, and we didn’t catch it well enough. At the end of the day, we didn’t do a lot well enough,” Strohmeier said.
Quarterback Cam Thomas, who has been dealing with a mallet finger the last week, started the game but lasted just two series. Strohmeier said Thomas dinged his shoulder early in the game.
Redshirt freshman Shelton Applewhite replaced Thomas with 6:51 remaining in the first quarter and completed 10 of 33 pass attempts for 183 yards with one touchdown and a pick.
Strohmeier said Applewhite was well prepared coming into the game.
“(Thomas and Applewhite) split reps in practice, and he’s been waiting for this opportunity,” he said.
Hutchinson (3-0) went up 14-0 on its first two possessions on a Tiyon Evans scoop-and-score following a fumble by Dragon quarterback Mark Wright and a 39-yard touchdown toss from Wright to Cortes Braham.
Western (1-2) cut the deficit to 14-7 with 4:59 left in the first quarter when Applewhite hit Corey Reed with an 11-yard touchdown strike.
IW’s Darius Moore recovered a muffed punt by Markies Colvin early in the second quarter to set up the Reivers at the Dragon 4, and Brian Snead scampered into the end zone two plays later to pull Western to within 14-13.
Kendall Cross extended the Hutch lead to 20-13 when he ran it in from the 3-yard line with 4:49 remaining in the half, and that lead held into halftime.
The Dragons held the Reivers to just 17 rushing yards on 16 attempts in the half.
White said Hutchinson was keying on the run early.
“I just believe in the first and second quarter, they watched film from last week, so they stacked the box on us. So we just had to get the pass going to get the run game going too,” he said.
The Dragons made it a two-possession game when Evans returned the second-half kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown to make it 27-13.
But the Reivers answered on their second possession of the half when White bolted 50 yards for his third rushing touchdown of the season to pull Western to within 27-20 before the teams traded a touchdown each the rest of the way.
Iowa Western has a bye next week before hosting No. 10 Garden City Sept. 21.
Hutchinson (3-0) 14 6 14 0—34
At Iowa Western (1-2) 7 6 7 7—27
H: Tiyon Evans 5 run (Sebastian Garcia kick)
H: Cortes Braham 39 pass from Mark Wright (Garcia kick)
IW: Corey Reed, Jr. 11 pass from Shelton Applewhite, Jr. (Chase Contreraz kick)
IW: Brian Snead 1 run (kick failed)
H: Kendall Cross 3 run (kick failed)
H: Tiyon Evans 95 kickoff return (Garcia kick)
IW: ZaQuandre White 50 run (Contreraz kick)
H: Wright 1 run (Garcia kick)
IW: White 2 run (Contreraz kick)
RUSHING: H, Tiyon Evans 3-13, Mark Wright 16-37, Kendall Cross 6-36, Erin Collins 8-33, Trey Coleman 4-57. IW, ZaQuandre White 16-104, Cam Thomas 1-(minus)2, Brian Snead 6-3, Shelton Applewhite 11-(minus)59.
PASSING: H, Wright 25-36-1 194. IW, Thomas1-4-1 0, Applewhite 10-33-183 1.
RECEIVING: H, Dalrone Donaldson 2-3, Keon Clary 3-18, Collins 3-17, Art Green 1-12, Mitchell Tinsley 5-53, Kobe Philips 1-10, Stacey Marshall 1-9, Karin Brown 1-4, Evans 1-4, Coleman 3-8, Jalen Roach 2-8, Cortes Braham 3-48. IW, Deshon Stoudemire 1-47, Corey Reed 6-87, White 2-8, Zion Perry 1-26, Marcus Rogers 1-16.
TACKLES (solos-assists): H, Lavar Gardner 5-2, Latrell Bankston 5-1. IW, Averie Habas 10-1, Perrion Winfrey 9-1, Dominic Quewon 3-4, Keenan Stewart 3-3, Zion Williams 4-1, L.J. Wallace 3-2, Tucker Kroeze 4-1.