The Butler football team picked up their first win of the season by defeating the defending NJCAA National Champions and 11th-ranked Hutchinson Blue Dragons 43-23 Saturday night in Gowans Stadium.
Butler had their work cut out for them coming into the matchup against the defending champs along with both teams were coming off a week one loss and looking for that first win of the year. Butler was also coming off a tough home loss to Independence and trying to avoid starting the season 0-2.
"It speaks to the quality of people in this program," said head coach Tim Schaffner. "From the coaching staff, players, managers and everyone, they all went back to work after last week's loss and put their head down made it happen tonight."
The game started out slow for the Grizzlies as Hutchinson grabbed the early advantage by forcing a quick Butler three and out. The Blue Dragons then drove down the field and punched in the first score of the game on a 2-yard run by Anwar Lewis.
After some punts and a pair of Hutch missed field goals, the Grizzlies eventually responded to the Hutch touchdown as Jake Wolff found Darius Lassiter wide open in the end zone just after the start of the 2nd quarter on a 1-yard reception, Lassiter's first of two touchdowns on the night.
Hutch would respond with a one-yard rushing touchdown to take the lead, but again, the Grizzlies had an answer. Butler tied the game at 14-14 after Wolff made a beautiful 40-yard pass down the Blue Dragon sideline finding Darius Lassiter who found paydirt for six more.
A short field goal made by the Blue Dragons with 3:07 to go in the second quarter gave them back the lead 17-14, but that would be the last points they scored until the final second of the game.
After the field goal late in the second quarter, the Grizzlies grabbed their first lead of the night when Gavin Screws found Daevon Robinson for a toe-tap, six-yard TD catch in the back of the end zone with three seconds left in the half giving Butler a 21-17 halftime lead.
After the half, the Grizzlies forced a Hutch punt and got to work on offense as Screws dotted a pass into A.J King's hands for a 23-yard touchdown strike extending the Grizzly lead to 27-17.
The next Hutch possession ended in the arms of Nickendre Stiger, sophomore corner from Wichita, KS, who intercepted Hutch QB Dylan Laible which set up another Grizzly scoring opportunity. This time, Butler put points on the board with a 39-yard field goal from Carson Arndt making the Butler lead now 30-17.
The Grizzlies would score two more touchdowns in the game both coming off Kevontae McDonald runs in the fourth quarter which made the Grizzly lead as big as 43-17. Hutch scored on the final play of the game, but it didn't matter as Butler cruised to the 43-23 win.
Darius Lassiter, now in back-to-back weeks, led Butler with seven receptions for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Adarius Thomas came alive rushing for 114 yards on just 11 carries, an average of 10.4 yards per carry. Jake Wolff, who had to exit the game in the second quarter after an injury, finished with 113 yards passing and two touchdowns. Gavin Screws, who replaced Wolff late in the second quarter mustered up 89 yards and two touchdown passes in his first action of the season.
Getting his first start of the year in the secondary, sophomore defensive back Quijoun Gordon, led the Grizzlies in tackles with 11 on the night. Malik Berry was all over the field Saturday night finishing with nine tackles, 1.5 for loss and a half sack. Nickendre Stiger had six tackles, an interception, a pass breakup, and a fumble recovery in the game.
"I am always happy to see our kids have success" commented Schaffner. "You don't see all the work that goes on behind that curtain as most people just see the wins and losses. But to know how hard these players and coaches work, they deserve to have moments like this."
NEXT UP: Butler (1-1) will host Dodge City (0-2) on Saturday, September 18th at 7:00pm at BG Products Veterans Sports Complex.
GAME NOTES: The 43 points scored is the most points Butler has scored in a game against Hutch since 2015…Butler snags the lead back in the all-time series 46-45-1…Schaffner is now 4-3 against Hutch…First time Butler hasn't had a turnover in back-to-back games since 2018… First Butler win over Hutch since 2017.