PITTSBURG, Kan. – Tickets for the NJCAA Football Championship on December 5 are now on sale, but the Road To Pittsburg has become more difficult for many top programs. The top four teams in the preseason coaches poll all lost. It’s the first time since 2009 that the top four teams lost before the first regular season poll was released. That year, those losses allowed Cam Newton and Blinn College to catapult to number one, and the Buccaneers eventually won the national championship, also held in Pittsburg that year.
“With three months until the national championship, we have no idea who will be coming to Pittsburg, and these first weeks show why interest in junior college football is growing,” said Chris Wilson of the Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau, hosts of the national championship game. “These two-year programs can build or fall fast, and that makes for high drama. It’s just a matter of waiting to see who rises to the top.”
This year’s top four losses mean Hutchinson (2-0) and Kilgore (2-0) have moved to the top of the poll. The only top five team to stay unbeaten, Hutchinson is ranked number one in the NJCAA rankings for the first time in their program’s history. Their first big test is this weekend at Iowa Western, who fell from second in the preseason coaches rankings to seventh in the first poll of the regular season. Kilgore has already faced a nationally ranked team, having just beaten Navarro College (0-2), who dropped out of the poll after being the 18th ranked team.
The big shocker of the past week was East Mississippi’s (0-1) 24-16 loss to still unranked Hinds (1-0). Big plays did in two-time defending champion, East Mississippi. Looking only at the game’s statistics, one might think EMCC beat Hinds Community College. EMCC outgained Hinds 340 to 152 yards, and forced five sacks and 11 tackles for loss, while allowing three sacks and 7 tackles for loss. However, it was Hinds who had the big plays: an interception to stop the EMCC offense’s opening drive, a 97 yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and an 83 yard interception return for a touchdown to put the game out of reach.
“This win is a program changer,” Hinds head football coach Larry Williams said according to a news release. “Everyone in our locker room believed we could do this. They played together like a family, and made some big time plays when it mattered the most.”
One team showing they are a force to be reckoned with is the third ranked Butler Community College (2-0). Butler jumped up seven spots after both of their wins came against opponents who upset top ranking teams. In their season opener, with a score of 42-10, Butler beat Iowa Central (1-1). Iowa Central would go on to upset Iowa Western. Iowa Central climbed from 14th to 12th. In week two, with a score of 36-17, Butler forced four interceptions to beat Snow College (1-1). Snow College had upset Garden City a week earlier. Garden City dropped from 3rd to 10th, while Snow dropped from 6th to 9th.
“We kept them off the scoreboard until late and that was a big thing,” Butler head coach Tim Schaffner said after the Garden City game according to a news release. “You have to explain that to the team – it’s kind of like an NFL game, these teams are so talented you just have to bleed the clock and don’t give up big plays and eventually, they are going to run out of possessions.”
Games to keep an eye on Saturday, September 7:1 p.m. #1 Hutchinson (2-0) at #7 Iowa Western (1-1); 1 p.m. #19 Nassau (1-0) at #15 Monroe College (1-0); and, 5 p.m. #11 Northeastern Oklahoma A&M (1-0) at Georgia Military College (1-1; unranked, but receiving votes).
The NJCAA Football Championship game will be held Thursday, December 5 at 5 p.m. CST at Carnie Smith Stadium in Pittsburg, Kansas. Tickets are now on sale and can be purchased by calling (620) 235-4796, or visiting NJCAAFootballChampionship.com and clicking “Tickets”.
For the complete poll from September 3, 2019, visit http://njcaa.org/sports/fball/polls.
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Hinds running back Don Ragsdale rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown to lead the Eagles to an upset over No. 1 East Mississippi in MACJC action.