Ad Astra Radio Family Brands

Dragons Fall to East Mississippi in NJCAA Semifinals



By Hutchinson CC Sports Information


HUTCHINSON, Kan. – The Hutchinson Community College football team’s bid to return to the NJCAA National Championship game came up short on Saturday at Gowans Stadium.

No. 4 East Mississippi scored a go-ahead touchdown with 52 seconds to play in the fourth quarter as the Lions upended the No. 1-ranked Blue Dragons 27-23.

The Blue Dragons close the 2023 season at 10-1. East Mississippi (10-2) advances to play the Iowa Western/Kilgore winner in the NJCAA Championship game on December 13 in Little Rock, Arkansas.


The Blue Dragons took a 23-20 lead on Nestus Burger‘s 44-yard field goal with 1:42 to play in the third quarters. Hutchinson’s defense turned East Mississippi away on its first three possessions of the final quarter.

The Lions started their final drive of the game on their own 12 with 3:57 to play. EMCC marched 88 yards on eight plays, converting a pair of third downs on the drive. East Mississippi had the game’s fifth-lead change of the game when Cam Wright caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Ty Keyes with 52 seconds to play, giving the Lions a 27-23 lead.

Hutchinson’s final drive ended with four incomplete passes.

Tyrell Reed Jr. rushed for a game-high 124 rushing yards on 20 carries with a 37-yard touchdown to lead the Blue Dragons. Hutchinson rushed for 208 yards as a team. Brandon Epton Jr. had 39 yards on 13 carries and Waymond Jordan Jr. had 34 yards on six carries.

Blue Dragon quarterback Samari Collier was 7 of 22 passing for 113 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He was also sacked three times.

Zeriah Beason had three receptions for 48 yards. Oran Singleton had two catches for 29 yards and a touchdown.

Linebacker K’Von Sherman led the Hutchinson defense with a career-high 14 tackles that included a quarterback sack. Jermain Hamilton-Jordan had a career-high nine tackles.

Defensive end Daniel Brown extended his streak of consecutive games with a sack to 11 with a fourth-quarter sack. Brown closes the season with 18.5 sacks, which is No. 2 on Hutchinson’s single-season list and ties Marquavious Lewis (2013-14) for sixth on Hutchinson’s career sacks list.

Hutchinson had 322 total yards to East Mississippi’s 324 yards (190 rushing, 134 passing). Keyes threw for three touchdowns, completing 14 of 32 passes for 124 yards and an interception to lead East Mississippi. Running back Kiron Benjamin had 107 yards on eight carries. Wright had five catches for 91 yards and three touchdowns.

The Blue Dragons scored the first points of the game when Burger kicked a 39-yard field goal with 10:45 to play in the opening quarter for a 3-0 lead. About four minutes later after a Hutchinson fumble gave EMCC the ball at the Hutchinson 29, Keyes and Wright hooked up for a 29-yard touchdown pass and the Lions led 7-3 with 6:33 to play in the first quarter.

Hutchinson reclaimed the lead at 10-7 after Reed’s 37-yard touchdown run with 1:15 to play in the opening quarter. EMCC parlayed a 73-yard run by Benjamin with a 3-yard touchdown run by Ty Cromwell with 2 seconds to play in the period for a 14-10 Lion lead.

The only points of the second quarter was a Burger 20-yard field goal with 8:36 to play. The Blue Dragons trailed at halftime 14-13.

The Blue Dragons struck fast with the first possession of the third quarter. Singleton caught a 60-yard touchdown from Collier just 50 seconds into the period and the Dragons led 20-14. The Lions tied the game after a 16-play, 78-yard scoring drive that was capped by Wright’s 4-yard touchdown reception with 7:59 to play in the quarter. Walter Bob Jr. blocked the extra point and the game was tied at 20-20.

Hutchinson’s go-ahead field goal was set up by a bizarre play, Burger lined up for a 47-yard field goal, but it was blocked. Danny Saili picked up the loose ball behind the line of scrimmage and rumbled to the EMCC 22 to keep the possession alive. Four plays later, Burger connected on a 44-yard field goal for a 23-20 Dragon lead with 1:42 to play in the third quarters.

GAME NOTES – Head coach Drew Dallas completes his fourth season as Hutchinson’s head coach with a 38-4 record … The Dragons are 17-3 against nationally ranked opponents and 13-3 against Top 10 opponents under Dallas. … Reed had his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season and finished with a season-high 816 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns. … The Blue Dragons are 16-9-2 all-time in NJCAA postseason history.