Category Archives: Butler



Butler’s Rudi Johnson shakes off a number of Dixie College defenders on his way to a 66-yard touchdown run – Johnson ran for 7 TDs and 373 yards to lead the Grizzlies to a second straight national title. (BO RADER/EAGLE FILE PHOTO)

Monday: 1981

Tuesday: 1998

Today: 1999

Thursday: 2003

Friday: 2007

Saturday: 2008

Sunday: Gameday

Behind the title: This was Butler’s second straight national title and, once again, they were headed west to face the No. 1 team in the country, this time, Dixie (Utah) in the Dixie Rotary Bowl at St. George, Utah – where an estimated 8,000 fans packed into a 6,000-seat stadium to watch the game. Butler’s trump card? One of the greatest junior-college football players of all time in running back Rudi Johnson, who led the nation in rushing in ’99 with an amazing 2,224 yards and 32 touchdowns. Johnson would come absolutely uncorked against Dixie, going for 373 yards and 7 touchdowns against the second-best rushing defense in the country. In an interesting aside, Butler sophomore offensive lineman Howard Duncan won his second straight title with the Grizzlies … then would go on to win another one the next year with Oklahoma. After this game, coach James Shibest left Butler to take a job as an assistant at Arkansas. His replacement? The young offensive coordinator on Butler’s two title teams – Troy Morrell. 

Game story with notes and box score after the jump: 

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Behind the title: Yesterday, we looked back at Butler’s 1981 NJCAA title team. Today, it’s Butler’s 1998 NJCAA title team – the one that shocked the nation with an upset of No. 1 Ricks (now BYU-Idaho) in front of almost 12,000 at the Real Dairy Bowl. How foreign was the national stage for the Grizzlies at this point? Most of  the players had to purchase special, flat-bottomed shoes to play on the turf at Holt Arena in Pocatello, Idaho. Tailback Rudi Johnson was a freshman on this team and rushed for almost 700 yards in the three playoff games (all 8 teams used to make league playoffs) and the Grizzlies rallied from second-half deficits six times for victories.  It was the first NJCAA title for the Jayhawk since Coffeyville won in 1990 and ended a string of Jayhawk teams coming up short when playing for the title – Garden City twice and Coffeyville once … which leads us to our next point: There were no official title games at this point. Butler received 106 votes in the final NJCAA poll – just one more than Jones County (Miss.). 


Game story and box score from the title game after the jump.  

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I’ll be in Cedar Falls, Iowa, on Dec. 2 for the Graphic Edge Bowl between No. 2 Butler (11-0) and No. 1 Iowa Western (11-0) as they play for the NJCAA title at the UNI-Dome.

Starting today, Sunflower Slate will be putting out posts on Butler’s six NJCAA title teams as they go for a seventh. We’ve got a week’s worth of coverage planned leading up to the game in The Eagle and at

We start with the original – a 1981 team that I wrote a story about two years ago as Butler was getting ready to play Navarro for the NJCAA title at the Citizens Bank Bowl in Pittsburg, a game Butler lost in pretty dramatic fashion and the last time they played for the NJCAA title. Here’s a blog post that had some more stuff about that 1981 team that beat NEO 21-14 in the Rodeo Bowl in Arkansas City.

Finally, there’s this feature about Butler assistant Steve Braet that I wrote and ran in Sunday’s edition. He’s been an assistant on all SIX of Butler’s title teams and seems to have come as close to perfecting the art of coaching d-line as any coach I’ve been around at any level.

Tomorrow – 1998.


Looking at Saturday’s small-college football games


Here’s the link to my article on No. 2 Butler opening up El Dorado’s shining jewel – the $12 milliion BG Products Veterans Sports Complex. The Grizzlies take on No. 5 Blinn on Saturday – Jeff Lutz will cover for The Eagle.

The MIAA opened up Thursday night – with No. 1 Pittsburg State welcoming Northeastern State to the MIAA with a rout at Tahlequah.

Jayhawk Conference

No. 5 Blinn (0-0) at No. 2 Butler (1-0), 7 p.m. — Just like Butler, Blinn is a team with national championship aspirations, but the Buccaneers are young, with over 60 freshmen on the roster. Blinn won its last national title in 2009 with future Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton at quarterback, defeating Fort Scott in the Citizens Bank Bowl at Pittsburg.

No. 10 Hutchinson (1-0) at No. 12 Navarro (0-0), 7 p.m. – Troy transfer Luke Barnes showed Hutchinson coach Rion Rhoades picked the right quarterback after a three-way battle in training camp. Barnes threw for a school-record 459 yards in the Blue Dragons’ 58-26 win over No. 17 Coffeyville last week.

Other games

No. 16 Tyler (0-0) at Fort Scott (1-0), 1 p.m.

Southeast Texas Prep (0-0) at Independence (0-1), 1 p.m.

Highland (0-1) at Northeastern Oklahoma (0-0), 7 p.m.

Cisco, Texas (0-0) at Garden City (1-0), 7 p.m.

No. 7 Trinity Valley, Texas (0-0) at No. 17 Coffeyville (0-1), 7 p.m.

Dodge City (0-1) at Kilgore (0-0), 7 p.m.


Friends (0-0) at Evangel (0-0), 6 p.m. – Derby product Jeff Kontz is a four-year starter for Friends and one of the best defensive backs in the nation. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound safety was an All-KCAC pick last season with 59 tackles, five interceptions and five pass breakups and is a preseason All-American. This game should be a good test for the Falcons – Evangel is picked fifth in the Heart of America, but the first four teams are all ranked in the Top 25. The Crusaders also have a pair of preseason All-America linebackers in Jamail Randle and Taber Cheo.

Other games

William Penn (0-0) at Bethel (0-0), 11:30 a.m.

Kansas Wesleyan (0-0) at Cumberland (0-0), noon

Sterling (0-0) at Benedictine (0-0), 1 p.m.

Saint Mary (0-0) at Nebraska Wesleyan (0-0), 1 p.m.

Missouri Valley (0-0) at McPherson (0-0), 6 p.m.

No. 24 Bethany (0-0) at Southwest Assemblies (0-0), 6 p.m.

Cowley softball heads to NJCAA Division II Tournament


The Cowley College softball team is headed back to the NJCAA Division II Tournament – their first trip since 2009. Heres my article on the Tigers’ trip to Clinton, Miss.  that is up at and running in Wednesday’s Eagle.

Ranked No. 4 in the last national poll, the Tigers are the No. 5 seed and face No. 12 Mercyhurst on Thursday at 9:30 a.m.

The Tigers are on the same side of the bracket as top seed and defending champion LSU-Eunice, but Cowley is as stacked as any team Ed Hargrove has brought to nationals in his 28 seasons. Two-year starter Taylor Hatfield (.421 BA, 5 HRs, 68 RBIs) has signed with Kansas and has been the Tigers starting catcher for two years.  Courtney Rash (1B), Haley Strawn (2B), Kelsey Overacker (OF) and Laura Seeman (OF) all were named All-Jayhawk East. The pitching duo of Taylor Parsons and Haleigh Sills matches up as a 1-2 punch with anybody in the tournament.

I’ll keep you updated on wins/losses for Cowley and Butler, which opens NJCAA DI play Thursday against Pima.



All about the Butler CC softball team’s Region VI title



Kelsey Berlin, a freshman right fielder for Butler Community College, was back at practice on Thursday after four days of unexplained absence from her teammates –  Kelsey’s father, Tim, died last Wednesday. After having a heart attack on Sunday in Wichita, he survived four days on life support. Here’s my story on what happened and how that fence at Wichita State’s Wilkins Field got the hole in it during last weekend’s Region VI Tournament, which Butler won to advance to next week’s NJCAA World Series in St. George, Utah. The story will run in Wednesday’s Eagle.

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James Madison QB Billy Cosh transfers to Butler


Butler Community College coach Troy Morrell confirmed Monday that James Madison quarterback Billy Cosh has transferred to play for the Grizzlies and is enrolled in school.

Cosh, 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, redshirted at Kansas State in 2010 and was a backup for JMU last season. Word is he’s got a cannon for an arm.

“He was just in a situation where he was unhappy and wanted the chance to play,” Morrell said. “Our offense is a great fit for his his talents … he can really throw the ball. He’s a great fit.”

Cosh, the son of former Kansas State defensive coordinator Chris Cosh, was a three-star recruit out of Arundel (Md.) High School, where he set state career records for passing yards (7,433) and touchdowns (112).

Cosh is the third straight high-profile quarterback transfer to land at Butler, following LSU’s Zach Mettenberger, who transferred from Georgia in 2010, and UConn’s Chandler Whitmer, who transferred from Illinois in 2011.

I thought, even before they landed Cosh, that the Grizzlies had a good shot of being the preseason No. 1 team in the country. He makes them better.


Butler CC forward Andre Ingram signs with Minnesota


Big day at Butler Community College as men’s forward Andre Ingram signed a letter of intent to play for Minnesota and Tubby Smith. Even better? The 6-foot-7, 235-pound  sophomore is from Minneapolis.

“It’s just amazing to think that I get to go home,” Ingram said. “I went to visit the campus and was just blown away by how nice everything was, and my family has never been able to watch me play the last two years but they’re going to now.”

And what did Smith tell him?

“He said he thought the way I played fit their system  and he thought I could make an impact,” Ingram said. “He’s definitely a hard person to say ‘no’ to.”

This marks the second year in a row that the Grizzlies and coach Mike Bargen have sent a forward to a high-major school, with Ingram following Caleb Walker, the Region VI player of the year who signed with Nebraska last year and had a nice season for the Huskers, who just missed out on the NCAA Tournament.

“We’re awfully excited for Andre to get the opportunity to play in the Big Ten, to get to got home,” Bargen said. “I’m not sure he understood what college basketball was all about, about the hard work it took to succeed when he first came here. He’s a different person now than he was then though … you could see the change.”

Full story in Wednesday’s Eagle.

I’m out. TA.


Coach Eck is the man

Sunflower Slate: Butler shocks No. 1 Hutchinson

Big news out of El Dorado tonight at the Grizzlies pulled the stunning upset of undefeated, No. 1 Hutchinson 81-80 at the Power Plant. We’ve got Eagle correspondent Taylor Eldridge coming with the game story, but just a few thoughts on this stunner, the first of which is not to be so stunned.

The Blue Dragons weren’t going to go undefeated this year, and Butler has one of the toughest places to play in the entire Jayhawk. Also, Mike Bargen is a really good coach who has fared well against Steve Eck-coached teams in the past.

Next is that Hutchinson still has to be considered the favorite in Region VI, with Coffeyville and Cowley probably a lot closer to them than most people think. I’ll link to Taylor’s story when it comes through.

OH and Butler … from losing to Independence by 50 in the second game of the season to beating the No. 1 team in the country is quite a trek. Like I said, it’s Bargen.

I’m out. TA.

Zac Clark

My feature today on Oregon defensive tackle Zac Clark has some cool features with it, including a video by Fernando Salazar (who also shot the photos) and a photo gallery put together by Josh Wood. Zac’s rise from North to Butler to the BCS title game was one of the funner things I’ve been lucky enough to write about.

Fern and I went to the Clarks’ house two days before Christmas and it was a lot of fun getting to spend some time with this family. Here’s five things that didn’t fit into this story, but were worth a mention.

1. He’s as focused as he seems.

Oregon and Auburn both have spent the week in Arizona, and players from both teams had the option of going to see the Suns play a home game. Zac’s sisters, Sadie and Destiny, were watching the game and saw that Cam Newton was there and then they showed some Oregon players. So they started looking for Zac, who was still in his hotel. His father, Steve, talked to him and asked why he didn’t go. It was simple: He didn’t want the distraction. Everything is about the game. Same approach he took at Butler.

2. State titles

As the Clark kids were all taking a picture together, we had them put on their title rings. Everybody won a state championship in high school except Zac, who didn’t seem to mind. “We’ll trade, definitely,” Destiny said.

3. He’s the runt. If you can call someone 6-foot-2 and 270 pounds a runt.

Little brother Trace is 6-foot-5, just like Steve. Zac is 6-2. We made Steve and Zac take their picture next to each other and it induced some laughter in the household.

4. People at Oregon haven’t forgotten about Chris Harper

I talked to several people in the Oregon athletic department throughout the last couple of weeks, and after learning I was from Wichita, each one of them said something like…

“Wow, well … we had really hoped to have two players from Wichita on this year’s team. But if you have to pursue your dream of playing another position, well I guess you just gotta do it.”

Yes, they know he doesn’t play QB. Do I need to explain further? He dogged out the program and the town on his way out of the door  and he did it in a crass manner. They still haven’t forgotten.

5. His girlfriend is a baller

Zac is dating Oregon women’s basketball star Amanda Johnson. And in a weird twist, I was the sports editor at a small newspaper in Northern Cali about five years ago and covered a couple of Amanda’s games. Cameo by Zac around the halfway mark in this video about Amanda.

I’m out.