Butler CC running back Jasper Sanders commits to South Dakota


I just heard from Butler Community College running back Jasper Sanders, who informed me that he’s committed to play for the University of South Dakota. Sanders, a 1st team All-Jayhawk selection this season, led the Grizzlies with 938 yards rushing and 13 TDs in a backfield with two other rushers that went over 600 yards in Derrick Thomas (782) and Dreamius Smith (685).

Sanders, 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds, went 22-2 in his two seasons at Butler and scored the game-winning touchdown in the Citizens Bank Bowl against Trinity Valley as the Grizzlies finished No. 2 in the final NJCAA poll. One unique thing about him is that he played quarterback at KC Piper in high school and has worked really hard at learning the tailback position the last two years … but still gives you the option of running the Wildcat succesfully if you’ve got him on your team, which Butler did at times. I know Maryland showed interest toward the end but did not need another juco running back.




Today, in Florence, Ala., Nate Dreiling took his place among the greatest players in NCAA Division II history.

Pitt State’s sophomore linebacker and the MIAA defensive player of the year had 15 tackles and blocked a punt in the Gorillas’ 35-21 win over Wayne State for their first NCAA D2 title since 1991. Chuck Broyles told me an interesting story about Dreiling’s recruitment for a story in today’s Eagle, and I’m not sure what else I can say about the 6-foot-4, 228-pound Hutchinson High product that hasn’t already been said. His ability to lead on and off the field is unparalleled.

So let’s talk about the future.

If you know anything about Dreiling, this one title isn’t going to be enough. And with PSU’s best offensive player back in John Brown, a repeat or three-peat isn’t out of the question. Without a doubt, they’ll be the preseason No.1  next year.

Possible pitfalls? Living a normal life in Pittsburg or anywhere else in the state for that matter is going to be impossible for Dreiling & Co. for the rest of their time in Gorilla uniforms. On one side, you’ve got a crazy/rabid fanbase that is going to be dissecting their every move and the amount of love they’re about to be showered with … wow.

On the other side you’ve got expectations that will be almost impossible to live up to … not to mention every single football player in the MIAA right now is dreaming of when they get their shot at PSU next season.

I’m not placing any limit on what this group is capable of. When you’re picked to finish 5th in your conference and you win the national title, you’ve shown everyone that anything is possible.

Congrats to the Gorillas and all their fans — this is a day you’ll remember for the rest of your lives.


PS. Thought this song was fitting

How Pittsburg State came back from the dead

Picked to finish fifth in the MIAA, the Pittsburg State football team will host Delta State on Saturday in the NCAA Division II semifinals, just one win away from putting themselves in an unthinkable spot … playing for a national title one year after going 6-6 and two years after posting the team’s first losing record in over 3 decades.

I was at the Gorillas’ 41-16 quarterfinal win over Northwest Missouri on Saturday, the third time I’ve watched them play this year. Two years ago, if you remember, this program was bottoming out.

Here’s 5 reasons Pittsburg State was able to come back from the dead:

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Jasper Sanders grows up at Butler

The Wichita Eagle
PITTSBURG – Jasper Sanders stepped on the scale recently, and when the numbers started to light up past the 200-pound mark, pockets started to empty.
The Butler Community College sophomore running back, for some reason, couldn’t fathom his own success.
“I was sitting there watching him, laughing, basically telling him just to deal with it,” said Jasper’s father, Jeff. “That’s what a couple of years in the weight room will do to you. He kept telling me ‘it’s got to be 199,’ like there was no way he’d gotten that big.”
In two years with the Grizzlies, Sanders has blown up in more ways than one. Headed into Saturday’s Citizens Bank Bowl matchup against No. 10 Trinity Valley, Sanders had rushed for a team-leading 894 yards and 13 touchdowns.
A full qualifier out of Kansas City Piper, where he played quarterback, Sanders transformed himself in two years into what he thought he could be – a Division I running back. Several MIAA schools wanted Sanders out of high school, but when Division I offers didn’t come he decided to go to Butler, where his father won a national title as a defensive back in 1980 before playing for Northern Illinois and in the Canadian Football League.
“I wanted to give myself a shot at my dream,” Sanders said. “And Butler has turned me into a man.”
At 5-foot-10 and 205 pounds, Sanders clocked a 4.37-second 40-yard dash during preseason testing. He’s got offers from South Dakota and Tennessee-Martin on the table already, but more could be coming – it’s just the nature of the beast in junior colleges. In a lot of cases, a player won’t know his college destination until the weeks before the semester starts.
“It’s a lot of uncertainty, which is hard to deal with,” Sanders said. “I’m trying to be patient and also enjoy the success we’ve had … I’ve won 22 games at Butler and we’re going for another one, which I think is pretty impressive.”
The winning has been impressive – Butler went 11-1 last year and lost in the national title game. The Grizzlies won Jayhawk Conference and Region VI titles this season and are 10-1 and ranked No. 3 headed into the Citizens Bank Bowl.
What’s probably more impressive has been Sanders’ ability to become the featured runner in a backfield with two other potential Division I running backs in freshmen Derrick Thomas (745 yards, 6 touchdowns) and Dreamius Smith (653 yards, 9 touchdowns). Last month, Sanders was named All-Jayhawk Conference.
“Jasper has always worked extremely hard,” Butler coach Troy Morrell said. “He’s kind of shy, and it’s been neat to see him kind of grow up around us the last two years.”

Sanders has come into his own in more ways than one – his twitter account — @Jasper_Sanders – is a favorite among Jayhawk fans. He’s constantly updating about his music tastes – rapper Drake in particular – practice sessions, upcoming opponents and college life in general.
“I guess that’s kind of part of me coming out of my shell,” Sanders said. “It’s all in fun. I’m a pretty positive person and I just want to make life fun and have a good time at what I do. I’ve made a lot of good friends at Butler and, like I said, I’ve grown up. But now I’m ready for the next step.

Looking at Saturday’s NCAA Division II and NAIA playoff games



No. 11 Abilene Christian (8-2) at No. 15 Washburn (9-2), 1 p.m. — With a win today in their first playoff appearance since 2005, the Ichabods can clinch the first 10-win season in school history and set up a rematch with MIAA champion Pittsburg State next Saturday. Washburn senior quarterback Dane Simoneau has thrown for 10,651 yards in his career and needs 41 more yards to pass Missouri Western’s Drew Newhart for second place in MIAA history. Abilene Christian junior quarterback Mitchell Gale is a Harlon Hill regional finalist and averages 332 passing yards per game.


No. 10 Ottawa (9-2) at No. 8 Azusa Pacific (8-2), 7 p.m. — Ottawa is on an eight-game winning streak and clinched the KCAC’s lone NAIA playoff spot with a regular-season title. The Braves have their hands full in trying to stop one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the NAIA in Azusa Pacific’s John van den Raadt, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound senior who has rushed for 1,087 yards and 15 touchdowns and thrown for 1,586 yards and 18 touchdowns. Ottawa senior wide receiver/kick returner Clarence Anderson, a Wichita native, was named the KCAC player of the year after becoming the first Brave to post three straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons.

Looking at Saturday’s MIAA and KCAC football games



No. 9 Washburn (8-1 overall, 6-1 MIAA) at No. 2 Pittsburg State (8-0, 7-0), 2 p.m. — The Gorillas can clinch a share of the MIAA title with a victory today over Washburn, which has won the last two games in this series but hasn’t won three straight since taking four in a row from 1946-1949. The Ichabods, led by former Gorillas’ assistant Craig Schurig, have one of the best quarterbacks in the nation in 6-foot-3, 227-pound senior Dane Simoneau, who has throw for 2,822 yards, 29 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Pittsburg State linebacker Nate Dreiling is fourth in the MIAA in tackles (70) and interceptions (3). Also good? I’ll be there. My pick: Pitt State

Other games

Emporia State (4-5) at Southwest Baptist (6-3), 1 p.m. — Southwest Baptist is having a nice season before it turns into MIAA mincemeat next year. So what’s that make the Hornets? My pick: Emporia State

Missouri Southern (3-5, 2-5) at Fort Hays State (3-6, 2-5), 2 p.m. –  Tigers will be a lot better in year 2 under Chris Brown. The school’s enrollment is going through the roof and it’s a pretty fun place to go. That can’t hurt recruiting. My pick: FHSU


No. 13 Ottawa (7-2 overall, 7-0 KCAC) at Friends (4-4, 4-3), 1:30 p.m. — Wichita Southeast product and Ottawa All-American Clarence Anderson has been unstoppable the last two years against his hometown team. In 2009 and 2010 — both Braves’ victories — the 5-9, 170-pound wide receiver/kick returner has racked up 489 yards of offense and seven touchdowns. Anderson currently leads the NAIA with 1,464 all-purpose yards and younger brother Donald, a defensive back for Ottawa, leads the nation with 2.8 pass break-ups per game. Braves can clinch the KCAC title outright and a spot in the NAIA playoffs with a win today.

Other games

Kansas Wesleyan (4-5, 4-3) at McPherson (3-6, 3-4), 1:30 p.m. — Who is a bigger disappointment? I’d have to go with Kansas Wesleyan. Never bought the hype on McPherson going into this year because they’d lost so much from 2010 on both sides of the ball. My pick: McPherson

Southwestern (3-6, 2-5) at Tabor (2-6, 1-6), 1:30 p.m. — Tabor should have been better this year. Sequels are usually never as good as the original. My pick: Southwestern

Bethany (7-2, 5-2) at Sterling (4-5, 4-3), 1:30 p.m. — Warriors have gone in the tank toward the end of the season. Swedes are still playing for a possible NAIA playoff spot. My pick: Bethany

Bethel (1-8, 1-6) at Saint Mary (4-5, 4-3), 1:30 p.m. — What’s going on with Bethel? Can they ever be good again? Good season for Lance Hinson and Saint Mary. My pick: Saint Mary

Looking at Saturday’s small college football games


Fort Hays State (3-5, 2-4 MIAA) at No. 12 Washburn (7-1, 5-1), 1 p.m. — Ichabods can win here and still go to Pittsburg State next weekend and have a shot at a share of the MIAA title despite last week’s 52-28 loss to Northwest Missouri. Former Washburn defensive coordinator Chris Brown is in his first year coaching the Tigers.  My pick: Washburn

Truman (2-6, 1-6) at Emporia State (3-5, 2-5), 2 p.m. — Is this the end of the road for Higgins? My pick: ESU

No. 3 Pittsburg State (8-0, 7-0), bye


No. 14 Ottawa (6-2, 6-0 KCAC) at No. 18 Bethany (7-1, 5-1), 1:30 p.m. — Ottawa has won six straight since opening the season with losses to No. 4 Georgetown and then-No. 23 Baker. Winner of this game has inside track to KCAC title and automatic playoff berth with two regular-season games remaining. Ottawa wide receiver/returner and Southeast product Clarence Anderson is second in the league with 1,278 all-purpose yards and eight touchdowns. I’ll be at this one. My pick: Ottawa

Tabor (1-6, 0-6) at Bethel (1-7, 1-5), 1:30 p.m. — Ugh. My pick: Bethel

Southwestern (3-5, 2-4) at Kansas Wesleyan (3-5, 3-3), 1:30 p.m. — Kansas Wesleyan grossly underperformed this year … and for the last four years. Southwestern’s administration seems to be OK with winning 3-4 games each year. My pick: KWU

Friends (3-4, 3-3) at Sterling (4-4, 4-2), 1:30 p.m. — Strange days at Friends. Mired in mediocrity right now. Sterling still playing for something. My pick: Sterling

McPherson (3-5, 3-3) at Saint Mary (3-5, 3-3), 1:30 p.m. — Two pretty evenly matched teams. Spires are solid team most of the time. My pick: Saint Mary


No. 15 Hutchinson (6-2, 4-1 Jayhawk) at No. 17 Coffeyville (6-2, 4-1), 7 p.m. — First of back-to-back games these teams will play, with loser likely dropping out of national rankings and winner earning the right to host next Sunday in first round of Region VI playoffs. Hutchinson quarterback Elliott Alford was a game-time decision with an injured shoulder in last Saturday’s loss to Butler, and should play this week.

Highland (1-7, 1-5) at Fort Scott (3-4), 1 p.m. — Fort Scott didn’t have a bad team this year. Feel bad for the kids that they don’t get a postseason … but you do the crime, you gotta do the time. My pick: Fort Scott

Dodge City (3-5, 3-3) at Air Force Prep (5-3), 2 p.m.  — Conqs have already achieved above and beyond this year. Win here would be icing on the cake. My pick: AFP

Independence (0-8, 0-5) at Garden City (1-7, 1-4), 7 p.m.  — What has Jeff Tatum done to the Busters? My pick: Indy


Five thoughts on Butler-Hutch

I was in Hutchinson Saturday night for No. 4 Butler’s 28-10 win over No. 8 Hutchinson – No. 1 Blinn barely won, and No. 2 East Mississippi and No. 3 Arizona Western both won in blowouts, so it looks like the Grizzlies will stay put in the NJCAA polls.

Here’s some observations from what I saw:  


1. Elliott Alford’s shoulder

Not being able to throw downfield killed the Blue Dragons. Hutchinson QB Elliott Alford showed up Saturday morning with an injury to his right, throwing shoulder that was a surprise to his coaches and ended up a game-time decision after they mummified the shoulder. It was easy to tell Alford wasn’t right by his throwing motion … and the fact that he could do much more than float the ball past 20 yards downfield. Imagine if he’d been able to chuck it up to Cordarrelle Patterson — who Butler had no answer for — all night? Patterson had 76 yards receiving on 7 catches – mostly bubble screens and quick dumps — and his longest catch of the night was 40 yards, which came on a jump ball. Pro tip: Don’t show up the day of your team’s biggest game of the season with a mysterious injury. EA ended up turning the ball over, twice, close to Grizzlies’ goal line and cost his team any shot at winning. Also … how’d he hurt his shoulder?

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LIVE BLOG: No. 4 Butler 28, No. 8 Hutchinson 10 FINAL (plus small-college scores)

I’m at Gowans Stadium for No. 4 Butler vs No. 8 Hutch and will be live blogging the game … if you want scoring updates from MIAA, KCAC & Jayhawk, they’re below.


Devin Clarke outraces entire Hutch secondary for 68-yard TD pass from Chandler Whitmer on Butler’s 2nd play BUTLER 7, HUCH 0 14:36; Hutch 3 and out and punts on first possession. Alford is starting but looks like he doesn’t have much zip on his passes 13:11; Butler picks up a couple of first downs but drive stalls out around midfield and they punt 9:59; Hutch forced to punt again after 1st down by Cordarrelle Patterson brought back on illegal crackback block … Butler’s Clarke fumbles punt, Hutch recovers and gets ball back at Butler 40 and goes for it on 4th and 15, bubble screen to Patterson gets ball to Butler 10 for 1st and goal, two incompletes and an Alford draw on 3rd and goal from Butler 9 … 24-yard field goal from Michael Mesh BUTLER 7, HUTCH 3 3:32; Hutch’s Spencer Vanderbogart intercepts Whitmer and Hutch gets ball back at 50 1:26; END OF FIRST BUTLER 7, HUTCH 3 BEYOND CAPACITY CROWD (OVER 5,500) AT GOWANS STADIUM Read More »

Looking at today’s MIAA, KCAC and Jayhawk games

I’m headed to Hutch later this afternoon for the big game … will live blog from there. Until then…


No. 4 Butler (7-1, 5-0) at No. 8 Hutchinson (6-1, 4-0), 7 p.m. – Here’s my article that ran today in the Eagle. Blue Dragons are a changed team since that day in Colorado Springs … will be fun to watch. My pick: Butler

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