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.


I busted out a ton of previews for the MIAA, KCAC and Jayhawk in the last week and thought I’d post links to all of them here – been pretty wrapped up in football but I can slowly feel my mind turning to basketball season:

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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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Saturday’s scores from the MIAA, Jayhawk & KCAC

Updating scores as I get them. -TA


Missouri Western 22, Emporia State 16 FINAL

No. 5 Washburn 48, Central Oklahoma 3 FINAL

No. 7 Pittsburg State 69, Lincoln 6 FINAL Gorillas move to 7-0

Central Missouri 35, Fort Hays State 7 FINAL


Sterling 35, Bethel 10 FINAL Warriors stay alive in KCAC title race

Lindenwood 61, Kansas Wesleyan 16 FINAL

Friends 27, Southwestern 17 FINAL

No. 16 Ottawa 35, McPherson 21 FINAL Braves look like team to beat in KCAC

William Penn 38, Saint Mary 16 FINAL

No. 22 Bethany 38, Tabor 35 FINAL


No. 5 Butler 41, No. 12 Coffeyville 3 FINAL 21st straight win by Butler over Red Ravens

Air Force Prep 45, Independence 14 FINAL Indy closing in on winless season … after they started year in Top 25

Fort Scott 40, Dodge City 22 FINAL

No. 9 Hutchinson 54, Garden City 12 FINAL

Looking at Saturday’s MIAA, KCAC and Jayhawk football games


Missouri Western (4-2 overall, 3-2 MIAA) at Emporia State (2-4, 1-4), 1 p.m. – Emporia State quarterback Tyler Eckenrode has quietly put together a stellar season and is third in the MIAA in passing with 1,478 yards and nine touchdowns, including 317 yards and three touchdowns in rallying the Hornets from a 17-0 halftime deficit to a 31-24 win over Missouri Southern last Saturday. Hornets’ senior linebacker Matt Rosenhamer, a Bishop Carroll product, is eighth in the league in tackles at 8.2 per game.  My pick: Emporia State

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Washburn, Pitt State, Butler climb Top 25 polls


Lots of teams from our three conferences all over the Top 25 football polls … starting with No. 5 Washburn (5-0) and No. 8 Pittsburg State (5-0), co-leaders in the MIAA. The Gorillas jumped up from No. 15 after their upset of No. 1 NW Missouri (which dropped to No. 7) on Saturday at Arrowhead. The Ichabods bumped up three spots. The two teams don’t play until Nov. 5 at Pittsburg – and while I don’t think that they’ll both be undefeated when they play I definitely think the game will be for the MIAA title – shared or outright is the only mystery.

In the KCAC, Bethany (5-0) moved up one spot to No. 14 and Ottawa (3-2) moved up two spots to No. 19. Looking at the Swedes’ schedule from here out I feel like they’ll be 7-0 when they head into the last two weeks of October (assuming they can beat Saint Mary and Tabor, which I’ve obviously done) and face Friends and Ottawa – both in Lindsborg. The Falcons have been down and don’t play well on the road, but the get their heads on straight they’re not bad. The Braves are a really good team that lost a couple of tough non-conference games to open the season and will be a tough out that late in the year.

In the Jayhawk, Butler jumped up two spots to No. 5 after smashing Garden City and No. 1 Navarro and No. 5 Iowa Western both lost. The Grizzlies play at winless Independence this week and then go back-to-back games against No. 14 Coffeyville and No. 9 Hutchinson to close out the regular season. Two teams ranked ahead of Butler play each other still – No. Arizona Western and No. 4 Snow – and No. 1 Blinn will likely have to play No. 7 Navarro again in the SWJCFC playoffs. So if Butler wants to play for another national title they’ll not only have to win out, but they’ll need some help from teams getting upset.


Saturday’s scores: MIAA, KCAC & Jayhawk

Scores as I get them:


Friends 63, KWU 26 FINAL

No. 15 Bethany 30, Avila 13 FINAL Swedes now 5-0

Sterling 13, Saint Mary 10 FINAL 2 OT

Bethel 42, McPherson 35 FINAL Threshers break 14-game losing streak and get first win for coach Travis Graber. Huge upset.

Southwestern 65, Haskell 0 FINAL? Sorry … KCAC web site a little sketchy

No. 22 Ottawa 37, Tabor 10 FINAL? See above


No. 7 Butler 37, Garden City 0 FINAL

No. 11 Hutchinson 69, Fort Scott 36 FINAL

Dodge City 40, Highland 22 FINAL Conqs stay in running for 4th playoff spot in Region VI

No. 14 Coffeyville 34, Air Force Prep 30 FINAL Great road win for Red Ravens


No. 8 Washburn 31, Emporia State 17 FINAL Ichabods move to 5-0

Fort Hays State 24, Lincoln 21 FINAL

No. 15 Pittsburg State 38, No.1  NW Missouri FINAL WOWWOWOW 1st PSU win over NW Mo since ’05 – hit FG as time expired