Hutchinson Blue Dragons win first NJCAA national championship in comeback fashion over Snow College

Billy Watson
The Hutchinson News
Hutchinson CC linebacker Tre Pinkney celebrates after a big hit on defense as the Blue Dragons defeated the No. 2 Snow College Badgers in the NJCAA national championship 29-27 in Little Rock, Arkansas, Saturday.

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — With one chance left for the Snow Badgers, Hutchinson linebacker Tre Pinkney intercepted Badger quarterback Gabe Sweeton's pass and the party began on the Blue Dragons' sideline.

And once again, they overcame some adversity.

The No.1 Hutchinson Blue Dragons made a historic comeback to top the No. 2 Snow Badgers 29-27 in the NJCAA national championship in Little Rock, Arkansas, Saturday night.

It's the Blue Dragons first national title in football. They finish 8-0 on the season with a KJCCC title and now a NJCAA championship under first-year head coach Drew Dallas

"It's a pretty special feeling right now," Dallas said. "We battled our tails off against a really, really good football team."

The Badgers took control early with a 14-0 midway through the first quarter. Leading 21-10 in the third quarter, the Blue Dragons went to work. Quarterback CJ Ogbonna, who exited the Independence game with an ankle injury, was placed into the game to provide a spark. 

"I already knew I was going to have to just push the team," Ogbonna said. "I just gave everybody a chance. I gave the receivers a chance, and we just found a spark."

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Hutchinson CC quarterback CJ Ogbonna rolls out and looks for an open receiver as the Blue Dragons defeated the No. 2 Snow College Badgers in the NJCAA national championship 29-27 in Little Rock, Arkansas, Saturday.

That's exactly what he helped trigger, finding receiver Tyrone Howell for spectacular catches to feed the Blue Dragons great field position inside the red zone, where running backs Tye Edwards and Anwar Lewis put the finishing touches on those drives getting across the plane for six.

"We got by a certain motto," Edwards said. "Every time we get the ball, run to score. Me and Anwar, that's what we try to do. In the running back group, there's no jealousy or anything like that. We all are a brotherhood."

Edwards was the NJCAA championship most valuable player with 20 touches for 141 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He also had a 68-yard touchdown run for the first touchdown for the Blue Dragons in the first half. Ogbonna finished five for five with 128 passing yards while starter Dylan Laible was 10 for 22 for 150 yards and an interception.

Pinkney's interception lit up the Blue Dragon faithful as well as the sideline. Before all that and reversing back to the half, Pinkney said he told his teammates just to play the way they have been playing all year.

"The defense played really good, really good," Pinkney said. "We gave up two touchdowns early, but we weren't trying to let that take us down like that. Just kept our head on and kept pushing."

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Hutchinson CC running back Tye Edwards leaps over a Badger player as the Blue Dragons defeated the No. 2 Snow College Badgers in the NJCAA national championship 29-27 in Little Rock, Arkansas, Saturday.

When he made that pick with under two minutes to go, that play sealed the deal.

"My position was just to help the cornerback," Pinkney said. "Marquise Gilbert, behind me, said, 'Watch the comeback,' and I told him, 'I got you.' That's how that went."

The year has been filled with adversity from injuries to trying to be 1-0 every week, and alas, the Blue Dragons are 1-0 again.

"We've had a lot of adversity, and we've fought back," Dallas said. "We made the most of the opportunity, and there's no doubt in my mind that tonight we earned that for these guys. Extremely proud of every one of one."

Dallas was proud of his guys for dealing with the situation being down two possessions in the second half and said they were prepared for situations like Saturday's with the previous challenges they have faced all year. He was pleased with the leadership when the team was down heading into the half

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Hutchinson CC head football coach Drew Dallas is blanketed with a Gatorade bath after the Blue Dragons defeated the No. 2 Snow College Badgers in the NJCAA national championship 29-27 in Little Rock, Arkansas, Saturday.

"It's rewarding as a coach to go into a locker room at halftime when you're down, you're trying to find the right words to say, and you don't have to say it because you have leadership inside your football team," Dallas said. "We were about to break out of there and start talking to them, and the players started talking. So, when you got leaders from within in there talking, we sat there and listened to them talk and they ended up with the right message."

The message was always to go 1-0 every week, but now that the season is over, what is next for the Hutchinson Blue Dragons?

"We're going to relax and enjoy this one for a while," Dallas said. "About 30 days and we're going to go back at it and try to be 1-0 again with the short turnaround in playing a spring season back into the fall.

Dallas said his team really engaged with the concept of concentrating and understanding to take things week by week and be 1-0. He was proud of the season-long effort, and it all paid off.

"They took that and ran with it," Dallas said. "The only way to get here was to be 1-0 every week, and our guys knew that.

"This is the most it can ever mean for us as football players and coaches, and man, I'm just super excited for our football team to do it in the way they did it. 

"To come back and get it done, I couldn't be more pleased as a coach."