Hutchinson Opens 2013 Preseason Camp

Hutchinson Community College football coach Rion Rhoades opened his seventh preseason camp on Saturday morning at Gowans Stadium as the Blue Dragons began preparations for the 2013 season.

Now the norm since his arrival before the 2007 season, the Blue Dragons have great expectations for the upcoming season. Hutchinson was picked to finish second in the Jayhawk Conference this season and have a No. 14 national ranking in JC GridWire's Dirty 30 preseason list. The NJCAA preseason poll is expected out in the near future.

Through his first six seasons in building this program into one the NJCAA's elite, Rhoades has compiled a 44-23 record at Hutchinson, which includes 42 victories over the last five seasons – a five-year mark that ties the best in program history that dates back to 1928. HCC has had three-straight nine-win seasons, a mark never achieved before in Blue Dragon football history.

Under clear and cool, but humid conditions at the start of Saturday morning's three-hour session, the Blue Dragons began to piece together plans to end what has become an 18-year itch. The Blue Dragons are seeking their first Jayhawk Conference and Region VI championship since 1995. HCC tied Garden City for the league championship and beat the Broncbusters at Garden City to win Region VI.

The Blue Dragons have knocked on the door during the Rhoades' era. Three-straight Jayhawk Conference second-place finishes and four trips to the Region VI Championship game in the last five years have HCC football at the threshold of that next step.

Rhoades and his staff have six returning players (three starters) back on an offense that 45.2 points, nearly 500 yards in total offense and ranked in the Top 10 of three of the four major statistical categories in the NJCAA in 2012.

The Blue Dragons have a rarity in the Jayhawk Conference this season in a returning quarterback in Luke Barnes (3,256 yards, 36 touchdowns in 2012) and a pair of starters and two backups from last season and some key FBS transfers on what should be a solid offensive line.

Returning sophomore Orange Mooney (444 yards, 2 TDs in 2012) is the leading returning rusher. The backfield could be impressive with Auburn transfer Mike Blakely and redshirt freshman Braden Smith also in the mix.

The big question will be at receiver as Barnes will throw to an entirely new group of pass catchers this season.

Defensively, the strength will be in the defensive backfield with three all-conference selections returning for 2013. Second-team All-Jayhawk safety Terell Hannah and honorable mention cornerbacks Shattle Fenteng and Christian Goodlett will lead a deep group of defensive backs.

That will be a good thing as the front seven returns only two starters – defensive end Carnell Simon and linebacker Brock Long.

The Blue Dragons will have a preseason scrimmage, which will be away from Gowans Stadium. The date for the scrimmage hasn't been released yet.

Hutchinson opens the season on Aug. 24 at Coffeyville and will play the first of four homes games on Aug. 31 against Navarro College.

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