Take away a 3-3 record against the Broncbusters
and the Grizzlies are 30-0 against all other competition the last three seasons,
winning NJCAA national titles in 1998 and 1999, while finishing No. 6 a year
Maybe that's why second-year Butler County coach Troy Morrell was not
surprised when his Grizzlies, who lost twice to Garden City before beating
Nassau, N.Y. 30-20 in the Canon Empire State Bowl last year, were picked second
in the Jayhawk Conference preseason coaches poll behind the Broncbusters.
"With what we've got coming back, five guys who started for us last year, that's probably a good spot for us," Morrell said. "But like other coaches have said, you can't take stock in that right now. It's a starting point and sort of a motivation factor, I guess."
Motivation for the Grizzlies to get back to the Jayhawk Conference championship game for the fourth consecutive season starts with having to replace 17 starters from the 10-2 team of a year ago.
One key returnee, however, is NJCAA preseason All-American running back Ronald McClendon. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound back out of Independence, La., rushed for 919 yards and 15 touchdowns in 10 games as a freshman. He also ran two kickoffs back for scores and averaged an amazing 32.3 yards per kickoff return. It was recently reported that McClendon has committed to play at Ole Miss upon graduating from BCCC.
Sophomore Jermaine Green split time with McClendon for much of last year. Injuries forced Green (6-0, 220) to miss four games, but the native of Daytona Beach, Fla., rushed for 646 yards and three touchdowns his freshman campaign. He also has the wheels, as he finished second at the NJCAA national track meet in the 200-meter dash last spring.
The Grizzlies will be untested at quarterback. Cedric Stevens, a redshirt freshman out of Syracuse, N.Y., has emerged as the leading candidate.
One wide receiver, 6-6 James Terry from Homestead, Fla., is back. Used
primarily as the third receiver last season, Terry hauled in 19 passes for 369
yards, and was on the receiving end of a 41-yard scoring strike in the
conference title game.
The Grizzlies brought in some talent to fill the gaps at receiver. Transfer
Jamal Wilson, from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., came in from Wisconsin, while the BCCC
coaching staff is excited about a pair of freshman Kansas receivers, Marion
Cooperwood and Tremel Guillory.
The offensive line will be anchored by 6-7, 305-pound tackle Matt Lamatsch
from Claflin, Kan.
Only two starters return on defense, tackle Jermaine Berry and linebacker
Kedric Session. Berry capped off his freshman year with a great game in the
Canon Empire State Bowl, sacking the Nassau quarterback twice and recording six
tackles behind the line of scrimmage
A pair of transfers, defensive end Ryan Huffman and linebacker Chris Hogan,
are expected to step in and make plays right away. Blaine Clark and Kijana
Thomas, both of whom saw playing time a year ago, will play key roles in the
Morrell expresses caution at being picked as one of the top teams in the
"With a lot of new faces in the league, that always brings new
surprises," Morrell said. "Some teams are going to get better, I don't
think there's going to be any doubt about that, and it should make our league
more competitive from top to bottom, which only will make everybody better."
If increased competition makes the Grizzlies better, they can count on a return trip to the conference title game and make a run at their third NJCAA national title in four seasons.
9-1: Butler Co. at NEO
JAYHAWK PREVIEW: Butler County Grizzlies
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