What if Coates isn't on the bench with an injury on the final drive of the game?
There were others, but if any one of those questions just happened to be answered in favor of the No. 12 Blue Dragons, No. 5 Coffeyville might not have walked out of Gowans Stadium with a 27-20 victory.
"It's tough, because we worked so hard in practice for this game," HCC linebacker Stephen Mathias said. "Guys were working hard … I don't know, it's tough. We will watch film and learn from our mistakes."
The Blue Dragons (3-1, 3-1 Jayhawk Conference) trailed 17-0 in the second quarter, but battled back to tie the game when Mathias ripped the ball from Coffeyville back PJ Ikner and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown with 3:12 left in the third quarter.
The Red Ravens (4-0, 3-0) then drove 80 yards in 11 plays for the go-ahead score on Ikner's 13-yard touchdown run with 13:13 left in the game for a 27-20 lead.
After that, the Dragons dropped a pass on fourth down that would have been a first down, failed to convert another fourth down at the Red Raven 16, then missed on fourth-and-1 at the Raven 49.
"I was proud of the way they battled," HCC head coach Craig Jersild said. "I told them I didn't want to see them hanging their heads and let's go to work tomorrow and keep battling.
"This is just one battle and not the war. It's not do or die until the playoffs."
The battle didn't end without casualties, though.
During the Dragons' final possession, Coates was hit out of bounds and injured when the force of the blow drove him into the benches. No penalty was called. Before he was injured, Coates completed 15 of 37 passes for 242 yards and jumped three spots past Pat Rapp (1996-97), Matt Imel (1993-94) and Trey Hinkson (1992-93) into fifth place on the all-time HCC passing list with 2,622 yards.
"I think we were in a little state of shock when (Coates) wasn't out there," Jersild said. "We shouldn't have done that, but I think that's what happened."
Early on, it looked like the Dragons were going to be blown out by Coffeyville again.
Late in the first quarter, Coates threw his first interception of the season, when his pass from the end zone was deflected and intercepted by Coffeyville's Trent Stepps, who returned it 5 yards for a touchdown.
Ikner's 2-yard TD run and Chris Dupree's 33-yard field goal gave the Ravens a 17-0 lead with 2:53 left in the first half.
The Dragons finally broke the ice when Steven Daniels turned in a dazzling run after catching a Coates pass and went 49 yards for a touchdown. The extra-point snap wasn't handled and the Dragons trailed 17-6 with 1:07 left.
Coffeyville took a 20-6 lead at halftime on Dupree's 46-yard field goal with 28 seconds left.
"We were never down, because we know we were going to come back," said receiver Kyle Roberts, who had a game-high five catches for 39 yards. "The Hutch Dragon always put up a fight. You saw that tonight. We are always positive."
Roberts was right.
After forcing Coffeyville to punt on the opening drive of the second half, Hutch struck when Coates hit Roberts with a 6-yard scoring strike with 11:22 remaining in the third quarter.
HCC forced a Coffeyville turnover, but couldn't convert. The Dragons did on the Ravens' next possession when Mathias pulled the ball out of Ikner's hands and scampered 13 yards for a game-tying touchdown.
"We've worked really hard in practice and watch lot of film so we can stop what they are running," Mathias said. "We are just having too many breakdowns and giving up too many big plays."
The Dragons outgained Coffeyville 306-243, but the Ravens had a 250-88 rushing advantage and the Ravens held the ball five minutes longer than the Dragons.
Coffeyville's Kendrick Smith became the first opposing running back to rush for more than 100 yards against the Dragons this season, going for 129 yards on 22 carries. Ikner had 23 carries for 60 yards and two touchdowns.
Brian Rouhlac led the Dragons with 50 yards on 11 carries. Daniels caught four balls for 84 yards and Nehemiah Warrick had three receptions for 82 yards.
The Blue Dragons will play host to Air Force Prep next Saturday at Gowans Stadium. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.