NJCAA 2008 season kicks off tonight

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – If you browse through the annuals of the NJCAA record books you'll find that Thursday's match-up between preseason favorites Blinn College (Texas) and Butler Community College (Kan.) is more than just unordinary. It is a game never played before in the 70 years of the organization.

When Blinn and Butler tangle Thursday night, it will be the first time the previous two champions face on another in a season opener…and they will be doing it as the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in the current NJCAA / JC Football.com Poll.

Rare, historic…call it what you want, but for both head coaches, Brad Franchione and Troy Morrell, this early season contest will play a huge factor for the entire season. One team's national championship hopes will be bolstered with a win, while an uphill battle will be on the horizon with a loss.

Over 5,000 tickets have already been sold to the game, which was moved from the Grizzlies' home field in El Dorado, Kan., to Wichita's Cessna Stadium that has a seating capacity of 24,000.

"We moved the game due to the fact that we could get well over 5,000 people at the game," said BCC athletic director Todd Carter. "If the weather is good, we could possibly get 15,000 people at this game. I think it will help us promote our program and NJCAA football in general to have this game in the bigger market of Wichita."

This will only be the second meeting between the Buccaneers and the Grizzlies on the football field. The previous match-up came in 1987 when Blinn defeated Butler 35-14 in the Texas JUCO Shrine Bowl.

Also of historic note, Blinn and Butler are the only two NJCAA football teams win back-to-back national championships: Blinn in 1995 and 1996, and Butler in 1998 and 1999.

Scouting the two teams…

#2 Blinn College

Franchione is entering his fourth season at Blinn, which includes a record of 26-6 and the '06 national championship. He has plenty of talent returning in 2008, especially in '07 All-American quarterback Terrance Cain who will have the support of a big offensive line (averaging over 300 lbs.). Cain set a new NJCAA record last season when he completed 71.1 percent of his passes. He was the leading passer in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference with 2,185 passing yards with 22 TD's.

Along with Cain, linebacker Prentice Joseph, and kicker Brad Hicks are were selected as Pre-Season NJCAA All-Americans. Joseph is the only returning player of the 2006 National Championship team, while Hicks started every game in for the Bucs in 2007.

"There are tremendous leaders in this returning group and an abundance of talent in the freshman class," Franchione said. "I'm impressed by their work ethic and their ability to listen and learn. That gets me excited about going into this season."

Overall, Blinn returns six starters each on offense and defense along with the returning kicker and punter from their 2007 squad that finished 7-3. However, one of their toughest challenges this year will be their schedule as they have just three home games this season.

#1 Butler Community College

Morrell comes into his ninth season with the best winning percentage in the history of the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference (.894, 85-10). The Grizzlies are going for their eighth consecutive conference title and look to repeat as national champions for the second time in school history.

The Grizzlies return five starters from last year's dominant defense that allowed just 11.7 points per game and 220 yards of offense a game. One of those returning starters is defensive lineman Zac Clark who finished '07 with 76 tackles, 23 for loss, eight sacks and two forced fumbles.

The Butler offense will be piloted by sophomore Press Taylor, who had an injury-plagued freshman season but managed to throw for 749 yards and five touchdowns. Wide receiver Tyrece Gaines had 23 receptions for 424 yards and five scores.

A big returnee in more ways than one will be 2007 All-American Erick Dahl, who at 6' 2" and 280 lbs. will anchor the Butler offensive line and open running lanes for Randell Bell who ran for 428 yards on 72 carries (5.9 avg.) with four touchdowns in limited action last year.


ALSO ON TAP THIS WEEK IN NJCAA FOOTBALL

The opening weekend of NJCAA football for the 2008 season will be overshadowed by the #1 vs. #2 event in Wichita, but that does not mean the rest of the weekend will not be full of excitement as 20 of the 25 team ranked in the NJCAA / JC Football.com Pre-Season Top 25 Rankings will be in action. Many ranked match-ups will be in order as the Texas-Kansas Challenge continues for another season. Texas schools won last year's challenge by winning four games of the seven scheduled between the two conferences.

Thursday's schedule has the much anticipated contest between Butler and Blinn, but also on Thursday two other ranked teams take the field against one another in Mississippi. Defending MACJC North Division Champs, and 20th ranked, Itawamba Community College travels to seventh-ranked Jones County Junior College in an early test between the North and South powers. Jones County lost to one just on team last year, twice, -- the eventual national champion Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Friday's small schedule features two ranked teams as fourth-ranked Snow College (Utah) travels to the Air Force Academy to challenge the prep school, while No. 19 Central Lakes College (Minn.) plays second-year program Fond du Lac Tribal & Community College (Minn.) to kick off the second annual Minnesota Community College Conference Kick-Off Classic at St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minn.

Saturday's line-up has four ranked match-ups as No. 5 Georgia Military College travels to No. 22 Grand Rapids Community College (Mich.), No. 6 Navarro College (Texas) travels to No. 23 Coffeyville Community College (Kan.), No. 9 Garden City Community College (Kan.) travels to No. 24 Cisco Junior College (Texas) and No. 18 Fort Scott Community College (Kan.) plays at No. 14 Kilgore College (Texas).

The week's action comes to a close on Sunday when North Iowa Area Community College hosts the JV squad from William & Penn University.


Thurs./August 28th

#2 Blinn College (Texas) at #1 Butler Community College (Kan.)

#3 Miss. Gulf Coast Community College at Northwest Mississippi Community College

#20 Itawamba Community College (Miss.) at #7 Jones County Junior College (Miss.)

Holmes Community College (Miss.) at #13 Pearl River Community College (Miss.)

Copiah-Lincoln Community College (Miss.) at East Mississippi Community College

East Central Community College (Miss.) at Coahoma Community College (Miss.)

Miss. Delta Community College at Southwest Mississippi Community College

MSU - Bottineau (N.D.) at North Dakota State College of Science

Northeast Mississippi Community College at Hinds Community College (Miss.)


Fri./August 29th

#4 Snow College (Utah) at Air Force Prep

#19 Central Lakes College vs. Fond du Lac Tribal & CC (Minn.) -- at St. Cloud University

Mesabi Range CTC (Minn.) vs. Minnesota State CTC - at St. Cloud University


Sat./August 30th

#5 Georgia Military College at #22 Grand Rapids Community College (Mich.)

#6 Navarro College (Texas) vs. #23 Coffeyville Community College (Kan.)

#9 Garden City Community College (Kan.) at #24 Cisco Junior College (Texas)

Northland CTC (Minn.) vs. #10 Rochester CTC (Minn.) - at St. Cloud University

#15 Glendale Community College (Ariz.) at American Sports Academy (Calif.)

#18 Fort Scott Community College at #14 Kilgore College (Texas)

Harper College (Ill.) at #16 Joliet Junior College (Ill.)

Minnesota West CTC vs. #25 Vermilion Community College (Minn.) - at St. Cloud University

Ridgewater College (Minn.) vs. Itasca Community College (Minn.) - at St. Cloud University

Dodge City Community College (Kan.) at Trinity Valley Community College (Texas)

Arkansas Baptist College at Highland Community College (Kan.)

Northeastern Okla. A&M College at Hutchinson Community College (Kan.)

Independence Community College at Tyler Junior College (Texas)

College of DuPage (Ill.) at Rock Valley College (Ill.)

Milford Academy at Globe Institute of Technology (N.Y.)


Sun./August 31st

William Penn University JV at North Iowa Area Community College


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