The No. 15 Dodge City Community College Conquistadors take on the No. 14 Butler Grizzlies today at 1 p.m. in the first of consecutive games against higher-ranked opponents.
Dodge City hosts Independence next week, which is ranked No. 13 in the most recent NJCAA rankings.
The Grizzlies are led by linebackers Will Honas and Charlie Benton. Honas has 30 tackles in three games this season, while Benton has 28. Benton also has an interception returned for a touchdown this year.
Dodge City is led by sophomore quarterback Caden Walters, who had two touchdowns last week and whose 10 this season are tied for No. 1 in the nation.
Walters said both are good players but the team isn’t focused too much on containing any certain players, but rather on running their scheme and trusting it to work.
“We’re just going to do our best to run the plays to the best of our ability and not really worry about a certain individual,” Walters said. “We’re just going to attack the defense how we have planned and that’s about it.”
Last week’s win gave the team some confidence, Walters said, but the team still has work to do.
“We have to get better every week to be where we want to be and I don’t think we’re there yet,” Walters said. “I think we can be pretty good, and we just have to keep progressing.”
Dodge City head coach Gary Thomas said the true strength in the Butler defense probably lies in the defensive line which sets the linebackers up for success.
“They’re well coached, they have a good scheme, and that’s what good football programs do,” Thomas said.
Having a strong quarterback like Walters certainly helps, Thomas said, especially one who has grown and gone through the changes that come during the offseason between freshman and sophomore year.
“When we have a good call, we’re confident that he’s going to make the play that we need him to make,” Thomas said. “When we don’t necessarily have the best call versus the front that we’re seeing, he’s going to make a decision to make us look like we know what we’re doing, and that’s the value of having a sophomore quarterback.”
The big challenge with Butler, Thomas said, is the way their players move around in their defensive scheme.
“They do a lot of moving around up-front,” Thomas said. “Last week was actually a good tune-up for us because Ellsworth does a whole bunch of slanting and twisting and they kind of make you have to be on your game as far as accounting for everybody. Butler’s not doing as much crazy moving as they’ve done in the past, but they’re still slanting and bringing pressure. So it challenges you to make sure that you’ve always got your head on a swivel.”
The Conquistadors play the Grizzlies at 1 p.m. in Memorial Stadium.