By Brad Henderson
Three weeks into this young season, and I have to admit that going into last Saturday’s game against Garden City Community College (GCCC) had me more than a bit nervous. Not only was Garden City the defending national champions, but the Broncbusters were riding a 13-game winning streak and were ranked #3 in the nation. The Pirates on the other hand, although victors from a week-two matchup with Fort Scott, had suffered an embarrassing blowout in week one, 70-21 to Iowa Western. So, the question on everyone’s mind going into the Garden City game, was could Independence Community College (ICC), the stars of Last Chance U, keep it respectable?
Not only did they keep it close, but they won their first home game of the young season and seem to have learned from their mistakes. While taking in the game from the press box at Shulthis Stadium, I couldn’t help but take away these EIGHT OBSERVATIONS about this ICC squad that wasn’t so obvious just a few short weeks ago:
- Running back, Jamal Scott is a beast. Not only is the Sophomore from Moreno Valley, California leading the conference in rushing yards with 269, but he is also holds the top spot for yards per game (134.5), and touchdowns (4). This young man is a solid runner who likes to hit the holes hard.
- The pirate quarterbacks have been consistent game managers. The first game against Iowa Western saw the position filled by committee. This could have been a result of the lopsided game and ICC wanting to get all three QBs some experience (even if only in cleanup), or it could have been the Pirates struggling to find anything that worked against a stingy defense from Iowa Western. Whichever was the case, the Pirates stayed with Malik Henry for most of weeks two and three.
Henry’s numbers against the Greyhounds of Fort Scott was a modest 13 of 21 for 129 yards and one touchdown, with 49 of those going on a strike to Calvin Jackson on one play.
ICC stuck with Henry exclusively throughout the Garden City game and he produced 208 yards, going 17 of 26 with two touchdowns – much more respectable, but not exactly the dominating numbers ICC is hoping for.
- The starting wide receivers for the pirates are extremely impressive. Carlos Thompson and Calvin Jackson have gotten the attention of every defensive coordinator in the Kansas Jayhawk Conference. Jackson leads the conference with 88.3 yards per game and is first with four touchdowns on the year.
The duo account for 29 receptions on the year, over half of the team’s total of 55. Factor in Thompson’s 131 return yards and the duo account for 592 of the team’s 1010 total yards.
- Discipline is a concern. ICC has a very serious problem with penalties. In the first two games alone, ICC committed 28 penalties. In week one, the Pirates were flagged 15 times for 134 yards, and picked up another 13 flags against Ft. Scott. This trend continued against the Broncbusters. This is something ICC is going to have to address.
- Third down efficiency is a concern. The Pirates went 4 of 11 on 3rd downs against the defending champs – that’s 36%. They are going to need to fix this issue and fast if they expect to continue to win.
- Fourth down efficiency has been great. The Garden City game was not exactly a punter’s clinic. The two teams elected to go for it on 4th down a combined 11 times. The good news is that ICC was perfect on their three attempts, converting when it mattered most.
- The defense didn’t break. I am sure the Pirate fans in the stadium held their collective breath when the Broncbusters scored on their opening drive. Fears of a repeat performance of week one loomed on the mind of everyone on the home side of the field.
However, the defense recovered nicely and adjusted well, allowing the offense to get the team back in the game. The defense really showed their mettle on the final drive of the game with sacks on 2nd and 4th downs by Jequaries Martin and Jermain Johnson, respectively that sealed the win for ICC.
ICC had put pressure on GCCC all night long, but never managed to notch any sacks until the final drive when they needed them most.
- This is not the same team from week one. If anything came from the win over Garden City it was evidence that this team has been coached up from their week one blowout. The Broncbusters came into town ranked #3 in the country. They are the defending national champions and could have easily intimidated this Pirate team, but that was not at all the case.
The Pirates went toe-to-toe with Garden City and came out victorious. Many things about this game felt special, I am not sure if it was the personal history between the two coaches (ICC’s head coach, Jason Brown coached at GCCC before coming to ICC last year), or maybe it was how both schools were considered to be featured on Last Chance U, but something gave this game a sense of desperation; a loser-be-damned feeling with ICC finding salvation in the end.