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October 12, 2007

Top JUCOs battle to control conference

The last time Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College won a game at Butler County (Kan.) Community College every single one of the players on the Greyhounds' roster wasn't even alive.

But history could be made on Saturday when the No. 13 Greyhounds travel to the No. 2 Grizzlies in a game that is for the top spot in the Jayhawk Community College Conference. It's also going to be a clash of many of the nation's top junior college football prospects.

"I came here to coach in this type of game," Fort Scott coach Jeff Sims said. "Troy Morrell at Butler County is a great person and a great coach. They're the model program in the league and one of the best in the nation without question. Fort Scott hasn't beaten Butler at Butler in any of our kid's lifetimes. The last time it happened was in 1978. The last times we beat Butler were in 1979 and 1994, but they were both at Fort Scott.

"But I've told our kids all week the same thing over and over Butler also hasn't beaten this Fort Scott team."

Sims is right.

This isn't the same Greyhounds that everybody in the Jayhawk Conference is accustomed to. In Sims' first year, he's helped transform Fort Scott into one of the best stories in all of juco football. The Greyhounds are 6-0 on the season and 4-0 in conference play. They're lead by one of the best playmakers in the nation at quarterback in Greg Cross, and they have a tremendous leader on the defensive side of the ball in safety Lucien Antoine.

Cross ranks as one of the nation's top 50 junior college players and it's hard to put into words how valuable he is to the Fort Scott program.

"Greg Cross is the one constant in our program," Sims said. "He's the leader of this team and has put this program on his back and helped carry it to new heights. He is athletic, and he has a tremendously strong arm. What makes him so much better this year is his pocket presence. He has tremendous poise and tremendous feet. He's also such a great kid and a real leader to everybody on this team."

Maurice Gray CB 5-10/180/4.4
One of the nation's top lockdown corners. A four-star prospect has plenty of national attention. His stats don't jump out to you because nobody throws the ball his way. He does have two pass breakups and two interceptions.
Beau Johnson RB 5-11/210
Three-star running back averages 6.0 yards a rush and 110 yards a game. Has 688 yards and eight scores on the season and is one of the top 50 prospects in the nation.
Swanson Miller DT 6-4/330
The four-star defensive tackle is impossible to block inside with his huge 300-pound plus frame. Has 39 tackles and two sacks, plus one fumble recovery that he brought back 43 yards. The focus of countless double-teams.
Markus White DE 6-4/245/4.55
White, a three-star defensive end, might be the fastest rising defensive player in the nation. When teammate Antonio Felder went down with an injury, White stepped forward to become one of the Jayhawk Conference's best defensive players. He's got 54 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss and 14 sacks in just six games.
Wade Weibert OL 6-5/300/5.12
Weibert, a three-star center, is one of the top interior linemen in the Jayhawk Conference. The Butler coaches think he's a real team leader and he'll have plenty of opportunities to play on the next level.
Greg Cross QB 6-2/204/4.6
The leader of the Greyhound program and one of the top 50 juco recruits in the nation. Cross has thrown or 1,272 yards and 13 scores this season. He's also a dual-threat and can hurt you with his feet.
Rodney Lovett RB 5-9/190/4.5
One of the best kept secrets in the nation, Lovett has become a hot target lately with his ability to make big things happen at running back. Has already rushed for 799 yards and four scores this season. He's the type of back that always manages to produce positive yards.
Jared Koechner OL 6-5/270
One of the better interior linemen in the Jayhawk Conference.
Kwame Jordan DE 6-5/225/4.76
Jordan has 35 tackles and an impressive 9 sacks this season. Quickly becoming one of the Jayhawk Conference's best defenders.
Lucien Antoine S 6-2/210/4.55
Has only played football for three years now, but has quickly turned into one of the league's best defensive backs. A hard-nosed, hard-hitting safety, Antoine leads the team with 55 tackles, two tackles for a loss and two interceptions.
Sims said Cross' athletic ability could be an X-factor in the game.

Cross has completed 52 percent of his passes this season for 1,272 yards and 13 touchdowns, but he also has the ability to hurt you with his feet. He's rushed for an additional 243 yards, and he knows how to buy an extra second or two, which allows his receivers to get open.

"The last two times Butler lost, they were against mobile, dual-threat quarterbacks," Sims said. "We feel like we have the opportunity and the personnel to beat them. But I think the biggest thing for us is that we need Greg to be great in the game. If we're going to beat Butler, he has to be the best player on the field."

On the defensive side, the Greyhounds will look to Antoine to bottle up Butler's highly regarded running back Beau Johnson. The four-star running back has rushed for 688 yards and eight scores this season. Every time Johnson touches the ball he averages 6 yards. But Antoine has already overcome a lot, so stopping one of the nation's best rushers wouldn't be out of the question.

"He's a serious individual," Sims said. "He takes this game so seriously. Everything he's accomplished comes from his work ethic. Some guys you look at and you see they're naturally gifted and it comes easy for them. He's taught himself how to play football. When he plays you can see that work ethic come through.

"He's not going to waste a play. He's a leader by example. He's a kid from Haiti that never played football until his senior year in high school. He walked on here and redshirted on an 0-9 football team, but now he's such an impact player Both Lucien Antoine and Greg Cross make me a good coach."

Sims knows this week's game will be the toughest test of the season. He's coached some great talent and he's coached against some great talent in his time as an assistant and head coach at places like Mesabi Range (Minn.) Community College and Mount San Antonio (Calif.) College. When he watches film, two players really jump out to him on the Butler roster.

"We know what the rankings you guys put together say, but in our evaluations what really sets Butler apart from the rest of the conference is No. 99 Swanson Miller and No. 11 Markus White," Sims said. "Every time you watch them it takes six guys to block their front four led by Miller and White. You would think they would have all the tackles, but the linebackers do and that's all because guys like Miller and White occupy so many people.

"Their linebacker don't get a hand laid on them, and that's because their big linemen are so talented."

White does have an amazing 14 sacks and 10 tackles for loss on the season. Numbers like that have allowed him to climb even higher in the Rivals.com Junior College Top 50. Miller was also recently moved up to the four-star level and is now the nation's No. 36 player overall. He has 39 tackles and two sacks on the season.

In the end, if Fort Scott is able to beat Butler it would be a night to remember. Sims said the Greyhound program has been working toward Saturday night not just this week, but all year long.

"Everybody is excited around here," Sims said. "We put in a lot of hard work in the summer and spring ball. We don't feel like we're going to win the game this week just because of what we do this week. We feel like if we're going to win it, it was from all the hard work in the summer and in the spring."



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