Let’s say before the season started, you knew Butler would lose a regular-season home game against a Jayhawk Conference team.
How many of you would have predicted Hutchinson to win at Butler? Probably about 100 percent. Nobody would have guessed woeful Independence beating Butler. Few would have mentioned Dodge City, given the Conquistadors were coming off a winless season. And few would have said Highland. After all, Highland is Highland.
Highland. The college in the town so tiny that there isn’t a McDonald’s or Subway. Highland, the Jayhawk Conference team that hasn’t posted a winning record since joining the Jayhawk Conference in 1996. Highland, the only Jayhawk Conference football program never to reach the postseason semifinals. Highland, the only Jayhawk Conference team never to participate in a bowl game.
Highland did it, though. The Scotties became the first Jayhawk Conference team to win a regular-season game at Butler since 1997 (Dodge City won a 2005 Region 6 semifinal game in El Dorado) when they beat Butler 23-21 on Saturday.
It was shocking. Not quite a miraculous shocker, but a shocker nonetheless. This one might be more jaw-dropping than the 2006 Highland win against Butler. But here’s the thing. We might look back at this game and not be shocked at all.
What if Highland ends up winning the Jayhawk Conference? Would its win against Butler look like something Danny Manning and Larry Brown cooked up in 1988? Or would we shrug with indifference?
Can Highland win the Jayhawk Conference? Sure. Can Butler rebound and win the conference again? Yep. How about Dodge City, which is 4-1 overall and tied with Butler for first place? You betcha.
What about Hutchinson, Coffeyville or Garden City? They all have one conference loss apiece right now.
At the midway point in the 2013 Jayhawk Conference football season, we know absolutely nothing about who is going to win this thing. We have a multi-team race for the first time since … well, probably ever. Six teams right now, going into the season’s sixth week, have realistic conference-championship hopes.
This is what was envisioned when the Jayhawk Conference upped the out-of-state scholarship limit to 20 – a bona fide race that resembles the madness we see in Jayhawk West men’s basketball almost annually.
For the next couple of weeks, people who follow Jayhawk Conference football will be on the edge of their seats. Highland plays at Hutchinson this week. The winner draws even with Butler, but will be a half game behind Dodge City after the Conquistadors beat Independence. Garden City has a tricky game at winless Fort Scott, which nearly won at Dodge City last week. Coffeyville is at Highland the following week, while Butler travels to Garden City.
This is more fun than watching a classic cartoon with senseless violence. While I wouldn’t ever bet against Butler and coach Troy Morrell (it’s like betting against Kansas basketball coach Bill Self), at this point, it’s not a guarantee that Butler will win the conference title.
Maybe we’ll see a three-way tie. Maybe we’ll see a three-way tie for third, and we’ll have to dig into the conference tiebreakers to see what team misses out on the playoffs. Maybe Butler ends up winning the title by two games.
Or maybe Highland will win the conference outright. At this point, anything is possible.