COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa – An epic battle between two of the top five junior college programs in the nation ended in dramatic fashion Saturday as #2 Iowa Western edged #5 Butler 36-30 in overtime.
Butler (1-1, 1-0 KJCCC) stormed back from a 13-point second-half deficit to force overtime, but a 6-yard touchdown run in overtime by Iowa Western's Tyus Mason ended the game.
Iowa Western (2-0) jumped out to a 10-0 lead after one quarter, but the Grizzlies would not go away quietly.
Butler's first scoring drive was helped on a 44-yard desperation pass by Damarcus Smith to Anthony Johnson after a bad snap. Smith chucked the ball downfield to a leaping Johnson, who made the reception in between a pair of Reiver defenders. The Grizzlies ended the drive with a 13-yard scoring run by Michael Gallup, but a missed extra point by Travis Steenson made the score 10-6.
The Reivers answered with a 14-play, 76-yard scoring drive as quarterback Tay Bender connected with Andrew Davis to give Iowa Western a 17-6 lead.
Butler scored on the next possession as running back Chris Carson scored a 3-yard touchdown run, ending a 9-play, 96-yard drive. Smith followed with a 2-point conversion run to pull the Grizzlies within three.
Two Butler turnovers appeared to put Iowa Western in command in the second half. A Dan Hamilton 34-yard field goal with 5:56 remaining in the third quarter put Iowa Western up 20-14. A bad snap on Butler's next possession resulted in a fumble that was recovered by the Reivers at the Grizzly 2-yard line. Two plays later, Iowa Western's Anthony Anderson scored a touchdown to give the Reivers a 27-14 lead.
With 13:06 left in the fourth quarter, Butler pulled within one scoring possession after converting on fourth down twice – including a 4-yard touchdown pass from Damarcus Smith to Derek Lee. A two-point conversion run by Bakari Triggs pulled the Grizzlies within five, 27-22.
Iowa Western's Dan Hamilton kicked a 30-yard field goal with 9:10 left to give the Reivers a 30-22 lead. A Damarcus Smith interception just 31 seconds later gave the Reivers possession, but Butler's defense forced a fumble recovery with 7:41 to play.
Butler tied the game on a wild scramble by Smith, who avoided the Iowa Western defense on a 15-yard run and leaped into the end zone for the touchdown. Smith then completed a two-point conversion to Derek Lee on the far sideline to tie the game at 30-all with 6:32 remaining.
In overtime, the Grizzlies had a chance to take the lead on the first possession, but a low snap on a field goal ended the drive. After Butler's missed opportunity, Iowa Western put together a six-play, 25-yard drive that ended with Mason's touchdown to end the game.
For Butler, quarterback Demarcus Smith completed 18-of-36 passes for 205 yards and one touchdown, while Chris Carson led the Grizzly ground game with 88 yards on 19 carries. Defensively, Kaleb Ringer led Butler with 11 tackles. Davon Durant had 10 tackles and two quarterback sacks.
Iowa Western quarterback Taj Bender was 29-of-45 passing with 283 yards and two touchdowns. Taj Williams led all receivers with 10 catches for 122 yards and a score.
Butler will host 11th-ranked Hutchinson next Saturday in a 7 p.m. kickoff at BG Products Veterans Sports Complex. The Blue Dragons (2-0 overall, 1-0 KJCCC) defeated Fort Scott 55-10.