Screws guides Butler offense past Dodge City in 56-21 win

Charles Chaney
Butler County Times Gazette
Butler's Gavin Screws (9) throws the ball to Trey Echols (18) in Butler's 56-21 win over Dodge City on Sunday, April 11. Screws threw for three touchdowns in the win over the Conquistadors.

DODGE CITY, Kansas — They say winning cures all and for the Butler Grizzlies, it’s what was needed after the previous two weeks.

Butler had faced two more experienced ranked teams and it showed. However, as they finally have snaps underneath their belt and some momentum in the game on their side, Butler showed why they were one of the early favorites in the league.

Gavin Screws threw for three touchdowns in the third quarter and the Butler defense dominated Dodge City as Butler won 56-21 to pick up their first win of the season. 

“For some of these kids, they’ve never won at Butler and others it’s been since December 2019,” Butler Head Coach Tim Schaffner said. “I saw guys getting comfortable and that was good. That’s what we like.”

It almost was a deja vu from the first two games as Dodge City raced out to a 14-0 lead. However, the Grizzlies showed grit, a term that was used by multiple people all season. Much like the first two weeks, Butler responded.

After a failed field goal with 4:29, it could have been demoralizing for a defense that had been working so hard. Instead, they locked in and held Dodge City to a three-and-out. With the endline nipping at his heels, the Dodge City punter, Landon Guidry sent a punt into the West Kansas wind for only 14 yards. 

That goal line stand changed the game. It gave Butler exceptional field position and drained any confidence Dodge City had in stopping Butler. 

“We talked about just playing defense,” Butler freshman Mason Thrash said about the goal line stand. “We have to be in the right spots. The only way we get beat is if we’re not in the right spots. 

If we’re in the right spots, we don’t get beat.”

Three players later, the Grizzlies were back in it. Jordan Kempf split through the Conquistador defense for the 1-yard touchdown. The score gave Butler new life and Butler would capitalize by making Dodge City pay for an offsides on the point after attempt as Kempf scored to bring the Grizzlies within six.

Butler took the lead for good when Kempf picked up a Gavin Screws fumble and raced down the Butler sideline for the 17-yard score. The Grizzlies weren’t done in the second as Ian McSwain blocked a Guidry’s punt and Darius Lassiter picked it up and jogged into the end zone for the touchdown. 

It’s the first time Butler has blocked a punt for a touchdown since Van Powell scored on a blocked Fort Scott punt in Sept. 2014.

The quick 14-0 Dodge City lead felt like an aberration as the wind aided the Conquistadors for their first quarter. Then, a questionable no call led to a fumble return for a touchdown and within minutes, the Conquistadors led 14-0. 

Outside of the 63-yard run in the third, it was nothing but a defensively dominated performance. They held the Conqs out of the end zone for nine consecutive possessions. While the wind aided the defense by limiting what Dodge City could do through the air, they made them pay whenever they tried anything at all.

Butler blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown. Then, Malik Berry had an interception that set up another Butler score in the third quarter. Everything that could have gone Butler’s way did. 

“You know when you are tasting bad food and that’s like us losing our first two games,” Berry said. “You don’t ever want to go back to that when you see that food. Being down 14-0, we didn’t want that feeling again. So, we turned up the heat a little bit and got back to it.”

As the defense turned up the volume, GScrews went to work. The Troy bounce back had three touchdown passes in the third quarter. As Butler utilized the wind to their advantage, Screws utilized the read-pass option to his advantage. He found a little bit of everyone as the Conqs had no idea who it was going to.

First, Screws hit Eddie Lewis for the touchdown on the post. Then, he found Lassiter open in the back of the end zone. He capped it off by finding a wide open Kempf on the wheel route. 

The route was on.

Screws finished 13 of 23 for 183 yards and three touchdowns.

Kempf had 120 all-purpose yards (85 rush, 35 receiving) and three touchdowns.

His three touchdowns in the third quarter are the first time since 2015, when Justice Hansen did it against Fort Scott.

When the dust settled, Butler had scored 42 unanswered points. All of the pressure of starting 0-2 had fallen by the wayside and the Grizzlies looked like they were having fun again. 

“I don’t think a guy on our defense hadn’t played college football before the Independence game,” Thrash said. “We’re still really young and growing. We’ll get better.”

The defense forced four turnovers and held Dodge City to only 5 of 16 on third down.

As Dodge City tried to use the wind to their advantage, Thrash came blistering through the Dodge City offensive line and hit Kobe Copple for the sack, causing Copple to fumble and recovered it.

“We had some injuries so I stepped in where they needed me,” Thrash said. “I wanted to prove myself to people.”

Kevontae McDonald added two impressive scores to push Butler over the half-century mark for the first time since 2017 and for the first time against a KJCCC opponent since 2015. 

“It’s great to play with a smile on our face,” Screws said. 

Dodge City's CJ Hall finished with 217 yards on 21 carries and for one touchdown.

Butler's opening possession will be one for the memories as the Grizzlies had three different possessions on the opening drive. They were forced to punt on two different occasions but multiple muffs and Grizzly recoveries gave Butler new life. Butler was unable to capitalize and eventually turned it over on downs as they were heading into the wind.

Butler will have a week off before playing rival Coffeyville on the road in two weeks. Until then, the Grizzlies will focus on film and getting healthy.

“We have to perfect our craft with the offense helping the defense and defense helping the offense,” Berry said. “You know? Iron sharpens iron.”

For now, the bus ride back as some players yelled back they were going to watch “McGruber,” a movie about an SNL skit turned into a full length feature film. 

For Butler and the tough road they’ve faced so far, the three-hour drive back to El Dorado will be a little easier this time around.

“It wasn’t perfect by any means,” Schaffner said. “I’ve been on the other side of these bus rides home. This one will be fun.”

Charles Chaney has been the Sports Editor for the Butler County Times-Gazette since Aug. 2019. You can reach him at cchaney@butlercountytimesgazette.com or on Twitter at @ChuckChaneyBCTG.