COFFEYVILLE, Kan., – The sign said "you're now entering Red Raven territory" as you entered town. Cheerleaders decked out in official Adidas gear arrived early and fans were grilling hot dogs and hamburgers two hours before kickoff.
Football in the Jayhawk Community College Conference was back on Saturday and nobody did it better than Coffeyville Community College, a program that is loaded with gobs of Division I talent again.
The Red Ravens beat Air Force Prep 35-0 with a relatively simple game plan that was pretty vanilla. Coffeyville simply let its big horses on offense and defense make big plays and the results were a big victory. But that shouldn't have been a big surprise as Coffeyville is one of the most storied junior college programs in the nation and college coaches also know that it's a major stop when looping for top-flight talent.
Coffeyville rolled up 464 yards of total offense behind offensive sparkplugs Woody Wilson at quarterback, Devin Thomas at receiver and running backs Kendrick Smith and Travis Evans. Smith had 104 yards rushing on 16 carries and Evans had 95 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown. Wilson completed nine of 15 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns.
"Kendrick is a freak," Coffeyville assistant coach Sean Cherico said. "He's a pre-season All-American that is really strong and can blast through the hole and then outrun you. He's the younger brother of Ike Hillard, so you know great football is in his blood."
Smith already has an offer on the table from Louisville but it won't be the last for the Patterson, La., native that has three years to play two seasons.
Evans was originally expected to not make the Coffeyville squad, but he was too good to be left off the roster. The Macon, Ga., native blew coaches away in fall camp and from his performance on Saturday he has a shot to catch on with some Division I program.
"He doesn't have a slow gear," Cherico said. "He goes hard on every single play."
Wilson was impressive when given the opportunity to pass and he did show ample mobility when the pocket broke down.
He originally signed with Arkansas in the class of 2004 and he does look to have the tools to be a Division I quarterback for somebody. If the Hawgs do want him back, Wilson said that might be tough to turn down, but he also said he might have to make the move to safety or be recruited as an athlete because Arkansas already has five-star quarterback Mitch Mustain committed.
But the best in the bunch on the offensive side of the ball is receiver Devin Thomas.
While Thomas didn't get a ton of touches on Saturday because of the simple game plan, he was mesmerizing when he did get it. On a reverse Thomas blew by everybody away on the field with his speed and just missed a touchdown.
"Devin is the fastest kid on our team," Cherico said.
"He's been timed by us at 4.39, so you can say he's a legit 4.4 type kid. He also has the body of a college-ready receiver at 6-2, 205 pounds. This kid is a legit cat and is the best receiver in our league. Wow is all I can say."
Thomas, originally from Canton, Mich., already has scholarship offers from Arkansas, Michigan State, Ole Miss and Kansas State. Cherico said he'll have plenty to pick from when he's done.
"He'll be one of the most heavily recruited players in the Jayhawk Conference," the coach said.
It's easy to see why.
On the defensive side of the ball, defensive end Walter Fisher would rival Thomas as one of the leagues most heavily recruited prospects only if he wasn't already sure as to where he's heading.
Fisher is heading to Tennessee, the school that placed him at Coffeyville two years ago, after he was named Tennessee's Mr. Football as a senior in high school. The Volunteers are getting a good one with Fisher, who is now a 6-2 and 265-pound rock that can't be blocked.
"I'm the defensive line coach so this cat makes me look good," Cherico said. "It's going to be freakish to see what he does when he gets to Tennessee. He's one of the few players we have that can go to an SEC-level program and play without skipping a beat."
Fisher said he's excited about what he did on Saturday night and still is pumped to be a Vol.
"It's all about getting better every day," Fisher said after the Red Raven shutout.
"You work hard go out there and do what you have to do to win. Every step I take here gets me ready for when I can get back to Tennessee and start killing running backs and quarterbacks in the SEC."
Defensive tackle Andre Tillman and linebackers Jayden Everett are also expected to catch attention from the recruiters.
Tillman is a 6-foot, 285-pounder that plugs up the middle and attacks the quarterback with a great motor. Cherico said he has the best "get off" of anybody on the team. Everett, who is 6-foot and 215 pounds, is extremely explosive and always around the ball and should be recruited by Big 12 level programs.