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Broncos top Navarro College for conference win

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NMMI Sports Press

The New Mexico Military Institute Bronco football team picked up their first win in the Southwestern Junior College Football Conference, outlasting Navarro College on the road Saturday, 39-31.

NMMI overcame an early offensive onslaught by the Bulldogs — in the first half Navarro racked up 22 points and almost 300 yards, including touchdowns on their first two possessions of the game.

But while the “Black Swarm” defense was reeling and trying to regroup, the Bronco offense was keeping the game close, punishing the Dawg’s ‘D’ with their ball-control rushing game. Four different NMMI backs combined for 219 yards on the ground, along with a pair of TDs, during the first and second stanzas.

A final field goal from 29-yards out by sophomore placekicker William Testa put NMMI back within five and made it a single-score contest, 22-17, with a minute-and-change left on the clock before heading into the locker rooms at halftime.

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Navarro’s offense looked to be unstoppable again initially in the third. Two big passing plays moved the ball 62 yards and put Navarro on the NMMI 17 yard-line. But the Bronco defense bowed up and forced a 35-yard field goal attempt, which they blocked.

After the blocked kick, NMMI took possession of the ball at their own 20 yard-line. Sophomore quarterback Diego Pavia then went to the air. He connected twice with sophomore wide-out Jaylin Smith, once for 50 yards, and then a few plays later, another for 16 yards and the TD. NMMI went for the two-point conversion and after Pavia found he had no open receivers, he scrambled and then dove into the end zone, giving the Broncos their first lead of the game, 25-22.

The Bronco defense again bent under the next Bulldog offensive attack. Navarro moved the ball 38 yards in seven plays. But on a first-and-10 from the NMMI 30, freshman defensive lineman Jontrell

Oliver stripped the ball from Navarro’s tailback and recovered it at the NMMI 27.

The Bronco offense then methodically drove the ball down the field, 73 yards in eight plays. Sophomore running back Anthony Grant got the carry on four of those plays for 25 yards. Sophomore tight end Logan Compton caught a pass for another 21 yards. A Pavia scramble added six, and freshman slotback Terrence Moore capped the drive with a four-yard plunge into paydirt. Testa kicked the extra point and NMMI held a 32-22 lead with 3:21 left in the third.

Navarro’s offense then went 60 yards in 14 plays down to the NMMI 2. But a fumbled snap resulted in a three-yard loss on second down, back to the NMMI 5. After an incomplete pass on third down, Navarro elected to go for the field goal. The 22-yard kick went wide right and the Bronco ‘D’ completed the goal line stand.

The Bronco offense finally faltered on their first possession in the fourth. Moore had a 30-yard rush, but the drive stalled in just four plays at the NMMI 44. Freshman Robert Cole then blasted a beautiful 51-yard punt to pin Navarro at their own 4 yard-line.

The very next play, however, the Bronco defense broke, giving up a 96-yard TD pass, and making it 32-28 with 12:28 left in the game.

But NMMI bounced right back. They got the ball at the 50 due to an excessive celebration penalty after the Bulldogs’ TD, and the ensuing kickoff went out-of-bounds. Pavia and his offense needed just 5 plays to get six points, Smith hauling in his second TD catch on the night, this time from 28 yards out. Testa chipped the kick over the crossbar for the PAT, and NMMI was again up by double digits, 39-28, with 9:01 remaining.

Neither team managed to score on their next possessions, taking the game clock down to 3:37.

Navarro then drove down to the NMMI 11 in 11 plays. A third-and-nine resulted in a seven-yard loss on a quick screen pass into the flats. Navarro opted to kick the field goal on fourth and got it, making it 39-31 with 1:13 left in the game.

The onside kick was recovered by the NMMI ‘hands’ team and after a first-down rush by Grant, the Institute rode out the clock for the win.

“It wasn’t pretty at first,” said first-year head coach Kurt Taufa’asau. “But give credit to our guys. They fought the entire game and just kept grinding. I was really proud of our offensive line tonight and the way they just took control out front. But gotta say something about the defense, too. They came up with some big stops in the third — a blocked kick and extra point, got a turnover, and a stop on the goal line. I think we finally just settled down and adjusted to the faster speed of conference play.”

The NMMI offense amassed 508 total yards against the Bulldogs: 359 on the ground and 149 in the air.

Last season’s NJCAA All-American selection Grant led the running game with 18 carries and 132 yards. Pavia had 90 yards on 14 attempts; Moore rushed 12 times for 73 yards and two TDs; and freshman Montahj Joseph had one TD and 64 yards, also on 12 carries.

Pavia completed 11 passes and two TDs on 16 attempts and all 149 air yards. He connected with six different NMMI receivers, led by Smith with five catches, 113 yards and both TDs.

With the win, NMMI moves to 3-0 overall and 1-0 in conference. Next up is another SWJCFC match, this time at home against Kilgore College, the NJCAA’s preseason pick for No. 3 in the nation.

“We’ve got to get better, coach our kids up and fix some things,” said Taufa’asau about prepping for next week’s contest. “We’re going to get back to work, watch game film, put together a game plan and get ready. But it will be nice to be back at home in the Wool Bowl in front of our fans and the NMMI Corps of Cadets.”

Kickoff for that game vs. the Rangers is slated for 5 p.m. MDT on Saturday, Sept. 25.

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