Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Sporting a 10-1 record after capturing the first Southwest Junior College Football Conference title in program history, the New Mexico Military Institute received its highest-ever ranking in the NJCAA Division I poll. The Broncos finished No. 2 in this season’s final poll to earn a qualification for the inaugural NJCAA national championship playoff system, according to a NMMI Sports Press article. NMMI will host third-seeded Northwest Mississippi Community College (9-2) at 2 p.m. MST Sunday, Dec. 5 at the Wool Bowl in Roswell. More information on the game can be found here.
NMMI Sports Press
The New Mexico Military Institute Bronco football team captured their 10th win of the season, along with their first-ever Southwestern Junior College Football Conference title, downing Tyler Junior College in convincing fashion at home in the Wool Bowl on Saturday, 45-10.
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It was another dominant performance by the Broncos, covering every aspect of the game. The Institute offense averaged 7.2 yards per play with a balanced attack, gaining 242 yards and four touchdowns on the ground and another 225 yards and two TDs via the air. The NMMI defense harassed Tyler quarterback General Booty the entire night, picking off a pair of passes, forcing three fumbles and recovering two, and recorded seven tackles for losses, including a trio of sacks against the NJCAA’s second-ranked QB for passing yards per game.
And it all started on special teams. NMMI wide receiver Malik Phillips caught the opening kickoff five yards deep in the endzone and thanks to some quick cuts and outstanding blocking, returned the ball 66 yards down to the Apache 39 yard line.
Bronco quarterback Diego Pavia and his offense then went to work. They needed just six plays to pick up the remaining yardage, running back Anthony Grant getting the final eight for the six-point score. Placekicker William Testa nailed the extra point and it was 7-0 NMMI, with 12:13 still showing on the clock in the first quarter.
The Apaches came right back however, with their own six-play, 77-yard TD drive. Booty completed three of five passes in the series, finished by an 18-yard strike to slotback Nicolas Mctear. After the PAT kick, the score was tied 7-7, and less than six minutes had expired in the first period.
The Bronco offense then managed another drive deep into Tyler territory. A Pavia pass to wide-out Zavier Walker picked up 23 yards, and a jet sweep from NMMI’s slotback Terrance Moore gained another 10, taking the ball down to the Tyler 23. A holding penalty put a halt to the advance, however, and a 45-yard field goal attempt by Testa went wide, no good.
The Bronco defense then bowed-up, forcing a quick four-plays-and-out to the TJC offense. After the touchback on the punt, Pavia, Grant and Walker combined for 80 yards in just five plays, again giving the Institute a seven-point lead, 14-7. Grant capped the drive with a 38-yard rush at the 14:19 mark in the second quarter.
Both teams were forced to punt on their next offensive series. NMMI’s punt by Robert Cole went 51 yards and rolled out at the Tyler 4 yard line. Unphased, the Apaches mounted a 10-play, 87-yard drive that took the ball down to the NMMI 17. But a big hit by Bronco linebacker Jacob Geilhausen caused a fumble on the next Tyler rushing attempt, with the Broncos falling on the ball at the NMMI 9.
Despite only 6:09 remaining the first half, the Institute managed to score twice more before heading into the locker room with a 24-7 lead. The first was an eight-play, 91-yard touchdown drive, following that forced fumble by Geilhausen. Pavia completed four passes for 64 of those yards, including the finale to WR Phillips from 29-yards out. The second was a 44-yard field goal by Testa as the last seconds ran off the clock, set up by a 37-yard interception return by Bronco defensive back Joseph Norwood.
The potent overall performance continued for the Broncos throughout the second half: “savage” was the word used frequently by the stadium’s PA announcer Madrigal Martinez.
That savage play resulted in three more NMMI touchdowns, while only allowing three points to Tyler JC.
Tyler did strike first, electing to kick a 26-yard field goal after their opening drive petered out. Tyler had a second-and-goal only inches away from the endzone, but a false start penalty, a bad snap, and a pass-break-up by Geilhausen caused the Apaches to choose the chip-shot for the sure three.
NMMI retaliated with a five-play, 75-yard touchdown. The lion’s share of the yardage, and the TD, came on Pavia’s pass to Moore from 59-yards out.
Another Institute interception set up NMMI’s second TD of the half. DB Ghvon Furlow had the pick, along with a 50-yard return, down to the Tyler 25. Pavia made the plunge into the endzone this time, from four-yards out.
The Broncos’ final points of the game came early in the fourth. Running back Montahj Joseph was the workhorse, rushing seven times for 37 yards, including the TD on a 14-yard carry.
“All the hard work and sacrifices — everything just came together tonight,” said NMMI head coach Kurt Taufa’asau after the win and ensuing SWJCFC Championship trophy presentation. “Got to give credit to our coaches and kids, their parents and our wives. We know how much time and effort everyone’s put in.
The win of the conference title should be more than enough to keep the Broncos at the No. 2 slot in the final NJCAA rankings, which comes out on Monday, Nov. 22. The top four teams in this final poll will be eligible to compete in the NJCAA National Championships. The first round is set to begin Dec. 4th or 5th and the format will be a straight-up, single-elimination bracket, with the option to host by the higher-seeded team: the No. 1 seed, currently Iowa Western Community College (9-0), will take on the No. 4 seed, currently Snow College (7-1); the No. 2 seed, currently NMMI (10-1), will take on the No. 3 seed, currently Northwest Mississippi College (9-2).
The winners of those two games will play in Little Rock, Arkansas on Dec. 17 for the NJCAA Division 1 Football National Championship match-up.
“We just want to be in the top four,” said Taufa’asau about the chance to be in the tilt for the national title. “Doesn’t matter if we host or are on the road. Either way, great — we’ll get the guys ready. Just give us the time, place and date, and we’ll be there.”