Home Sports Local Sports NMMI Broncos advance to national title game

NMMI Broncos advance to national title game

David Rocha Photo The Broncos' Anthony Grant (3) outruns the Rangers' defense on his way to a score during a NJCAA playoff semifinal contest Sunday.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

By Peter Dindinger/NMMI Sports Press

History has been made at New Mexico Military Institute.

In front of a large home crowd at the Wool Bowl, the Bronco football team defeated the third-seeded Northwest Mississippi Community College Rangers 49-30 in the inaugural NJCAA national playoff semifinals Sunday evening.

No. 2 NMMI (11-1) advances to the NJCAA Division I national championship, where it takes on No. 1 Iowa Western (10-0) at 6 p.m. MST on Friday, Dec. 17 in Little Rock, Arkansas’ War Memorial Stadium on CBS Sports Network.

Iowa Western snuck past fourth-seeded Snow College 30-29 in overtime.

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The Broncos have never played in a football national championship until now. The undefeated 1958 squad came close, finishing atop the rankings as the top team in the country.

“Give props to our guys. We didn’t know what to expect coming into this,” said NMMI head coach Kurt Taufa’asau. “Just proud of the way our guys fought, stayed with it. We could have easily folded when they kept scoring. Our guys stuck with it and got it done.”

Each offense was forced to punt on their opening drives.

On NMMI’s second offensive series, Diego Pavia hit Malik Phillips for a 36-yard pass, which helped set up a 32-yard touchdown run by Anthony Grant with 8:20 in the opening quarter.

The Rangers (9-3) retaliated by putting together a 10-play, 71-yard drive that was capped off by a two-yard score by Jaquerrious Williams. After the missed extra point, Northwest trailed 7-6 with 2:54 on the clock.

A costly turnover in the form of a fumble hurt the Broncos on their next series. Northwest was able to capitalize with the go-ahead 29-yard field goal by Eli Hamlin with under a minute left in the quarter.

Down 9-7 entering the second quarter, NMMI used an eight-play drive to take a 14-9 lead.

Grant scored his second rushing touchdown of the afternoon, this time from 38 yards out with 13:35 in the second quarter.

The Rangers were unable to convert on fourth-and-12 from the NMMI 30 on their next series.

David Rocha Photo
The Broncos defense shuts down a Rangers play before it gets started during the Broncos’ 49-30 win at the Wool Bowl Saturday.

NMMI took advantage by stringing together a 10-play, 70-yard drive. Mason Myers capped it off with a two-yard touchdown run to extend the Broncos’ lead to 12 points with 3:09 remaining until halftime.

Northwest answered back with an eight-play drive that resulted in a 20-yard touchdown run by Williams.

From the first play from scrimmage, Grant sprinted into the end zone from 69 yards out to make the score 28-16 with 10 seconds to go in the half.

With an opportunity to cut the deficit and trail by two, the Rangers missed out on a golden opportunity from the NMMI 13. Northwest tried to spike the ball and stop the clock to get one final shot at the end zone, but it was unsuccessful as time expired.

There was a lull in the action to begin the second half as each team punted away on their first offensive series. That all changed when a spark was ignited for NMMI after a turnover by the Ranger offense.

Ghvon Furlow grabbed an interception to help the Broncos set up at their own 25. Unfortunately, NMMI wasn’t able to muster up any points as it punted away.

The Rangers cut the deficit to five with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Michael Hiers to E. Jai Mason with 4:32 in the third quarter.

As the third quarter came to a close, the Broncos began the final quarter at their own 12-yard line.

Grant came away with his fourth touchdown as he scored on an 88-yard run to give NMMI some more breathing room with 14:05 on the clock.

Northwest answered back with a seven-play drive that resulted in a 10-yard touchdown pass from Hiers to Mason, making the score 35-30.

With some broken coverage, Pavia found a wide open Terrance Moore for a 63-yard touchdown connection with 10:21 remaining, which extended NMMI’s lead to 42-30.

The Bronco defense came away with their second interception of the night as Joseph Norwood picked off Hiers.

Aided by the offensive line, Grant scored his fifth touchdown from five yards out, which put the Broncos up by 19 points with 1:48 left to go.

Grant had a monster night, carrying the ball 26 times for 398 yards. He is now the top running back in NJCAA Division I with 1,538 yards.

“My offensive line blocked their butts off,” Grant said. “We (stuck) to the plan and we just executed. This is really big. It’s just an honor being in this situation. We’re just going to take advantage of this.”

NMMI compiled 655 yards of total offense, compared to 625 for the Rangers.

On the ground, the Broncos compiled 472 yards on 43 carries.

Pavia completed 8 of 11 passes for 178 yards with one score. Moore led the receiving corps with two catches for 78 yards while Phillips caught three passes for 74 yards.

“We just want a chance at the next level,” Pavia added. “We’re just ready to go out and do it. Our receivers are very dangerous and our defense with our corners are serious.”

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