To be the best, you must certainly beat the best, and the in their fourth year as a program the #1 ranked Iowa Western Reivers earned their first NJCAA championship beating the most successful junior college football program in the #2 Butler Grizzlies 27-7 Sunday at the Graphic Edge Bowl in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
“I am really proud of they way my team battled. It would have been easy to lay down at different times during this game, but they didn’t. They showed a lot of character. I am just sorry we could not get it done,” said Butler head coach Troy Morrell.
The two teams battled to a 0-0 stalemate in the first quarter like two heavyweight boxers trying to find a hole in their opponent’s defense.
The Reivers drew first blood with 4:24 left in the half as Iowa Western’s quarterback took a keeper up the middle for 6 yards to cap a 6 play 47-yard scoring drive.
Butler looked to answer back before the half after recovering a Waters' fumble near midfield and were driving late in the second.
Grizzlies quarterback Billy Cosh threw a pass through the middle of the Reivers defense and it was picked off and returned by James Garlock 88-yards for a score, putting up Iowa Western up 14-0 at the halftime whistle.
Not only did the play give Iowa Western a two-possession lead, but knocked Cosh out of the game with an injury to his knee, which he received while trying to make the tackle at the goal line.
Cosh finished the game going 7-20 passing for 31 yards and two interceptions against a stingy Reivers secondary.
The Grizzlies took the ball first in the second half without Cosh; back up Tyler Harrison stepped into the starting role.
Harrison’s first pass attempt was intercepted near midfield and Iowa Western did not relent. Don Jackson scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to cap a 12-play 60-yard drive to put the Reivers up 21-0.
The Grizzlies got on the scoreboard with 8:27 left in the fourth quarter. Harrison completed a big play-action pass to Devin Clarke to get to the 1-yard line and Harrison finished the drive with a QB sneak for the score. Unfortunately it was too little too late for the Grizzlies as the Reivers added two field goals in the fourth to close out the game 27-7.
The Grizzlies defense held Iowa Western well below their season average. The Reivers had allowed only five quarterback sacks all season, but Jake Waters was sacked six times by the Grizzlies on Sunday. Ufomba Kamalu had 12 tackles for the Grizzlies, including 2.5 sacks, while Josh Kirkland and Blake Bean had 11 tackles apiece, each with a sack.
Page 2 of 2 - Derrick Thomas led offensively with 21 carries for 108 yards. It is his third straight game with more than 100 yards rushing.
“Our sophomores had a great career here, two conference championships, two region championships and a Citizens Bank Bowl championship. A 22-2 record a good run for those guys and they definitely built onto the tradition. It is never easy to get to these games. I am proud of these kids,” said Morrell.
After the tough defeat, a humble coach Morrell was thankful.
“I am thankful for all the support we have from all the people in El Dorado and Wichita area and really throughout the whole state of Kansas. I wish we could have got it done and brought the championship home,” said Morrell.
Butler finished the season with an 11-1 record after winning their third consecutive Jayhawk Conference and Region VI championships with undefeated records.