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Lions win first national football title ever at 2011 El Toro Bowl
Jim Howell
Dec. 3rd, 2011

Record-breaking afternoon for QB Wallace powers 55-47 win over top-ranked Arizona Western

Yuma, Arizona – December 3, 2011 – In a battle that featured the nation’s top rushing defense against the nation’s top offense, the 2nd-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College defeated the top-ranked Arizona Western College Matadors, 55-47, in the NJCAA Football Championship Game at the 2011 El Toro Bowl-presented by Time Warner Cable-at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Yuma Saturday afternoon. It’s the first-ever national football title for the Lions, and foiled the Matadors’ chances for their first national title since 1972.

The sellout crowd of 5500 fans that braved an unusually cold and windy Yuma day got their money’s worth as they took in the first El Toro Bowl since 1973. The Matadors’ game plan of trying to rattle record-setting EMCC quarterback Bo Wallace never came to fruition as the Pulaski, Tennessee freshman took the opening drive and marched the Lions down the field on a 7-play, 77-yard drive-culminating with a 52-yard TD strike from Wallace to Rodney Davis to give the Lions a 6-0 lead (the extra point was wide left). That set the tone as the Lions’ no-huddle, quick-strike offense scored 27 unanswered points to start the game-all on Wallace touchdown throws. A pair of Wallace-to-Lacoltan Bester TD throws followed by a 29-yard TD pass to Jeremy Reed gave the Lions a 27-0 lead just 2:21 into the 2nd quarter. Finally, after being bottled up by the EMCC defense for the first 24 minutes of the game, the nation’s leading rusher, AWC tailback Damien Williams, awakened the home crowd by breaking three tackles at the line of scrimmage, changing direction and turning on the jets in the open field for a highlight-reel 53-yard TD scamper with 5:49 left in the half to get AWC on the scoreboard. Wallace brought the Lions right back, hitting Davis twice: with a screen pass that turned into a 60-yard gain, then over the middle with a 24-yard TD pass that helped Wallace set a new NJCAA record for touchdown passes in a single season with 51. Undeterred, the Matadors tried to build momentum going into halftime as Matadors’ quarterback Cameron Coffman engineered a 9-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, hitting 5 of his 7 pass attempts on the drive, and finishing it off with a 5-yard strike to sophomore wideout Josh Ford in the back of the end zone with 30 seconds left to cut EMCC’s halftime lead to 34-13.

The real shootout was yet to come as the two teams combined for 42 3rd quarter points. The Lions struck first as Wallace found J.J. Harbin with a 29-yard TD throw three minutes into the half. That’s when the Matadors began pulling out the stops to get back in the game. Ford and Coffman hooked up for the second time in the game for a touchdown-only this time, it was Ford on a double-reverse tossing a 22-yard pass into the end zone to give Coffman his first career receiving touchdown. After AWC safety Quyuan Mattox tagged Wallace with his only interception of the game, the Matadors cashed it in on the next play as Williams-the ‘Mira Mesa Express’-motored 68 yards for his 26th rushing touchdown of the season. The Matadors seemed to have the momentum in their favor and had the Lions buried inside the EMCC 10-yard line when Wallace struck again, finding running back Rodriguez Moore for a screen pass that turned into a 94-yard TD pass, Wallace’s 7th of the game. Undaunted, the Matadors took the momentum after Andre O’Neil returned the ensuing kickoff to the EMCC 20-yard line, and Coffman cashed it in on the next play with a TD bullet to D.J. Johnson with 4:11 left. EMCC again responded, this time with a 7-play, 65-yard drive that ended with Antoinne Adkins scoring the Lions’ only rushing TD of the game: a 3-yard scamper out of the ‘Wildcat’ formation to give EMCC a 55-34 lead after 3 quarters. The Matadors would then storm back as Coffman engineered a nine-play, 59-yard drive with a pair of 10-yard runs and three passes to Williams-the last one a 15-yard TD strike to bring the Mats within 15 (the extra point was blocked) with just under 12 minutes left. The same two would hook up for another 15-yard TD pass with 3:39 left to cut EMCC’s lead to just 8. It would be the closest the Matadors would get, though, as their last gasp attempt on fourth-and-14 with :11 left fell incomplete, and the Lions had their first NJCAA Football Championship and their first-ever 12-win season.

Wallace, who finished with 30 completions in 44 attempts for 452 yards and 7 touchdowns, was named EMCC’s El Toro Bowl Offensive Most Valuable Player; while Lions’ defensive end Denico (deh-NEE-koh) Autry was named their defensive MVP.

For the Matadors, who end the year with the first 11-win season in the program’s 47-year history, Williams was named their offensive MVP as he rushed for 146 yards and 2 TD on 21 carries. Meanwhile, starting middle linebacker Steffon Martin earned the Matadors’ defensive MVP honors.



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