By Angel Verdejo
The Cove Herald
The ninth annual CHAMPS Heart of Texas Bowl will feature two of the top seven teams in the country according to this week's National Junior College Athletic Association/JCFootball.com Top 20 poll.
No. 4 Navarro College, which spent the previous two weeks atop the poll, will face seventh-ranked Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. The teams meet Dec. 5 at Copperas Cove's Bulldawg Stadium.
Navarro (10-1) finished second in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference, losing 45-34 to Blinn College in the second meeting between the teams in a 16-day span. The Bulldogs won the first meeting Oct. 31, taking Blinn's top spot in the poll and bumping the Buccaneers down to fourth.
No. 2 Blinn won the rematch in the conference championship game and will play top-ranked Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College in the Citizens Bank Bowl on Dec. 6. The same two teams met in last season's HOT bowl, with Fort Scott winning 30-14 after scoring 24 unanswered second-quarter points to upset the then No. 5-ranked Buccaneers.
Mississippi Gulf Coast (9-2) also finished second in its conference, taking the runner-up spot in the Mississippi Association of Community & Junior Colleges. The Bulldogs lost to East Mississippi Community College 75-71, two months after they beat EMCC by 17 points in the regular season.
"We think this is going to be a great game and a great matchup," said Copperas Cove athletic director Jack Welch, also the bowl game's director. "Our game is highly-thought of across the country and there's no question it's going to be a great game."
Both schools are making their second appearances in the Heart of Texas Bowl. Navarro lost to Coffeyville Community College 49-14 in 2001, while Mississippi Gulf Coast beat Kilgore College 62-28 two years ago.
All military personnel and persons with an ID card are admitted free. Cove school district students and staff are also admitted free.
Advance tickets are $6 for adults and $3 for children 12 and under, and are available at the Copperas Cove High School Athletic Annex or by calling (254) 547-4111. Tickets at the gate will be $8 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under.
CHAMPS is Communities Helping Americans Mature, Progress and Succeed, which promotes students to take a stand against the illicit use of drugs and alcohol. A division of America's Drug Free Productions, CHAMPS provides education about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and promotes community service.