COPPERAS COVE — Tyler Middleton was busy celebrating with his teammates or talking to reporters when the winner of the MVP award of the 2012 CHAMPS Heart of Texas Bowl were announced.
He was shocked when he heard his name echo through the PA system Saturday afternoon at Bulldawg Stadium as the fifth-ranked Navarro Bulldogs defeated No. 20 Georgia Military 30-23 to win its second straight HOT Bowl title.
“It was a big game and it was exciting,” said Middleton. “I trusted my offensive line. I told them to give me five seconds and I’ll do the rest.” The freshman running back darted though the middle of the GMC (7-4) defense and scored from 64 and 46 yards. He finished the game with seven carries for 126 yards.
“Tyler is a phenomenal athlete. We told him before the season that he had to get tougher and run inside and he did. With his speed he can be unstoppable,” said Navarro first-year coach Brian Mayper. “He’s one guy that if he’s determined and wants it bad enough, he could be in the NFL for a long time.”
Mayper also discussed how he and the young back “butted heads” early in the season but that they’ve found common ground in Middleton’s NFL dream.
Mayper was also butting heads with starting quarterback Stump Godfrey during the game. Godfrey’s day was up-and-down as he threw for 171 yards and a score.
He also tossed an interception on a red-zone possession that allowed GMC quarterback Clay Chastain to find Quentin Atkinson for a 29-yard score that gave GMC a 23-17 lead early in the fourth.
Mayper benched the angry Godfrey on the Bulldogs (10-2) next drive. The drive saw backup quarterback Riley Toler lead the offense to a score in four plays — three of the plays were first downs and the other the touchdown.
“Riley proved he could drive down the field. I’m proud of him — he did a super job,” Mayper said of his freshman quarterback.
But that wasn’t enough to keep the talented Godfrey on the bench.
““He said was calmed down and that he was good to go so we definitely wanted to put him back in there,” Mayper said. “Stump’s been our guy all year long — he’s one of the best I’ve ever been around.”
For Middleton he saw the in-fighting as a distraction for his squad and, at least to him, a main reason for the small difference in the score.
“I thought we were gonna come out and run these boys, but they gave us a fight,” said Middleton. “The main thing that hurt us is that we fight ourselves but we calmed down and started to talk to each other and that’s how we were able to come back and win.”
Georgia Military coach Bert Williams felt his team should have won the game and was unhappy with the nine penalties and two turnovers his squad produced.
“To be perfectly honest, I thought we stopped ourselves on offense. We had that (illegal hands to the face) penalty when we had first-and-goal and then we (fumble after that),” Williams said. “We didn’t take advantage of the opportunities. We had routes open. Everything we called was there but we had nine dropped passes and that is unusual for us.”
Regardless of the outcome players and personnel from both schools spoke of how much they enjoyed the hospitality of Copperas Cove and how much they enjoyed the experience.