By Don Bolding
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE – Football teams from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and Navarro College, both named the Bulldogs, took advantage of a barbecue banquet Friday night at the Copperas Cove High School cafeteria to get acclimated before squaring off for a 2 p.m. kickoff today for the ninth annual Heart of Texas Bowl at Bulldawg Stadium.
The top-rated junior college teams will be playing in support of CHAMPS, an acronym for Communities Helping Americans to Mature, Progress and Succeed. Bulldawg athletic director and HOT Bowl director Jack Welch said the whole purpose of CHAMPS is "to keep kids off drugs and alcohol."
Welch is also the drummer and leader of Cove's own classic-rock Chain Link Band, which played during a social hour and dinner. Several of its members had played with big names in the 1970s, and their singing and playing caught the wild authentic spirit of the age.
Banquet organizer Sherry Hoffpauir, whose husband, Joe Lombardi, was master of ceremonies, presented baskets of pepper, coffee and other hot items to Gulf Coast vice president Mary Graham and Navarro athletic director Roark Montgomery, and both colleges received plaques for their participation.
Welch said, "This is one of the top bowl games in the country, and a lot of college scouts will be watching."
He said, "A lot of people don't understand what opportunity is. The ones who do are guys who didn't look at what they didn't have, so they became what they wanted to become. When I got here in 1976, Cove hadn't had a winning season in 30 years, but we saw ourselves as a diamond in the rough and learned how to improvise. When the odds look insurmountable, we improvise and find a way to get the job done. We're about education, and it's not about courses but about changed behavior."
Officials of both colleges thanked HOT officials for the chance to play one more game. Gulf Coast head football coach Steve Campbell said, "I think we and Navarro feel about the same. We've been within an inch of national championships, and we're grateful for one more chance."
Welch said the two teams together only lost five games in the past three years. "This may be a better game than the national championships, anyway," he said.
The HOT bowl is presented by the city of Copperas Cove and the Killeen Daily Herald. Other sponsors are the Cove Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau; Cove Independent School District; Jack Smith, Realtor; Hoffpauir Motors; Central Texas Sport & Spine Clinic; Duran Homes; Connell Chevrolet; kdhpressbox.com; Copperas Cove Quarterback Club; Copperas Cove Lions Club; Extraco Banks; Dependable Paint & Body; Farley & Sather's Candy Co. and the Cove Herald.
Tickets at the gate are $8 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. Military personnel and Cove ISD students and staff are admitted free with ID.
Contact Don Bolding at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7557.