(BILOXI, Ms.) In this dogfight, one group of Bulldogs barked, while the other pack of Bulldogs had plenty of bite.
No. 7 Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College played like a title contender in a 41-7 pasting of No. 3 Georgia Military College at the first-ever Mississippi Bowl Dec. 8 at Biloxi Indian Stadium in front of an estimated crowd of 5,000.
The Bulldogs (10-2) shared the 2007 NJCAA title with Butler (Kansas) Community College and have won two straight MACJC state championships. The Mississippi Bowl victory should catapult them into the NJCAA top five rankings.
“We set the tempo early,” said Gulf Coast head coach Steve Campbell. “We wanted to come out of the gate fast and that’s what we did.”
Gulf Coast got a big defensive play right off the bat as Ira Smith intercepted a pass from GMC quarterback Joei Fiegler. The Bulldogs returned the favor on the ensuing drive as quarterback Greg Jenkins fumbled and GMC recovered.
From that point on, it was all Gulf Coast.
The Bulldog defense held GMC (9-2) to 57 yards of offense in the first half, while Jenkins led his team to four scoring drives to give Gulf Coast a 20-0 halftime lead.
In the first quarter, Gulf Coast NJCAA All-American kicker Sean Brauchle got the Bulldogs on the board with a 42-yard field goal. Then Jenkins, the team’s game offensive MVP, hit wide receiver Kelvin Bolden on a 50-yard touchdown pass to make it 10-0. Jenkins finished the day completing 9 of 16 passes for 152 yards and three TD passes.
The second quarter featured at 3-yard touchdown run by Vic Ballard and a 32-yard field goal by Brauchle.
“We weren’t able to punch it in a lot in the first half, but we were able to move the football,” Campbell said.
Gulf Coast punched it in with authority on the first play of the second half as Brandon Johnson took in a short GMC kickoff and raced 75 yards for a touchdown to make it 27-0 just 13 seconds into the third quarter.
Georgia Military then got its lone score of the game as Fiegler hit Cheleb Ravenall on a 29-yard touchdown pass to make it 27-7. However, any momentum the GMC Bulldogs had was erased when Gulf Coast’s game defensive MVP Malcolm Tatum sacked Fiegler and forced a fumble that All-American linebacker Chris White recovered near midfield.
A few plays later on a fourth down and three from the GMC 30, Gulf Coast employed its short-yardage “jumbo” formation. But instead of a run, Jenkins rolled out and threw to White, who was used as a tight end. White scampered 30 yards, and the Bulldogs were up 34-7.
“I was really excited when I caught that pass,” White said. “The sun was in my eyes. I don’t know how I caught it, but I was glad to get the score.”
At the end of the third quarter, Jenkins got his third TD pass as Kevin Barkley made a leaping catch and went 31 yards for the score.
“As sophomores, we tried to set a tone for the younger guys to follow,” White added.
The 2008 Bulldog sophomore class finished at Gulf Coast with a 22-2 overall record, a 2007 NJCAA Co-national title, two MACJC state championships, and two MACJC South Division crowns.
“It was nice to go out this way,” said Bulldog defensive back Demond Washington. “It feels great. We had some tough times this season, but we came together as a team and ended up winning this bowl championship.”
Gulf Coast also finished the 2008 season with 440 points, which ties the record for most points in college history set by last year’s squad.
“It’s going to be fun watching these sophomores move on to four-year colleges,” said Campbell. “We’re going to miss these guys.”
The players of the game for Georgia Military were running back Steven Robinson and linebacker Tony Straughter. GMC head coach Bert Williams was impressed with how well Gulf Coast played against his team.
“You don’t know how good they are until they go out and play a bowl game,” Williams said. “They obviously were very good today.”
Meanwhile Campbell, whose five-year record at Gulf Coast stands at 41-11, summed up the day for his team, saying “Anytime you can beat the No. 3 team in the nation 41-7, that’s pretty good.”