By Steve Diffey
Associate Athletic Director for External Relations
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – The Holmes Community College Bulldogs made history Sunday by winning their first NJCAA Bowl with a 28-21 win over the Iowa Western Community College Reivers in the Graphic Edge Bowl. Holmes trailed 21-14 at halftime, but the Holmes defense stiffened in the second half, and the offense used big plays to pull out the win.
Holmes went into the game ranked No. 9 in the NJCAA, but they came out as Graphic Edge Bowl Champions and after Monday's poll, the Bulldogs finished the year as the No. 7-ranked team. Sunday's appearance in a bowl game was the first in 28 years. Holmes is 1-2 in NJCAA bowl games.
"We found a way to win," Holmes Head Coach Jeff Koonz said. "It's a great day to be a Bulldog.
"We have a great coaching staff who have been on trips like this before," he said. "They did a great job preparing these kids for this. These kids deserve to be champions. They do things right on and off the field, and we are really proud of them."
Sophomore receiver D.J. Montgomery from Durant was named the game's Most Valuable Offensive Player while sophomore defensive end Desmond Lester of Batesville was named the game's Most Valuable Defensive Player. Montgomery finished the game with seven catches for 205 yards and two touchdowns, one from 30 in the second quarter and one from 54 in the third quarter. Lester finished the game with only eight tackles but added one sack, four tackles for loss but had two key fumble recoveries.
Iowa Western got on the scoreboard first in the first quarter on a 49-yard touchdown pass. The extra point was good, and Iowa Western led 7-0 with 10:22 left in the quarter.
Holmes tied the game at seven with 2:52 left in the first quarter when sophomore quarterback Dejerric Bryant found sophomore receiver Kavonte Younger on a 25-yard pass. Younger caught the pass around the 10 yard line and bullied his way into the endzone for the score. Caleb Shelly's extra point was good.
The Reivers went back up early in the second quarter on another touchdown pass. This one went for 26 yards with 14:54 left in the quarter. Iowa Western led 14-7 after the extra point was good.
After Bryant went down with a hamstring injury, freshman quarterback Josh Dodd from Kosciusko came in the game at quarterback and took the Bulldogs on another scoring drive. With 9:40 to play in the first half, Dodd found Montgomery on a 30-yard touchdown pass. Shelly's extra point was good tying the game at 14.
The Reivers got their last score of the game with 6:24 left in the first half on their third touchdown pass of the game from 43 yards out. The extra point was good, and Iowa Western led 21-14 at the break.
The Bulldog defense then came out inspired in the second half forcing four turnovers and limiting the Reivers to 46 yards of offense and only two first downs.
Late in the third, the Bulldogs began a game-tying drive. The Bulldogs drove 88 yards moving the ball quickly on two huge passes from Bryant to Montgomery, one from 40 and 21 yards. Freshman running back Cameryn Brent later scored untouched from 10 yards out with 1:02 left in the third, and Shelly added the extra point.
After the kickoff, the Reivers turned the ball over again on a pass play. Lester was there again when the receiver dropped the ball after a catch at the Holmes 46, and Lester recovered. On the next play, Bryant hit Montgomery on a 54-yard touchdown pass as the quarter ended. Shelly's kick put the Bulldogs up 28-21.
The Bulldog defense was not kind to the Reivers in the fourth quarter forcing two punts, a turnover on downs and an interception. A pass fell incomplete on fourth down with 19 seconds left, and the Bulldogs ran the clock out and the celebration began.
Bryant finished the game 9-of-22 for 224 yards and two touchdowns. Dodd in relief was 2-of-4 for 35 yards and one touchdown. Sophomore running back Matt Fuller of Starkville had 15 carries for 78 yards while Brent had 10 carries for 42 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, sophomore linebacker Jamar Smith from Lyons, Ga. finished the game with eight tackles including one sack, one tackle for loss and one pass breakup. Sophomore defensive back Darron Temple from Columbus, sophomore defensive back Sean Harper from Hartwell, Ga. and sophomore defensive end Tyshon Spencer from Crawford each had four tackles. Temple and sophomore safety Qmond Woods from McComb each had an interception in the game.