Written by Tristan Spears, NJCAA
Cedar Falls, IA – Two powerhouses squared off late Sunday afternoon in the final game of the 2018 NJCAA Football season in the Feature Game of the 2018 Graphic Edge Bowl.
Midway through the first quarter, No. 3 Iowa Western opened the scoring when Reiver quarterback Tyriek 'T.J.' Starks connected with Marcell Barbee for a 25-yard touchdown for an early 6-0 lead. No. 9 Snow would answer early in the second quarter with a short Braxton Kerr touchdown run to cap off a seven-play, 35-yard drive created by an interception by Snow's Noa Purcell to create the premium starting field position.
Five minutes before halftime, Marcell Barbee caught his second touchdown of the day via a 62-yard strike from Starks as Barbee went untouched into the end zone to give the Reivers a 13-7 halftime advantage.
The second half would prove to be a kicker's battle. An Iowa Western fumble set up a Snow possession from the Iowa Western 1-yard line. It took three plays, but Jaylen Warren found his way to a touchdown from a handoff to the right side to give the Badgers the slight 14-13 edge with 25 minutes remaining in the contest.
It would be a kicker's game the rest of the way. Several minutes after the last Snow score, Hunter Pinegar gave the Reivers the advantage once more with a short 24-yard connection.
To open the fourth quarter, Snow kicker James Baird drilled a 43-yard field goal as the Badgers took a 17-16 lead. Both teams would battle to a pair of empty possessions.
Multiple Snow penalties kept alive what would prove to be Iowa Western's game-winning drive. It eventually set up an opportunity for the backup kicker to be a hero. Eddie Ogamba hadn't seen action in the kicking game since a 33-10 win at conference foe Ellsworth on October 6th. With just under seven minutes to go in Sunday's contest, Ogamba split the uprights on a 37-yard attempt to put the Reivers up for good.
"I'm so happy for him [Ogamba]," said Iowa Western head coach Scott Strohmeier. "A lot of kids, when things don't go their way, they quit. But he kept kicking and kicking. I'm watching him kick after halftime and go up to Coach [Matt] Marietta and say: 'let's use him if needed.'"
The Reiver defense would pin their ears back and stifle the last few Snow possessions. The Reivers were nearly able to run the clock out but were forced to punt with four seconds remaining. The Iowa Western coverage team would quickly smother any possibility of a return, sealing the sixth NJCAA bowl game victory in the program's short history.
"I'm proud of our guys, we kept fighting and fighting," said Strohmeier. "I don't know if we could have played another five minutes."
- Both teams faced off in the 2010 Top of the Mountains Bowl in Salt Lake City, UT. No. 13 Snow defeated No. 6 Iowa Western 48-36.
- In his 10th season in Council Bluffs, Iowa Western head coach collects his sixth 10-win season with the win on Sunday.
- Snow is the furthest west team to ever play in the Graphic Edge Bowl. The previous was Dodge City (1992)
- Iowa Western quarterback Tyriek 'T.J.' Starks takes home Offensive MVP honors after personally accounting for nearly 400 yards of offense (295 passing, 91 rushing)
- Recording 13 total tackles, including 10 solo and five for loss, Snow's Sione Asi earned the game's Defensive MVP.
- With today's defeat, Snow falls to 17-6 all-time in NJCAA bowl appearances
- Today's victory moves the Reivers to 6-3 in NJCAA bowl games, having made bowl appearances in nine straight seasons.