The National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) football title game was held on Thursday in Carnie Smith Stadium between the East Mississippi Lions and the Garden City Broncbusters.
Both teams came to Pittsburg undefeated in this clash of two of the best programs going in junior college football, with East Mississippi eventually taking the title by a score of 10 to nine in a defensive battle. East Mississippi has been on the national radar for the past few years after being featured on the Netflix show, “Last Chance U” as well as being crowned national champions five of the last eight years.
“Getting back to the National Championship game is a tremendous honor, it’s a testament to our guys and how hard we’ve worked,” East Mississippi head coach Buddy Stephens said.
Stephens also talked about his time on “Last Chance U” and how it has opened doors for junior college football.
“It’s all about selling something, it’s about making a dollar. The show proved that we can get enough people to watch and that’s why we’ve got this opportunity …,” Stephens said.
That opportunity being the first true neutral site national championship game in 30 years with this being the first game of a new three-year deal for Pitt State to play host to the big game. The game attracted national television attention and was broadcast live on the CBS Sports network.
“We are extremely honored that the NJCAA has chosen us to be home on their football national championship,” B.J. Harris, executive director of the Crawford County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), said. “Pittsburg and Crawford County have built a reputation of being a great host community. Our hospitality, great facilities, and love of college football were certainly major factors in this selection.”
In years past, the number one team would invite the number two team to play at a bowl game near their location. This is not the first time PSU has played host to the big game though as in 2009 Fort Scott Community College hosted the game here, and in 2010 Butler County Community College brought the game to Pittsburg.
The game annually brings another major national sporting event to the campus right alongside the NCJAA and NCAA Division-II national indoor track championships.
“PSU is excited to partner with the CVB and the city of Pittsburg to bring another national class event to campus and to the community,” PSU athletic director Jim Johnson said. “Having the honor to host the NJCAA National Championship for three years beginning in 2018 at Carnie Smith Stadium will be an exciting opportunity, much like hosting indoor track & field national championships with the NJCAA and NCAA at the Robert W. Plaster Center has been the past two years.”
Also, of note to local football fans, the game was the final game for Broncbuster coach Jeff Sims before he moves to coaching the Missouri Southern Lions.
Next year, the game is planned for between Dec. 5 and 7, a week later than this season’s contest.