March 4, 2024

Garden City set to host Navarro in inaugural Scooters Bowl

Courtesy of Garden City Community College

Garden City, KS -The Garden City Community College Athletics Department announced on Monday that the inaugural Scooters’ Coffee Bowl will feature the 12th-ranked Broncbusters and Navarro College. The game is set for Saturday Dec. 4 with a 2 p.m. kickoff at Broncbuster Stadium.

“When we began the process, our goal was to bring a competitive matchup to the fans of Garden City,” Interim Athletic Director, Colin Lamb said in a statement. “We reached out to several schools, but in the end, Navarro was a perfect fit.”

The Bulldogs, which finished fourth in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference, will be playing in their first bowl game in three years. In 2018, they lost to Hutchinson, 35-6 in the Salt City Bowl.

“They play in one of the toughest conferences in the country,” Garden City Head Coach, Tom Minnick explained. “They will challenge us, especially with their passing game.”

Through the air, the Bulldogs average 330 yards per game, which ranks second in the nation behind conference-rival Kilgore. In fact, in their nine games, Navarro quarterback Qua Gray, an Eastern Illinois transfer who tossed 60 touchdowns during his senior season at Coronado High School in Lubbock, TX, threw for 340 yards or more five times this year, including a season-high 521 in a 39-31 loss to New Mexico Military on Sept. 18. The 521 yards was the third most in a single game in school history. Gray also led the country with an average of 312 yards per contest and ranked eighth with 19 touchdown passes.

“We have played some of the best teams in the country all year,” Minnick said. “But Navarro’s quarterback may be the most dynamic.”

Gray led Navarro to a 5-4 record, fueling an offense that averaged 41 points and 504 yards per game. They were one of only two teams to eclipse the 500 mark.

“We are excited and look forward to hosting Navarro and welcoming the team and fans to our great community,” College President, Dr. Ryan Ruda stated.”

The Bulldogs, under third-year Head Coach Scott Parr, topped Cisco, one of the top teams from the spring season, in the opener before dropping three straight including a 39-31 defeat to second-ranked New Mexico Military, a game in which they led 22-17 at the half. But Navarro finished strong, closing the season by winning four out of their final five games. They finished with a winning record for the 14th time in the past 15 seasons.

“Don’t be fooled by the four losses,” Minnick explained. “Their schedule is tough. They were playing as well as anybody in the country over the last month.”

Meantime for Garden City, 2021 will be remembered for what could have been.

Minnick, who is the third winningest active coach in NJCAA history, authored yet another truly remarkable campaign. But it wasn’t perfect; just flip the calendar back to September for further proof of that.

After blowing out Fort Scott 76-24 in week one, a game in which the Broncbusters tied the school record for points, Garden City struggled to find any rhythm seven days later in Highland. If not for a brilliant defensive performance, one that saw Aaron Cheatwood’s unit limit the Scotties to just 115 total yards, the Broncbusters may have sunk into a 1-1 hole. Instead, Minnick’s bunch was 2-0 heading into a primetime showdown with Independence.

“The Highland game wasn’t pretty by any stretch,” Minnick explained. “We made way too many mistakes.”

Against the Pirates, the Broncbusters raced out to a 10-0 lead. But missed opportunities cost them dearly, and Kywon McCray’s 77-yard scoop and score in the fourth quarter, changed the game. Following the 26-13 loss, sources confirmed that the officials made the improper ruling on Matthew Purnell’s critical fumble saying the play should have been ruled down.

“We handed that game to Independence, but it is what it is” Minnick said.

Almost the same exact scenario played itself out the next week when Garden City’s 13-10 fourth-quarter lead evaporated. Dylan Liable threw two touchdown passes over the final 9:45, and Hutchinson escaped with a 24-16 victory.

The Broncbusters rebounded with a 49-0 win over Dodge City and a 39-11 thrashing of sixth-ranked Coffeyville at Veteran’s Memorial Stadium. But another questionable call didn’t help Minnick’s cause in the regular-season finale vs. Butler. Trailing 24-17 with less than two minutes to play, Rhett Ricedorff found David Elder for a 28-yard touchdown pass on fourth down. However, moments later the officials flagged Garden City for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on defensive end Raymond Cutts, who was penalized for celebrating with his teammates. That turned a 19-yard extra point into a 35-yard adventure, a kick that William Greig missed wide right.

“I don’t even know what to say about that,” Minnick commented afterwards.

48 hours later, Butler was forced to forfeit that game because of an ineligible player. The Broncbusters responded with playoff wins over Dodge City and the Grizzlies, and Garden City punched a ticket to the Region Championship Game for the first time in two decades.

“We are ecstatic to host the Scooter’s Coffee Bowl and showcase Garden City,” Dr. Ruda said. “Congratulations to Coach Minnick and the Broncbuster football team on a great year.”

Tickets can be purchased at $10 for general admission and $5 for students.

Notes: Garden City is 10-13-1 all-time in bowl games with their last victory coming in the 2016 El Toro Bowl…Navarro is 13-6-1 but hasn’t won a bowl game since the 2013 Brazos Valley Bowl-a 34-27 victory over Hinds College…Navarro is 1-1 all-time in Kansas bowl games, losing to Hutch in the 2018 Salt City Bowl and beating Butler in the Citizens Bank Bowl in 2010…This will be the third all-time meeting between the two schools-Navarro won the first two: 17-10 in 1991 and 44-6 in 1992.