National Junior College Football Championship participants still murky

No. 1 Mississippi Gulf Coast hosts defending national champion, No. 13 East Mississippi, in this week’s conference semi-final playoff match-up. Going into the game, Mississippi Gulf Coast quarterback Chance Lovertich is 55-1 as a starting quarterback going back to high school in 2015. Lovertich threw 72 touchdowns and 6 interceptions while playing for Jackson Prep, and has thrown for 35 touchdowns and 11 interceptions for Mississippi Gulf Coast. Photo courtesy of Mississippi Gulf Coast.

PITTSBURG, Kan. – It’s coming down to the wire as to who will be in Pittsburg for the National Junior College football championship. Conference semifinals are this week, and while Kansas junior colleges do not have a playoff system, their top contenders faceoff in regular season play these last two weeks. And the way this season has gone, winning your conference may not be enough for many teams to make it to the national title game. That said, two teams control their own destiny.

If the undefeated No. 1, Mississippi Gulf Coast (9-0), manages to win the Mississippi Association of Community & Junior Colleges conference (MACJC) playoffs; and, if No. 2 Lackawanna (8-0) wins their last two regular season games, both should earn a slot in the title game. But, it’s been a crazy season and this past weekend was no different. Plus, the MACJC playoff consists of four teams ranked in the top 13 in the nation, and Lackawanna’s final game of the regular season is no pushover.

In the MACJC playoff system, at the end of the regular season the winners of the North and South divisions host the runner-up from the other division.

The MACJC South division was very clear. Mississippi Gulf Coast held off last week’s No. 6 team, Hinds (No. 9, 7-2), with a 264 yard rushing performance in their 31-21 win. The win gives Mississippi Gulf Coast their 16th MACJC South title. To capture the South runner-up slot, Jones (No. 7, 7-2) held off East Central (4-5) in a 35-13 win.

But, for those unfamiliar with MACJC rules, the North division was not so clear. Last week’s No. 2, Northwest Mississippi (No. 10, 7-2) lost 22-21 to unranked Itawamba (5-4), whose stifling defense forced a pair of interceptions and sacked the Northwest Mississippi quarterback five times. That left four teams with 4-2 records within the MACJC North, including both Northwest Mississippi and Itawamba.

In a four-team tie, the MACJC’s tiebreaker rules state overall records are used to determine the division champion and runner-up, meaning Northwest Mississippi is the division champion, and national champion East Mississippi State (No. 13, 6-3) is the runner-up following their 30-22 homecoming win over Northeast Mississippi (3-6).

That puts defending national champion, No. 13 East Mississippi, against the South winner and current No. 1, Mississippi Gulf Coast. No. 7 Jones goes to No. 10 Northwest Mississippi this weekend. The MACJC championship game will be November 9.

No. 2 Lackawanna’s path is a lot clearer following this past weekend’s 48-18 win over Nassau. Lackawanna has steadily climbed the rankings throughout the season. This weekend they host the NJ Warriors (1-7), and they finish their regular season next weekend at home against No. 12 Georgia Military College (7-2). Georgia Military hosts No. 19 Miami (6-2) this weekend.

No. 3 Kilgore (8-1) is coming off of a 34-28 double-overtime win over Tyler (4-4), and this Saturday they host New Mexico Military Institute (5-4) in a Southwest Junior College Football Conference (SWJCFC) semi-final. Kilgore beat New Mexico Military earlier in the year, 35-26. On the other side of the bracket, Trinity Valley (No. 8, 7-2) held off Navarro (4-5) in a 45-44 win, but faces the team once again this weekend in the playoffs. The SWJCFC championship game will be held on November 9.

Again, Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference (KJCCC) does not have a playoff, but things will shake out over the next two weeks, with last year’s national runner-up, Garden City (No. 5, 7-2), facing the other two KJCCC teams ranked in the top six in the nation. Despite a loss by last week’s No. 2 and their own 89-0 win over RPA, Hutchinson (8-1) dropped one slot from No. 3 to No. 4. This week, Hutchinson faces Garden City, who is coming off a 58-14 win over Coffeyville (2-8). Butler (No. 6, 8-2) goes to Iowa Western (No. 11, 6-3) this Saturday, then hosts Garden City in their regular season finale. Also on November 9, Hutchinson finishes their regular season at Iowa Central (5-5).

For the complete poll from October 28, 2019, visit NJCAA.org/sports/fball/polls.

The NJCAA Football Championship game will be held Thursday, December 5 at 5 p.m. CST at Carnie Smith Stadium in Pittsburg, Kansas. Tickets are on sale and can be purchased by calling (620) 235-4796, or visiting NJCAAFootballChampionship.com and clicking “Tickets”.

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