Late scores by Robinson led Cardinals to 48-41 win in HOT Bowl NJCAA contest
By TJ MAXWELL
The Trinity Valley Cardinals nearly gave away the game in game on of the 17th Annual C.H.A.M.P.S. Heart of Texas Bowl college football doubleheader, but a 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and an interception returned for a touchdown by sophomore Prince Robinson helped hold off the surging Garden City Broncbusters in their 48-41 bowl win on Saturday.
“Prince is such an outstanding kid and a hard worker,” said Trinity Valley head football coach Brad Smiley. “That’s a great way for him to end his career here. We signed him as a corner when he came in but we were loaded at that spot but he was so fast so we put him on the offensive side. He ended up being our third-leading receiver. Some people thought we were crazy when we flipped him back to defense. He’s learning the position all over again and he’s played so well this season.
“I love the kid. He’s just a great example of what you want as a player. He does everything you ask him to and shows up every day.”
Leading 31-21 early in the second quarter on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Trinity Valley sophomore quarterback Shane Eppler to red-shirt freshman Tristen Wallace, the defending HOT Bowl champion Cardinals looked like they may be in trouble when the Broncbusters scored two unanswered touchdowns to begin the fourth quarter and take a 35-31 lead.
A 102-yard kickoff return by Robinson then gave the lead back the Trinity Valley, 38-35, but the Broncbusters quickly regained the lead 41-38 on a four-play, 53-yard scoring drive culminating in a 10-yard touchdown pass from red-shirt freshman quarterback Terry Wilson to red-shirt sophomore Daniel Davis.
A 42-yard field goal by Trinity Valley freshman Angel Sevier knotted the game at 41-all with 1:00 left in the contest.
After the ensuing kickoff pinned the Broncbusters at their own 17, an interception for a touchdown by Robinson on the first play from scrimmage iced the game for the Cardinals with 50 seconds remaining.
“We just had to stay disciplined,” said Robinson. “I had to read the 2 to 1. The 2 did an out so I had to jump it.
“It feels unbelievable. I believed in the team. We come out here and practiced every week and we did what he had to do.”
The Cardinals took an early 17-0 lead on a pair of passes from Eppler to sophomore Tony Mullins and a 46-yard field goal by Sevier.
The Broncbusters got on the scoreboard with a six-play scoring drive that began at their own 32 on a five-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Nigel Kilby for a 17-7 score at the half.
The Broncbusters pulled within a field goal, 17-14 on a 10-play drive to start the second half. Another pass from Wilson to Kilby for three yards completed the drive.
“We were up on them early 17-0 and they had every reason in the world to start cashing it in, maybe thinking they were out of it,” said Smiley. But, they kept battling and fighting and it was a great football game.”
The Cardinals responded with an 11-play scoring drive to push their lead to 10, 24-14, on a one-yard run by Eppler.
The first of two interceptions for touchdowns by the Broncbusters again made it a three-point contest.
Freshman linebacker Dillon Williams intercepted the pass of Eppler at the line of scrimmage and returned it 49 yards for the touchdown.
The Cardinals regained their 10-point advantage, 31-21, on a nine-play scoring drive that began at their own 31. A 21-yard touchdown pass from Eppler to Wallace capped the drive.
Red-shirt sophomore Meiko Dotson then jumped under the throw of Eppler on the Cardinals’ first play from scrimmage and returned it 20 yards for the touchdown to again pull within three, 31-28.
The Broncbusters then took their first lead of the contest on a 14-yard pass from Wilson to red-shirt freshman Remi Simmons for the 35-31 Garden City lead with 11:28 left in the contest.
This was the last year for coach Smiley as he tendered his resignation prior to the bowl game and Robinson wanted to send him out the right way.
“We had to win for him,” he said. “We had to send him out with a bang.”
Eppler finished 21 for 47 passing for 242 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Sophomore Torrin Justice and red-shirt freshman Brayten Kubecka each finished with 50 yards receiving to lead Trinity Valley on three and six catches, respectively. Wallace added three grabs for 48 yards and a score while Mullins had four grabs for 45 yards and two scores.
Red-shirt freshman Alphonso Thomas led the Cardinals’ rush attack with 15 carries for 103 yards. Sophomore Pat Peek and Robinson led the defense with 5.5 and five tackles, respectively. Robinson added the pick six.
Wilson finished 30 for 56 passing for 333 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions. Wilson also led the rushers with 18 carries for 76 yards.
Davis led the receivers with 13 catches for 166 yards and a score while Simmons added four catches for 54 yards and a score and Kilby had 28 yards and two scores on five catches.
Freshman Andreus Price and sophomore Matt Terrell led the defensive with 8.5 and eight tackles, respectively.