CCLP file photo - Jack Welch, head football coach/athletic director for Copperas Cove and C.H.A.M.P.S. Heart of Texas Bowl founder, hands the MVP trophy to Eastern Central Community College defender Austin Balthazor after last year’s NJCAA contest. Balthazor had six tackles and a 90-yard fumble return for a touchdown to earn the MVP for the Warriors. This year’s NJCAA game will pit Trinity Valley Community College against Northwest Mississippi Community College.


2016 C.H.A.M.P.S. HOT Bowl to feature familiar names
Cove Leader-Press
The 2016 C.H.A.M.P.S. (Communities Helping American’s Mature, Progress and Succeed) Heart of Texas Bowl will feature some familiar names in it’s 16th season; namely former Copperas Cove record-setting wide receiver Phillip Baptiste and his fourth-ranked Trinity Valley Community College Cardinals making their fourth HOT Bowl appearance.
The Cardinal sophomore will make his second return home to the HOT Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 3 after helping the Cardinals to a 27-24 win over the Colleyville Community College Red Ravens in the 2014 HOT Bowl.
Baptiste made a 45-yard catch to help the Cardinals edge the Ravens. He is fourth on the team in receptions with 22 grabs for 286 yards and three scores. Baptiste stills holds many Copperas Cove records including first and second in receiving yards per game (275 vs A&M Consolidated in 2013 and 212 vs Temple in 2013); receptions per game (14 rec. vs Waco Midway in 2013); receiving touchdowns in a game (4 rec. vs Shoemaker 2013); receptions per season (113 in 2013); receiving yards in a season (1,556 in 2013); receiving TDs in a season (15 rec. in 2013) and receptions in a career (136 rec. in 2012-2013).
“We are looking forward to playing in the Heart of Texas Bowl again,” said Trinity Valley athletic director and head football coach Brad Smiley in a press release. “We have had great experiences in Copperas Cove and we are excited to play a highly-ranked and very good Northwest Mississippi team there this year.”
The Cardinals are coming off a 54-41 overtime victory over Kilgore in the Southwestern Junior College Football Conference regional title game.
The C.H.A.M.P.S. HOT Bowl features two major bowl games each year, with two top junior colleges from the NJCAA in the first game at 11 a.m. and schools from NCAA Division II in the second game set for 6 p.m. The game will be streamed live on and the WatchESPN app.
The Cardinals take on defending NJCAA champion Northwest Mississippi Community College Rangers in the early game. Fort Hays will face Eastern New Mexico in the NCAA DII game.
Northwest Mississippi (9-2) is the 5th-ranked in the final NJCAA regular season poll. They are defending national champions have four wins over nationally ranked teams this season. This is the Rangers’ 11th all-time bowl appearance and third in the last five years but first time to the HOT Bowl.
“We’re so excited to get the opportunity to play in a bowl game against a great opponent in TVCC,” Northwest Mississippi head coach Benjy Parker said. “It should be a great matchup. We want to thank our administration and everyone else involved in this decision. It’s an honor to represent the MACJC in this prestigious bowl.”
In the prime time matchup, Eastern New Mexico (7-4) will make their second-consecutive trip to Copperas Cove for the Hot Bowl. The Greyhounds will face the Fort Hays University Tigers with a 6 p.m. kickoff.
In the final week of the regular season, the Greyhounds defeated 12th-ranked Midwestern State on the final play of the game to earn a trip back to the postseason.
“It’s great for our program to go back-to-back years to the postseason,” head coach Josh Lynn said in a press release. “We are excited to have another game.”
Last season, ENMU fell to Arkansas Tech in the C.H.A.M.P.S. HOT Bowl. The Hounds kept it close until the Wonder Boys pulled away late for a 51-35 win.
“The experience of going last year will help us,” said Lynn. “Moving forwards, we are going to get ready for this game.”
Fort Hays State (7-4) is competing in their second-consecutive bowl game after being selected to the Mineral Water Bowl last year. This is the first time in school history that the Tigers will play postseason games in back-to-back seasons. The Tigers will also be looking for their first postseason win in program history.
“We are very excited to accept the invitation from the Heart of Texas Bowl,” said FHSU head coach Chris Brown in a release. “It is a great opportunity for our kids and a great step in the growth of this Tiger program. I am very proud of these young men with the dedication, commitment, and effort they have put into getting this program to where it is now. I am very happy to get the opportunity to coach them for one more game this year.”
This will be the fourth year of the NCAA Division II schools’ inclusion in the HOT Bowl. McMurry (Texas) defeated Southern Arkansas 36-35 in the inaugural contest in 2012. Texas A&M Commerce raced past East Central (Oklahoma) 72-21 in 2014 and Arkansas Tech won last year’s showdown. The 2013 Division II game between the Tarleton State University Texans from Stephenville and the Ouachita Baptist University Tigers of Arkadelphia, AR was cancelled due to inclement weather.
Copperas Cove ISD students and parents who wish to attend the game can receive a free ticket at the office of the student’s campus. Members of the military who wish to attend the games can pick up a ticket at the Athletic Annex located on the campus of Copperas Cove High School by December 2.
The HOT Bowl banquet for the NJCAA teams will be held Friday, Dec 2 at 5:15 p.m. with the banquet for the NCAA D II teams set for 7:30 p.m. Both banquets will be held at the Copperas Cove Civic Center on W Avenue B. Tickets to banquet may be purchased at the door and game tickets at the stadium. Banquet tickets are $20, game tickets are $10 for general admission with home side reserved for $20.
The C.H.A.M.P.S. Heart of Texas Bowl, founded in 2001, is named after a program that is a part of America’s Drug Free Productions, a 501c3 organization founded by Copperas Cove head football coach and athletic director Jack Welch. C.H.A.M.P.S. is open to any Copperas Cove ISD student who pledges to live an alcohol and drug-free lifestyle. The group takes part in many activities, such as fishing, hunting with cameras, horseback riding, video game tournaments and many more, plus members are involved in community service projects.

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