It will be hard to top what New Mexico Military Institute running back Anthony Grant did on Sunday, but the Broncos star won’t back down from that challenge after he helped NMMI football make history.
The No. 2-ranked Broncos (11-1) will play in their first national championship game next Friday against top-ranked Iowa Western (10-0) at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, Arkansas. The game will be televised by CBS Sports Network.
Grant broke through with a season-high 398 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 26 carries in a 49-30 win over Northwest Mississippi that put the Broncos in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I title game.
In 1958, NMMI finished undefeated as the No. 1 team in the country in the final poll, despite not playing in the title game.
“This is really big; this is the first time we made it to the national (championship),” Grant said after the Broncos’ win. “It’s just an honor being in this situation. We’re going to take advantage of it. We’re just going to keep balling, keep executing, keep sticking to the plan.”
Grant leads NJCAA Division I with 1,538 yards and 17 touchdowns on 207 carries. Not long after the game, he landed an offer from New Mexico State – as did NMMI quarterback Diego Pavia, a Volcano Vista grad and one of 20 New Mexico natives on the Broncos’ roster.
The two visited NMSU, which recently named Jerry Kill as its new head football coach, on Wednesday.
Pavia threw for 178 yards and one touchdown on 8-of-11 passing with no interceptions against Northwest Mississippi. He has thrown for 1,607 yards and 19 touchdowns, completing 108 of his 195 passes. He has also rushed for 603 yards and six touchdowns.
“All of us are under-recruited right now,” Pavia said. “I think going to the next step now on national TV, we can do something. We just want a chance on the next level. All of us, we’re just ready to go out and do it.”
Joe Ta’ase, a 6-3, 300-pound freshman offensive lineman, was offered by Louisiana, he said on Twitter on Thursday.
In October, 6-foot-5, 295-pound left tackle Tyrone Webber committed to Oklahoma State. Webber and Ta’ase have been instrumental in the NMMI offense that ranks No. 1 in NJCAA Division I in rushing yards per game (291.2) and in scoring (495 points). Webber will officially sign with the Cowboys when the early signing period begins on Wednesday. That’s the same day the Broncos will travel to Arkansas.
“He brings a lot to the table,” NMMI coach Kurt Taufa’asau said. “He has helped out our offense and our O-line tremendously with his play. He is also helping by mentoring the young guys behind him.”
Taufa’asau, 31, began the season as the Broncos’ interim coach. He took over for former head coach Joe Forchtner, who stepped down in June to fill a new academic position at NMMI, as well as in the athletic department in an administrative role.
Taufa’asau had the interim tag removed at the end of this regular season after a 58-28 win over Trinity Valley on Nov. 8.
“We’ll be ready for Iowa Western at War Memorial Stadium,” Taufa’asau said. “They’re the No. 1 seed for a reason. They have players all over the place on both sides of the ball. We have to be on our best game.”