YUMA, Ariz. – For the second season in a row, the Arizona Western College football team dropped to third in the final NJCAA rankings. The Mats fell in the NJCAA Football Championship to top-ranked East Mississippi Community College 31-28 on Sunday in the Mississippi Bowl.
The Mats finished 9-1 overall and had 175.02 points. East Mississippi was ranked first with seven first place votes and 209 points. Iowa Western moved up to second with two first place votes and 185.02 points. Snow jumped to fourth with 152.17 points, and Independence was fifth with 150.05 points.
Three teams from the Western States Football League were ranked in the final poll. AWC and Snow both were in the top five, and Eastern Arizona jumped to 20th.
AWC made its ninth straight bowl game this season after winning the Western States Football League title for the sixth time under head coach Tom Minnick. Minnick has led the team to the NJCAA Football Championship game three times in the last seven seasons, and the Mats are ranked in the final poll for the eighth time in the last nine seasons.
The Mats had the WSFL Offensive Player of the Year in running back Greg Bell III, and a whopping 16 players were selected to the All-WSFL or All-ACCAC teams. Minnick was named the WSFL Coach of the Year.
Arizona Western College is one of the top community colleges in Arizona. The college boasts partnerships with all three state universities that include face-to-face classes in Yuma. AWC leads the state in enrollment growth over the past 10 years and handed out more than 2,300 certificates and degrees in 2016-17.