The National Junior College Athletic Association football national championship will be contested Sunday in Biloxi, Miss., as No. 1-ranked Georgia Military College takes on No. 2-ranked East Mississippi Community College in the 2013 Mississippi Bowl.
This year’s championship game features Atlanta talent for the GMC Bulldogs.
Former high school standouts Pat Thomas (Banneker HS), Kenderius Whitehead (MLK HS), Quintavious Knight (Grady HS) and Dezmin Reed (Chamblee HS) have made major contributions to the Bulldogs’ 11-0 season and opportunity to play for a national title.
“These guys have played critical roles in our success,” Bert Williams, GMC head coach and athletic director, said. “We wouldn’t be here without them.”
Other Atlanta region players that have made an impact for GMC this season include: Justin Vining (N. Gwinnett HS), Solomon Parker (Stone Mountain HS), David Fennell (Grayson HS), Jaden Le (Berkmar HS) and Deonte Bryant (Henry Co. HS).
Offensively, redshirt freshman Thomas has led the team this season at the quarterback position, averaging 145.5 yards a game in the air with 17 passing touchdowns this fall and one rushing trip to the end zone. Thomas expects a total team effort on offense as the team works to protect the football and put points on the board against the East Mississippi Lions.
“The experience plays a lot, and the key pieces we have around,” Thomas said. “We just try to minimize mistakes, you know, we try to get better on our end. We have to be decisive about our decisions and execute.”
The Bulldogs have relied on Whitehead, Knight and Reed on defense to come up big all season, as Whitehead has proved to be the team’s leading pass rusher with 7.5 sacks on the year and 19.5 tackles for loss. Knight, a highly recruited cornerback has snagged two interceptions this fall and 15 pass break-ups, while Reed has contributed at linebacker with 35 tackles, five of which were for a loss and a sack.
Both Whitehead and Reed will lace up for the national championship game as true freshmen.
“It means a lot because as a freshman,” Whitehead said. “A lot of guys can’t say that they’re playing for a National Championship in their first year.”
As a key component to the GMC defense this season, Reed believes he is prepared for the challenge for the EMCC offense.
“This is my first time playing for a national championship, or a championship, period in my football career. I think my coaches, and my position coach, have gotten me really prepared for this type of game.”
As the Bulldogs approach their biggest challenge this fall, Knight is confident that the team unity will carry GMC to its first national title since 2001.
“To me, it all comes down to a brotherhood,” he said. “We play as a family, we work as a family — everything’s just family-oriented, so when we play for each other we know one another’s got each other’s back. We all play for each other, so who can beat us?”
Information regarding the NJCAA National Championship game can be found at www.mississippibowl.com. There will be a live webcast of the contest on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. CST.