Nearly two years ago, on the field after the 2016 NJCAA Championship game in Yuma, Ariz., I went to congratulate Garden City Community College head coach Jeff Sims for winning the program’s and his first national championship.
His first words to me were: “Nice pick.”
He was sarcastically referencing my pre-game prediction that the Broncbusters would lose to Arizona Western, on Western’s home field.
I’m not making the same mistake this go-around.
Even though Garden City is going up against an even more prestigious program in East Mississippi this year — a team that has won four national titles since 2011 — I’m still not going against Sims and the Busters.
Of course, I feel a little bit better about the pick now that East Mississippi’s Buddy Stephens said that these Busters are the best team he’s faced in any of the seven national championships he’s coached in.
Sims’ squad is incredible, that’s for sure.
They’ve turned an absolutely elite running game into the foundation for the rest of their team. The defense is not nearly as talented as the 2016 squad — I mean, that team has two players in the NFL this season — but it keeps offenses out of the end zone, and the run game keeps the defense off the field.
Because the Busters dominate time of possession — and control field position — they are able to take risks on special teams, or as Sims calls them all-star teams, which can turn into easy points with a blocked punt or kick return.
But perhaps the best part of the Busters’ run game is it nearly eliminates much of the risk of turnovers. Star running back Charles West has not fumbled a single time this season. Dedrick Mills has four times, and lost two.
They’ve turned it over eight times all year.
That ability to limit mistakes — of all kinds — is why Sims believes Stephens called his Busters the best team he’s seen in national championships.
“We’re not the most talented team,” Sims said, “but we might be the best team. What I mean by that, we don’t make — knock on wood — we don’t make football errors. And when we do, that’s when coach Sims’ head explodes. Knock on wood, but we catch our punts. We punt the ball and flip the field. We rarely put ourselves in bad situations.”
Like novocaine, just give it time, it always works.
If East Mississippi’s last opponent had avoided mistakes, the Lions might be in Mississippi still getting ready to host a bowl instead of playing in the national title game. Jones County played the Lions in the Mississippi state championship game, and lost 19-14. Jones County out-gained the Lions, 336-276, but turned it over six times in the process.
The Busters — knock on wood — won’t do that. They won’t beat themselves.
And, in my view, they’re good enough to just flat out beat East Mississippi. And perhaps afterwards, Sims’ “Nice pick” will not be said sarcastically.
Final: Garden City 22, East Mississippi 20.