CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- Reiver quarterback Kai Locksley threw for four touchdowns and ran in one more as the 3rd-ranked Iowa Western Community College (11-1) defeated 5th ranked Northwest Mississippi Community College (8-3) in the Graphic Edge Bowl 36-19 on Saturday.
It was a hard-fought battle from the start as both teams struggled to get much going offensively early. Iowa Western turned the ball over on downs to begin the game after falling two yards short of a first down on a fake punt.
Northwest Mississippi was able to answer by driving 30 yards and nailing a 37-yard field goal, courtesy of sophomore kicker Drake McCarter.
Trailing 3-0 in the first quarter, Iowa Western once again was forced to punt in their second offensive drive. Backed up on its own 1-yard line, Northwest Mississippi drove 99 yards for a touchdown as Ranger quarterback Jack Abraham connected with wide receiver Kevin Perkins. The drive was highlighted by a 43-yard pass to running back Quarderman Sloan.
The Reiver offense finally gained some momentum in their third drive as quarterback Kai Locksley led the team 62 yards down the field to set up an eight-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Anthony Turner, making it a 10-7 Ranger lead heading into the second quarter.
For the first time all game, Iowa Western was able to force a three-and-out for Northwest Mississippi on their ensuing drive. However, the Reivers failed to capitalize as they drove down the field 48 yards, but missed a 46-yard field goal that would have tied the game.
On the ensuing Northwest Mississippi possession, Revier defensive back Ky'el Hemby intercepted a deflected pass from Ranger quarterback Jack Abraham and returned to the opponent's 27-yard line. This time, Iowa Western was able to capitalize as kicker Eddie Ogamba nailed the 28-yard field goal to tie the game up at 10-10.
After forcing another Ranger punt, Locksley completed four first down passes on the ensuing drive, en route to a five-yard touchdown pass to receiver Vincent Perry, giving the Reivers their first lead of the game.
The teams headed to half as Northwest Mississippi came up empty on a missed field goal try to end the half.
The Rangers came out of the locker room with new life in the second half as their offense drove down the field quickly and scored on a 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end Pro Wells. Their kicking woes continued, however, missing the point after.
Iowa Western would answer right back as Locksley finished off an impressive drive with a 10-yard touchdown run. This time, the Reivers missed their PAT to make it a 23-16 lead.
After a failed drive from each team, Northwest Mississippi was driving deep into Reiver territory before Iowa Western's DJ Curtis forced a key fumble which sent the ball from the 20-yard line into the end zone. It was recovered by Iowa Western for a touchback.
Northwest Mississippi finally got back on track offensively in their next possession as they drove from their own eight-yard line to the Reiver 12-yard line and chipped in a 30-yard field goal to make it just a 23-19 Iowa Western lead with just over ten minutes to play.
Locksley and the Reiver offense responded and capped off a scoring drive with a three-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Mike Hill, making it a 29-19 Reiver lead with under seven minutes left.
With the ball on their own 43-yard line on 4th down and 7, Northwest Mississippi needed a first down to keep their hopes of winning alive. But quarterback Jack Abraham threw a pass that sailed well over the head of his intended receiver to seal the victory for Iowa Western. The Reivers would tack on another touchdown a few plays later when Locksley connected with receiver Nick Singelton for a 13-yard touchdown pass.
Locksley was named the Graphic Edge Bowl Offensive MVP and redshirt freshman defensive back Ky'el Hemby earned Defensive MVP honors after picking up eight tackles and one interception.