It’s called the Valley of the Sun Bowl, but today, that title might temporarily change to the Valley of the Mud Bowl.
Mesa Community College’s football team takes on visiting Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College at 2 p.m. today at Riggs Stadium in a battle between the eighth-ranked Thunderbirds and the ninth-ranked Greyhounds.
An NJCAA media release called the Valley of the Sun Bowl one of “most attractive” bowls because of the support of the Maricopa County Community College District and “of course, the warm temperatures.”
However, the National Weather Service expects temperatures in the low 60s with windy conditions and an 80 percent chance of continued rain around game time.
“It’s probably going to be a quagmire,” said Todd Bolser, sports information director at MCC. “It may be reminiscent of the Monday night football game (this week) between Pittsburgh and Miami.
“It’s going to be good old-fashioned American football.”
No matter the weather, for MCC, the bowl game caps a turnaround season for the Thunderbirds, going from a 2-7 season last year to 8-2 in the regular season and their first bowl since 1998.
“I could not be more proud of what our kids and staff have accomplished thus far,” MCC coach Dan Dunn said.
MCC will be led by quarterback Dax Crum, who was co-WSFL player of the year after having a season in which he passed for more than 2,000 yards, had 19 touchdowns, and only six interceptions in eight games.
Wide receiver Terrance Moore was the biggest recipient of Crum’s passing, averaging 86.1 yards per game with 12 touchdown receptions.
The Thunderbirds complemented their passing game with a sound ground attack, led by running back Jay Leal, who has 659 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns.
MCC enters the bowl game winning its past two contests over rival Glendale CC and Arizona Western.
Fort Scott, which finished 9-2 and is shooting for its first 10-win season since 1973, also sports a quarterback who likes to air things out.
Greg Cross was the NJCAA Region 6 player of the year, throwing for 2,564 yards and 17 touchdowns. Cross also poses a rushing threat. He has ran for six scores and is ranked 10th in his conference in rushing.
If Cross does not see the need to throw or run, he most likely will put the ball in the hands of Rodney Lovett, who rushed for 1,340 yards and had 12 rushing touchdowns in the regular season, yet has only earned honorable mention honors in his conference.
MCC’s offensive line will also need to be wary of defensive ends Kwame Jordan and Mack Cole, who have combined for 142 tackles and 34 1/2 sacks this season.
Valley of the Sun Bowl
Who: Mesa Community College (8-2) vs. Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College (9-2)
When: 2 p.m. today
Where: Mesa Community College’s Riggs Stadium, 1833 W. Southern Ave., Mesa.
Highlights: Halftime performance by Mesa Mountain View High School marching band (weather permitting)