Hornets take Kanza Bowl, capping off spectacular season

 

Kanza Bowl champs“I’ve been coaching for 19 years, and this is the most committed group of people I’ve ever been around.”

 

If you guessed those comments came from Emporia State University’s head football coach—and they came after winning the 2012 Kanza Bowl—you’d be half right. Garin Higgins did indeed make those remarks. But he was speaking at a football scholarship fund raising event July 19 in Overland Park, before the 2012 Hornet football season even started.

That was 19 weeks before the Hornets concluded their most successful season in 23 years with 43-38 win over Texas A&M-Kingsville in the fourth annual Kanza Bowl at Topeka’s Hummer Sports Park.

The victory capped a 10-2 season for the Hornets, their first 10-win season since 1989 and just the second in school history. The postseason victory was the first by Emporia State since 2002.

“To finish 10-2, they’ve worked really hard to put us in this situation,” Higgins said. “We just had a great senior class that worked hard. It was a great win for us and a great win for our program. We’ve been looking to get to this point for a long time.”

Tyler Eckenrode, Houston, Tex., is one of those seniors Higgins referred to, and one the Emporia State coach holds particularly close to his heart.

“I think a lot of people never really thought Tyler could be that quarterback that would lead us to 10 wins,” Higgins said. “I believed it.”

Eckenrode, the game’s most valuable player, set a school single-season record with 29 touchdown passes and tied the single-game mark with five.

 

Division II teams from the Lone Star Conference and Mid-America Athletic Association have played the Kanza Bowl in Topeka since its inception in 2009.