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Arizona Western hangs on to top Nassau, 42-37

YUMA, Arizona - In a game that featured two defensive touchdowns, Arizona Western hung on to defeat Nassau, 42-37 in the 2012 El Toro Bowl. The loss drops Nassau to 9-2 overall. The Lions, who would finish the year 11th in the NJCAA poll, were one of three Northeast Football Conference teams to play in the postseason, a first for the conference.

Nassau opened the scoring with a 50-yard run by Jordan Rodriguez only to see Arizona Western answer with a touchdown pass from Tanner McEvoy to Shaquan Curenton.

The Matadors' Pat Martin intercepted a Rodriguez pass and returned it 40 yards for a score before Nassau's Thomas Joyce had a 92-yard interception return for a touchdown. McEvoy then gave the Matadors the lead with a 35-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Bibbs.

A bad snap on a Nassau punt allowed Arizona Western to score and take a 28-14 lead. However, the Lions' Tyler Simon had a 41-yard field goal as the first half expired to cut the lead to 28-17.

Louis Johnson capped a 79-yard, six-play drive with a 13-yard run to bring Nassau within four at 28-24.

However, Arizona Western's J.C. Baker scored back-to-back touchdowns to build a 42-24 lead. His first came on a 47-yard run he caught a pass from McEvoy for an 8-yard TD.

Antwane Grant, who was one of the NEFC's leading receivers, threw a 21-yard pass to Malachi Lawrence to bring the Lions with 11, 42-31.

NEFC Defensive Player of the Year Amara Kamara intercepted a McEvoy pass and returned it to the 1-yard line, setting up a 1-yard run by Rodriguez on fourth down. However, the two-point attempt failed.

Arizona Western was able to run out the clock and record the win. McEvoy was named AWC's Offensive Most Valuable Player after completing 18 of 24 pass attempts for 245 yards and three touchdowns, and rushing for 51 yards on nine carries. Matadors' linebacker Sam Wren earned the team's Defensive MVP. Rodriguez was Nassau's Offensive MVP while Thomas Joyce earned its Defensive MVP Award.