TEXARKANA, Ark. — Missouri Western State University will have an opportunity to defend its Agent Barry Live United Bowl championship.
The Griffons, who finished 8-3 in the Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletics Association, will face Henderson State University, the home team from the Great American Conference with a 9-2 record, in the seventh annual Live United Bowl game, set for noon on Saturday, Dec. 7 at Arkansas High's Razorback Stadium.
Mayors for both Texarkana, Texas and Arkansas, the respective universities' presidents, athletic directors and head football coaches, along with other esteemed dignitaries, were present for the Agent Barry Live United Bowl official team announcement press conference Tuesday at the AHS Red Wall.
"Missouri Western played in this bowl game last year, and we're pleased to have them back," Arkansas Mayor and Agent Barry Live United Bowl President Allen Brown said. "I would arguably say that these are the first teams out of the playoffs. If it was 30 teams instead of 28 that qualify for the NCAA Division II playoffs, both of these teams would have been Nos. 29 and 30.
"It's a great matchup, and we're looking forward to it,"
The Reddies finished third in the GAC behind Ouachita Baptist University and Harding University, and the Griffons were tied for third with Fort Hays State in the MIAA final standings.
Henderson State University is making its first appearance in the Live United Bowl.
Missouri Western won last year's bowl game over Southern Arkansas University, 30-25, as the Muleriders were the first team to play in the NCAA Division II bowl game twice.
"To get this opportunity to play here, again, in this bowl game I was fired up and excited,"third-year Griffon head coach Matt Williamson said. "The way we were accepted into this community was thrilling. It was a great experience for our guys, and we couldn't ask for anything more. Thank you for your community support and for the United Way. Last year we were able to go out and do some community service while we were here, and that made an everlasting impression on our kids.
"As a football program, we're continuing to get better and better; we've had a lot of success, and we've got a long way to go. We try to recruit high quality athletes, high quality students and high quality human beings."
In the only previous meeting between HSU and the Griffons, Missouri Western beat the Reddies, 45-21, in 2012 during an NCAA DII playoff game in Arkadelphia. An alumnus of MWSU, Williamson was present for the 2012 meeting, as a fan, while he was the defensive coordinator at the University of Central Arkansas during that time frame and the Bears were on a bye week.
Reddies head coach Scott Maxfield has been in charge of the program at HSU for 15 years. He hails from Tyler, Texas, and recalled playing against Texas High three times in high school while playing for John Tyler.
"We're very excited to be here," Maxfield said. "It's a great opportunity, not just for our football team but our university to get our name out here and show this area what we really have to offer, as a school. Missouri Western is a great football team. Matt Williamson is an outstanding football coach. We played against Matt when he was defensive coordinator at UCA; unfortunately, I don't think we ever beat Matt.
"We've got a group of hard-working kids and have turned the program back around. We're fortunate to have a great group of players, and I've got a great group of young coaches on my staff. The opportunity to play another game is really important for our kids and our program."
The teams arrive in Texarkana on Thursday, Dec. 5, and there will be team-community events on Friday.
The jeans, boots and barbecue banquet is Friday at Texas High School. Tickets are on sale and must be purchased online.
A community pep rally, free to the public, is at 8 p.m. Friday at Texas High.
Game tickets are on sale at any Mil-Way location and will also be sold at the gate. Adult tickets are $10 and student tickets are $4. Adult tickets can be purchased at liveunitedbowl.com, as well as banquet tickets.