It’s not the national championship game.

That took place on Thursday in Pittsburg, Kansas, where top-rated East Mississippi won its fifth NJCAA title — all in the past eight seasons — with a 10-9 victory over second-rated Garden City.

But for third-rated Iowa Western (9-1), individual and team pride will be on the line Sunday at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, when it will meet No. 9 Snow (8-2) at 3 p.m. in the Graphic Edge Bowl.

And Reivers coach Scott Strohmeier said that should be more than enough motivation.

“It’s not national championship or bust, but the excitement early on isn’t the same as it was for the national championship,’’ he said. “But I thought our guys did a good job preparing this week. You want to be on top when you leave, heading into the offseason.’’

For a second straight year, the Reivers were ranked third in the final regular-season poll after losing just once. This year, Garden City recovered a Reiver fumble on its own 3-yard line and also returned an interception 94 yards for a score in a 16-13 win over Iowa Western. That ultimately kept the Reivers out of the championship game, which was nationally televised for the first time.

Strohmeier said there’s plenty at stake in Sunday’s game, including on an individual basis. Many players come to Council Bluffs because they believe they can play at a higher level than recruiters’ evaluations of them out of high school indicate.

“Right now, we’ve got one game, one opportunity,’’ Strohmeier said. “There’s guys who feel they’re not getting recruited to the level they are. There’s some that are not getting recruited as much as they would like. Well, you’ve got 60 minutes against a really good team with a lot of coaches watching.’’

The Badgers, of Ephraim, Utah, were the runners-up in the Western States Football League and are hoping to improve upon their 17-5 bowl record.In 2010, Iowa Western made its first bowl appearance in its second season of existence, losing to Snow 48-36 in the Top of the Mountains Bowl.

This year, although the Reivers believe they have played the more difficult schedule, the Badgers have been an offensive juggernaut. They lead the NJCAA in scoring average (53.3) and rank second in total yards per game (502.2).

Sophomore tailback Jaylen Warren leads the nation in rushing yards per game (161.8), going for 1,294 yards and 14 touchdowns in eight contests while averaging 9.5 yards per carry. Braxton Kerr has thrown for 2,131 yards and 25 touchdowns with 11 interceptions, while Derek Wright has 738 receiving yards and nine scores.“They’re your typical Snow,’’ Strohmeier said. “They’re massive. They’re pretty balanced. They do a lot of stuff.’’

Offensively, Iowa Western has used two quarterbacks extensively. T.J. Starks has shouldered the majority of the load, throwing for 1,571 yards and 16 scores with nine interceptions. Backup Clay Beathard has thrown for 806 yards and six scores, but he will be available for emergency duty only after breaking his thumb recently.

The defensive side has been Iowa Western’s strength this year. The Reivers rank fifth nationally in scoring defense (14.7), tied for 10th in rushing defense (100.6 yards per game) and tied for fifth in sacks (41).Strohmeier said his staff has brought Snow’s gaudy offensive numbers to the defense’s attention.

“That brings excitement to them,’’ he said.

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