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KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Texas A&M-Commerce had this celebration planned for a long time.

A year after watching the Division II title game from the stands, Luis Perez led the Lions to their first NCAA Division II title and second football championship, throwing for 323 yards and two touchdowns in a 37-27 victory over West Florida on Saturday night at Children’s Mercy Park.

Texas A&M-Commerce (14-1) also won the 1972 NAIA championship.

“No words can describe it,” Perez said. “Winning the title, getting the Harlon Hill (Award) and graduating in the same week, you can’t script it any better.”

Perez said before the game that he had driven up to watch the 2016 championship game because he had a feeling that he and his teammates had a chance to be here tonight. He certainly did his part to make sure that happened.

“We were a team of destiny,” Perez said. “We just believed it (all season).”

Perez completed 23 of 30 for 323 yards and two touchdowns. The Harlon Hill Award winner is the first quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards in the title game since 2005. He finished the season with 4,999 passing yards.


West Florida (11-4) had no reason to be embarrassed. The Argonauts were playing in the 26th game in the two-year history of the program.

“I’m extremely proud of our guys, how they continued to fight,” coach Pete Shinnick said. “I think the type of team we have, every guy on our sideline thought we were going to get the onside kick (after cutting the lead to 10 points). That’s what I love about this team, and that’s why it’s been fun.

“These guys have worked extremely hard to put a second-year program into the national championship. I’m extremely proud of our team. We’ve got a bunch of guys who are hurting right now, but they’ve done a lot of good.”

Mike Beaudry was 22 of 48 for 252 yards and a touchdown.

“They’re good up front,” Beaudry said, “and they did a really good job of getting pressure. It’s on me to slow things down and work my progressions. It’s something I can do better at.”