MIAMI — Beginning a two-game homestand at 6 p.m. on Sept. 30, the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College Golden Norsemen entertain the Kilgore College Rangers at Red Robertson Field.
Veteran head coach J.J. Eckert guided the No. 11 ranked Rangers to a 6-5 record last season. During his 10-year stint as Kilgore head coach, Eckert has a 63-52 combined record.
After the Rangers finished in a four-way tie for second place in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference with a 4-3 record, Kilgore lost to Trinity Valley 55-41 in overtime of the conference championship game.
The Rangers traveled to Perkinston, Mississippi, and lost a 27-17 decision to East Mississippi in the Mississippi Bowl.
During the 2015 season, Kilgore won the SWJCFC title with a 42-28 victory at Navarro College in Corsicana. The Rangers sustained a 35-21 loss to East Central in the Mississippi Bowl to finish 7-5 on the season.
Against the Golden Norse last year at Red Robertson Field, the Rangers built a 17-13 lead at halftime en route to a 31-22 victory to start the month of October.
NEO amassed 500 yards — 330 passing and 170 yards rushing — while the Rangers generated 423 total yards with — 199 passing and 224 rushing.
Three interceptions by the Norsemen, one of which turned into a 32-yard touchdown, contributed to their demise.
Thirty-five returning players along with 18 walk-ons, nine transfers and 28 true freshmen were among the participants of the July session at R.E. St. John Stadium.
Returning outside linebacker Troy Burnett (6-1, 215 from Missouri City, Texas) led the nation in average tackles with a 15.2 average per game. He earned NJCAA honorable mention all-American recognition while leading the country with 99 unassisted tackles and 68 assists.
Graduation cost the Rangers three experienced quarterbacks.
Returnee Dontre’ Thomas (6-1, 195 from Silsbee, Texas) handled most of the repetitions under center in the spring. As a freshman, Thomas completed one passing attempt and had two carries for four yards in one game.
Returning to handle a ground game that averaged 5.4 yards per touch are veteran tailbacks Marquis Broussard and Tyrek Gray.
Broussard (5-9, 210 from Edna, Texas) led the Rangers with 940 yards on 147 carries and 13 touchdowns. He also caught 18 passes for 215 yards and one TD.
Gray (5-11, 180 from Houston, Texas) rushed for 713 yards on 101 carries with six touchdowns. He made 15 receptions for 337 yards and two touchdowns.
Three experienced wide outs return to handle the Rangers receiving corps led by Anthony Thomas (5-9, 170 from Montgomery, Texas). As a freshman, Thomas caught 20 passes for 191 yards and one TD.
Veteran Zach Newbell (5-8, 180 from Spring, Texas) finished with 14 receptions for 301 yards and three touchdowns.
As a freshman wide out, Zacharius Nash-Kelly (6-2, 180 from Round Rock, Texas) caught eight passes in 11 games for 87 yards.
While the Kilgore offense generated an average of 477.9 total yards and 41 points per game, the inexperienced defensive unit surrendered an average of 496.7 total yards and 34.9 points per game.
Joining Burnett at an outside spot of the Rangers defensive unit at linebacker is Bart Baratti (5-10, 185 from Klein, Texas). Baratti recorded 40 solo tackles and 25 assists while posting five tackles behind the line of scrimmage for minus-14 yards. He also recorded two interceptions.
Veteran safety Hasan Defense (5-11, 185 from Jacksonville, Florida) returns at the back end of the Kilgore defensive squad. Defense led the team with five interceptions for 69 yards and 14 deflected passes. He also blocked three extra points while making 47 unassisted tackles and 10 assists.