ATHENS, Texas — Familiarity might breed contempt in certain situations, but when No. 11 ranked Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College travels to Bruce Field for a 6 p.m. clash with fourth-ranked Trinity Valley Community College, respect is the order of the day by both coaching staff.
Main reason familiarity could play a significant part in the outcome of this game is the fact that both coaching staffs have become blended over the past three years.
Current NEO head coach Clay Patterson, a former Golden Norse player, served as an assistant under Trinity Valley head coach Brad Smiley prior to returning to his alma mater.
Another member of the NEO coaching staff, Blake Bryan, moved to Miami in July after helping the Cardinals win their fourth consecutive Southwest Junior College Football Conference crown last season.
Bryan serves as defensive coach for the Golden Norse after coaching linebackers at Trinity Valley.
“I have a lot of respect for coach Smiley and what he’s accomplished in 11 years at Trinity Valley,” Patterson said. “One thing for sure is that they will be ready for us after what happened last year.”
In Patterson’s second game as head coach last year, the Golden Norse overcame a 19-0 halftime deficit to post a 30-29 upset of the Cardinals at Red Robertson Field.
Trailing 29-13 heading into the fourth quarter, the Norsemen scored 17 unanswered points to complete the comeback.
The loss proved to be devastating for Trinity Valley, because although it won the conference regular season and post season playoffs, the Cardinals finished 11-1 and were denied a fourth national championship.
On the other side of the coaching coin, Smiley’s right hand man as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach is another member of the Golden Norse family.
Sherard Poteete, who started two years at quarterback for NEO, was also the Golden Norseman head coach during the 2013 season.
Poteete had originally been a member of Smiley’s staff from 2010 to 2012 before returning last year.
“Trinity Valley has traditionally been a very successful football program and they’ve won a lot of games over the years,” Patterson said. “They are a very physical football team and although their offense hasn’t scored as much recently as they did in the past, their defense is physical.
“I expect us to match their physicality because of the effectiveness of both their defense and special teams,” Patterson said. “This might be a little different football game. More similar to last year’s where it wasn’t real high scoring.”
Not only did NEO and Trinity Valley collide during the regular season last year, but they squared off in the SWJCFC semifinals at Athens.
The Cardinals staved off a fourth quarter rally by the Norsemen to earn a 48-40 victory and take a 19-17 lead in the series.
Trinity Valley (2-0 and 1-0) opened the season on Aug. 26 on Bruce Field with a 57-3 non-conference victory over Pima Arizona in the annual Battle in the Valley sponsored by Virtual Communications.
Last weekend the Cardinals traveled to Corsicana, Texas, for a conference game with the Navarro Bulldogs. Navarro carried a 19-17 lead into the fourth quarter before Khalil Banks scored on a 3-yard run with 1:54 showing on the clock to give the Cards a 25-19 victory.
Trinity Valley starting quarterback Shelton Eppler suffered an ankle problem in the game with Pima and did not play at Navarro. Eppler completed 28 of 46 passes for 314 yards and four touchdowns in the opener. His availability is day-to-day.
Jaylon Henderson replaced Eppler and connected on 19 of 39 for 183 yards and two TDs with one interception at Navarro.
Banks is the leading Cardinal rusher with 105 yards on 21 carries and one touchdown.
Henderson has gained 95 yards on 20 carries with one TD in two games as Trinity Valley averages 162.5 yards per game on the ground.
Veteran Tony Mullins leads the Trinity Valley receiving corps with nine catches for 121 yards and three TDs while redshirt freshman Tristen Wallace has nine receptions for 117 yards and one touchdown.
“The thing is, it will be interesting to see what kind of team they have,” Patterson said. “They have a lot of Division 1 transfers which will make it a battle for sure.
“We feel like we’re better equipped this year to go on the road and play in Texas,” Patterson said. “We’ve got to play our best football and find a way to play our best football down there.”
The game will be streamed by at www.network1sport.com/station/kckl.