MIAMI — Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College plays host at 6 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 30, to their oldest rivalry south of the Red River as Kilgore (Texas) College visits Red Robertson Field.
After defeating Navarro College, 40-30, last weekend in Corsicana, Texas, the Golden Norse begin a two-game home stand with a 2-2 record. NEO is even both on the regular season and in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference.
Kilgore has won the last four and 10 of the last 11 meetings in a rivalry that began in 1951. The series is tied at 19-19.
Prior to the 6 p.m. kickoff, a tailgate party hosted by Sodexo will be held starting at 5 p.m. on the west side of the stadium. Cost is $6 per person.
NEO concludes the home portion of the regular season at 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7, by entertaining Cisco (Texas) Junior College. Several campus-wide activities will take place during the week as part of homecoming festivities.
Theme for the parade and other activities is Peace, Love and Homecoming. Members of the 1967 national championship football team will celebrate their 50th anniversary along with a king and queen coronation and recognition of several outstanding alumni.
Under the guidance of veteran head coach J.J. Eckert; the Kilgore Rangers make the trek north with a 1-1 conference record and a 2-2 overall mark.
Eckert, a former quarterback at Northeastern Oklahoma State University in Tahlequah, is in his 11th season as the Rangers’ head coach.
The Rangers suffered a 24-16 loss to Blinn College last week in Kilgore.
Last season Kilgore finished tied for third place with Tyler in the conference with a 4-3 record. The Rangers finished 6-5 on the season that included a 27-17 loss to East Mississippi in the Mississippi Bowl at Perkinston.
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 total yards (330 passing and 170 yards rushing) while the Rangers generated 423 yards with (199 passing and 224 rushing).
“We’re going to evaluate our injury situation at quarterback the day of the game,” Golden Norse head coach Clay Patterson said. “If Cordell (Grundy) is healthy, he is our starting quarterback.
“But, we feel like we’ve got three guys that we can win with (redshirt sophomore Wyatt Steigerwald and redshirt freshman Nic Burns),” Patterson said. “Wyatt got the start at Navarro and did a good job and Nic also saw action in a series.”
Steigerwald completed 19 of 35 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions.
“Kilgore’s sitting there right now with the same record as us and I think it’s a toss up every week to see who’s going to win,” Patterson said. “There’s a lot of parity in the league right now and everybody’s playing pretty well.
“The team that doesn’t beat themselves and can take care of the football can go out and win every game,” Patterson said. “Kilgore is a very tough opponent that plays very physical.”
A relatively young football team, the Rangers feature 24 sophomores on their 60-man roster.
During their first four games, the Rangers have alternated three players at the quarterback position. Featuring an offense predicated around the passing game, the Rangers are averaging 211.5 yards per game via the pass and 182.5 yards on the ground.
Sophomore Jalil Kilpatrick has completed 27 of 44 passes for 437 yards and two touchdowns without an interception.
Freshmen Jacob Frazier and Roger McCuller also have also alternated under center for Kilgore.
Frazier has connected on 21 of 24 passes for 258 yards and two TDs with two interceptions while McCuller has hit on 12 of 20 passes for 151 yards and three touchdowns with one interception.
Four freshmen are alternating in the Rangers backfield, led by Carlos Frank. Through four games Frank has gained 253 yards on 44 carries with three TDs. He also has four receptions for 80 yards.
Running back De’Montre Tuggle has rushed for 147 yards on 288 carries with one TD. He has three catches for 50 yards and one touchdown.
McCuller has contributed 134 yards on 33 carries to the Kilgore rushing attack.
Demarcus Smith has earned 102 yards on 23 carries while adding four receptions for 68 yards and one TD.
Kilgore’s defensive unit has limited the opposition to an average of 291.3 total yards per game.
Two veteran linebackers and a sophomore defensive back lead the Rangers aggressive unit.
Outside linebacker Troy Burnett has 20 unassisted tackles and 28 assists to lead Kilgore.
Middle linebacker Ty Hayter has made 19 solo tackles and 16 assists while recording one quarterback sack for minus-10 yards and two tackles behind the line for a minus-11 yards.
Cornerback Edward Hayes leads the secondary with 20 unassisted tackles and 12 assists. He has also deflected two passes.
Freshman defensive tackle Darius Anderson leads the front line with one quarterback sack for minus-31 yards while posting six tackles behind the line of scrimmage for minus-27 yards.