MIAMI — Very few surprises will be on tap for either team during the Saturday, Oct. 4 Southwest Junior College Football Conference semifinal between No. 2 seed Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College and No. 3 seed Blinn College at Red Robertson Field.
NEO season tickets will not be accepted at the gate for the 2 p.m. game.
All blue chair-backed seats are available on a first-come, first-serve basis for $10 per person, according to athletic director Dale Patterson.
The reserved seats can be purchased either at the gate or by emailing Patterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Individual tickets are $5 for general admission.
Starting at 1 p.m., a tailgate party sponsored by Sodexo will be held on the west side of the stadium. Tickets for the meal are $6 per person.
Members of the fourth and fifth grade teams and their cheerleading squads of the Miami Youth Football League and cheerleading squads will be admitted free if they wear their team jersey or cheerleading outfit.
The fourth grade won the MYFL championship while the fifth grade team finished runners-up.
Osborn Drugs will provide a big-screen TV in the southwest corner of the stadium so fans can keep up with the OU-OSU Bedlam game in Stillwater.
“We’re excited to be in the conference playoffs again this year,” Golden Norse head coach Clay Patterson said. “We’re also really excited to be at home after three straight road games.
“Our kids are excited to play one more game on the banks of Tar Creek,” Clay Patterson said. “ (It) should be a good atmosphere because I’ve been telling people that this is the biggest game in Oklahoma this week, so they should come and watch us.
“With Bedlam going on, we moved our starting time up an hour,” Patterson said. “That way our fans will still get to see the entire second half of that game after we’re done.”
Last weekend the two conference heavyweights collided in the regular season finale at Brenham’s ISD Cub Stadium.
The Golden Norsemen constructed a 14-7 halftime lead en route to a 35-26 victory over the Buccaneers.
With the victory by the Golden Norse, a three-way tie for the regular season championship was created between NEO, No. 4 ranked Blinn and No. 9 rated Trinity Valley. All three teams are 5-2 in the SWJCFC and 7-2 overall.
Following the final regular season, National Junior College Athletic Association national poll, No. 1 seed Trinity Valley is ranked seventh, NEO is eighth, Blinn is 11th and No. 4 seed Navarro College is 14th.
Navarro (4-3 and 6-3), located in Corsicana, Texas, travels to Athens at 3 p.m. Saturday to face Trinity Valley in the other semifinal game.
The semifinal winner with the highest seed hosts the conference championship game at 3 p.m., Nov. 11.
Trinity Valley has appeared in five consecutive post-season conference playoffs. Last year the Cardinals edged the Golden Norsemen 48-40 in the semifinal round.
“When you get to this level of competition, there’s no telling what could happen,” Clay Patterson said. “Our kids aren’t really satisfied with getting a co-championship and all, so they want to win the playoffs and we’re in a situation where they can achieve their goals.”
While the Golden Norsemen have won six straight games, the Buccaneers have won six of their last eight games. Blinn is 4-0 on the road.
“All we’re concerned with going into this game is how we perform as a team,” Patterson said. “It really doesn’t matter if we’re playing Blinn for the 10th time or the first time.
“It’s about us executing what we do and trying to get better at what we do,” Patterson said. “It really doesn’t change much for us each week, but instead about our kids mind-set, execution and how we play the game.”
Through the past three road games, penalties have been the biggest drawback on the NEO offense.
Even though the Golden Norse offense has only eight turnovers (five fumbles and three interceptions) in nine games, penalties have disrupted the continuity of almost every game.
“Not only have penalties plagued us, but we’ve been in the red zone numerous times and not been able to put points on the board,” Patterson said. “A lot of times they happen because of how hard our players are playing.
“Then, some of it happens because of mental mistakes,” Patterson said. “We just tell our kids to regroup and go at it again.”
Clay Patterson said the team is at a point where the players believe in each other and they know that they can overcome mistakes.
“During my first year last season and a little bit in the off-season, we would shut down when those things happened,” he said. “We’ve been in some adverse situations these last three weeks on the road where we know we got some bad calls that went against us.
“But, we’ve responded the right way and we’re very happy about that.”
NEO’s offense ranks second in the nation while leading the SWJCFC by generating 536.8 total yards per game. Iowa Western leads the country with a 541.6 average per game.
Blinn’s offensive production ranks No. 10 in the nation and third in the conference by averaging 454.5 yards per game.
Golden Norse redshirt quarterback Wyatt Steigerwald ranks 18th in the nation overall by averaging 198.9 yards per game via the pass. Steigerwald ranks fourth in the nation with 25 touchdown passes.
Buccaneer quarterback Devin Williams is 10th in the nation by averaging 221.3 passing yards each game. He has thrown 11 touchdown passes.
Matching up in the offensive backfield are NEO running backs Darwin Thompson and Darran Williams while Blinn relies of the talent of sophomore Cortez Grace.
Thompson ranks fourth nationally while leading the SWJCFC with 1,175 yards on 140 carries and six TDs.
Darran Williams is No. 32 nationally with 673 yards on 100 carries and three touchdowns.
Grace is the eighth leading rusher in the nation with 945 yards on 199 carries and 10 TDs.
“Our offense hasn’t had many turnovers all year,” Patterson said. “Last week at Blinn, we had two turnovers in the third quarter and still came out of the quarter leading by eight (21-13).
“Our guys, they don’t blink anymore,” Patterson said. “If something bad happens, they just run off the field and wait until our next possession because every week in practice we emphasize turnovers and ball security.”
NEO’s defensive unit has held the opposition to an average of 318.2 total yards and 22.3 points through nine games.
Blinn’s defensive squad is surrendering an average of 232.3 total yards and 22.2 points per game.
“Our defensive front seven along with our corners have done a great job this year,” Patterson said. “We’re able to play 10 to 12 guys along our front line, so our depth is really good.
“We also have really, really good cover corners,” Patterson said. “The biggest thing about our entire defense is that they play together and they play really, really hard.
“When they make mistakes, they overcome it with effort,” Patterson said. “They fly around and play fast and are very physical.”