MIAMI — The year 2017 may go down as one of the best in the history of athletics at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College.
Of its nine sports, three — women’s basketball, volleyball and softball —made national tournament appearances and football won its first Southwest Junior College Football Conference title since 2003 and made its first bowl appearance since 2012.
“All the way around, it was a great year,” athletic director Dale Patterson said. “Dr. Hale (NEO president Dr. Jeff Hale) had said they are going to look back and say that ’16-’17 may have been the highlight of NEO athletics as far as every program.
“We’ve been good in certain sports in certain times, but look at where everything’s at right now. We’re at the top of the line.”
Sophomore kicker Riley Hathhorn had three field goals, helping the Golden Norse claim a 26-10 win over sixth-ranked Trinity Valley Community College in the conference title game.
That was the first conference title for NEO and assured the Norsemen their first trip to a bowl game since 2012.
The Norse faced Independence (Kansas) Community College in the inaugural Midwest Classic Bowl game.
The Pirates earned a 30-20 win before a crowd of 4,230 at Red Robertson Field.
“It was a really good game and was a good show for everybody,” head coach Clay Patterson said following the game. “It was a heckuva way to go out for us, just to be at home and have that many people at home.”
The Golden Norse defeated Blinn College, 38-34, in the conference semifinals in Miami.
NEO finished second nationally and first in the conference in total yards and set several school records in the process.
Clay Patterson earned the conference coach of the year award, joining his uncle, Dale, who won the honor in 1998, 2002 and 2003.
Twelve members of the team were early signees with four-year schools.
The Lady Norse claimed a third straight Region 2 title and trip to the NJCAA national tournament with an 86-59 win against Redlands College in the championship game.
NEO (29-3) traveled to Lubbock, Texas, for their second straight appearance to the Women’s Division I National Junior College Athletic Association National Tournament.
After defeating Iowa Western 73-47 in the first round, the Lady Norse were eliminated 67-53 by Trinity Valley, in their second game.
Over the past five seasons the Lady Norse are 80-10 in conference play and have a 39-game winning streak in the NEO Field House.
The Lady Norse wrapped up back-to-back trips to the national tournament with a 6-0 shutout against Seminole State College in the Region 2 finals at Coweta.
NEO (44-10 overall and 28-4 in the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference) went 2-2 in play at St. George, Utah.
All four of NEO’s games were decided by a total of six runs: it lost to Lake Land Community College 6-5, beat Indian Hills 14-11 and Chipola 1-0 then was ousted by Howard 6-5.
The Lady Norse, representing Region 2, captured the District O championship with a 3-0 win over Region 16 representative Metropolitan Community College-Longview.
That earned NEO (23-12) a third trip to the NJCAA Division II national tournament in six years.
NEO lost to 2017 nemesis Coffeyville (Kansas) Community College 3-2 in the first round, but remained alive with a 3-1 win over Mott Community College of Flint, Michigan.
It was eliminated by Iowa Central, 3-1.
The Norsemen crowned their sixth and seventh modern-era national champions during the NJCAA National Championship at Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Sean Deshazer won a title at 133 pounds and Wyatt Jordan was a national champ at 165.
Iowa Central won its eighth national title with 150 points and Clackamas (Oregon) Community College was second at 146.5 in a tournament that went down to the final match of the night.
The Norsemen netted 143 points.
NEO also got a fourth-place finish from Ruston Duke at 197, a fifth from Shawn Beeson at 285, a seventh from Logan Terrill at 125 and eighth-place finishes from Curtis Burnett, 141; Alex Nelson, 157, and Saul Ortiz, 174.
The Norsemen are already off to a 7-0 start and are ranked second nationally.
Jordan is among six Norsemen who are included in the InterMat.com junior college individual rankings.
The Norsemen (7-10-1) dropped a tough 2-0 decision to Rose State in the finals of the Region 2 tournament at Red Robertson Field.
Both goals were in first half.
The Norsemen beat NOC-Tonkawa 2-0 in the first round.
The Norsemen lost to Seminole in the quarterfinals of the Region 2 tournament in Shawnee.
NEO, which pulled down the No. 4 seed for the tournament, finished 16-14 in the OCAC.
NEO, which posted a 35-17 record, lost in the consolation semifinals 8-7 to Rose State.
The Golden Norse started the season losing jut three of their first 30 games before struggling down the stretch.
Heartbreakingly bad luck in the Region 2 tournament continued for the Lady Norse.
They suffered a 2-0 shootout loss to Northern-Tonkawa in first round of the Region 2 tourney.
The teams had played to a 1-1 draw through regulation and two 10-minute overtimes.
Sophomore Ashya Butler had NEO goal in regulation.
“Had we played the whole season like that, I think our record would have been a whole lot different,” Bell said.
This was the fourth straight year the Lady Norse were dealt heartbreaking first-round losses.
The Lady Norse finished with a 4-11-1 record, including a 4-7-1 mark in conference play.
“It says in our mission statement that we want to have an intercollegiate athletic program that is second to none,” Dale Patterson said. “I think we are very close to having that. It happens for a lot of reasons.
“No. 1 is support from our board of regents and the administration and faculty at NEO; No. 2, the longevity that we’ve had with our coaching staff, and No. 3, you go back to the support we get from our community and the alumni. It takes all of it to get it done.”