MIAMI — Two Southwest Junior College Football Conference teams that played twice last season, collide Saturday, Oct. 6 at 3 p.m. as the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College Golden Norsemen face the Blinn College Buccaneers at Brenham’s Cub Stadium.
Under the direction of second year head coach Ryan Mahon, the co-champion Buccaneers finished last season in a three-way tie with NEO and Trinity Valley for the regular season conference title. Each team had a 5-2 SWJCFC record while Blinn finished 6-4 overall.
The two teams met last year in the regular season finale in Brenham.
After building a 14-7 lead through the first two quarters, the Golden Norse held a slim 21-20 margin going into the fourth quarter.
NEO quarterback Wyatt Steigerwald threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jace Sternberger and a 26-yard TD pass to K.J. Wells to give the Norsemen a 35-26 victory.
Steigerwald completed 15 of 24 passes against Trinity Valley for 205 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Averaging 6.4 yards per carry, the Golden Norse ground game finished with 300 yards rushing on 47 carries.
Veteran running back Darwin Thompson led the Norse with 128 yards on 20 carries to become the fourth-leading NEO single-season rusher with 1,178 yards.
Blinn quarterback Devin Williams led the offense with 164 passing yards in 15 completions, and 68 rushing yards for one touchdown.
Tailback Carlos Grace followed with 136 rushing yards for two touchdowns, while wide receiver Dandre Reed posted 106 yards.
A week later the Golden Norsemen overcame a 31-24 deficit through three quarters to post a 38-34 victory in the conference semifinal at Red Robertson Field.
Thompson rushed for 84 yards on 17 carries as the Golden Norse offense gained 124 yards on 36 carries. Watson added 22 yards on three carries and one TD.
Steigerwald completed 20 of 35 passes for 339 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. Cordale Grundy and KJ Wells each threw one incomplete pass.
Wells led the Norse receiving corps with six catches for 99 yards while Marquan Greene contributed four receptions for 96 yards.
Freshman wide out Marcheenan Hair caught four passes for 59 yards.
Carlos Grace led all runners with 163 yards on 30 carries and a touchdown. The Buccaneers rushed for 229 yards on 50 carries.
Williams completed 10 of 23 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.
The 10th-ranked Buccaneers traveled to Yuma, Arizona, to face No. 6 ranked Snow, Utah, in the El Toro Bowl.
Trailing 35-19 entering the final quarter, Snow scored 24 straight points and provided a defensive stop on the a last-minute two-point conversion to trip up Blinn 43-41.
The dual threat backfield of Jaylen Warren and D'Arman Notoa combined for 239 yards on the ground and four touchdowns for Snow.
Williams threw for 268 yards while Grace rushed for 46 yards to lead the Bucs.
After allowing an average of 410.8 yards and 28.1 points per game last season, Mahon and his staff worked with 65 returning players during spring drills. Defense was a key focus after signing 40 prospects during national signing day in February.
With a balance between the run and pass, Blinn averaged 454.4 total yards and 33 points through 10 games last year.
Williams, a second team all-conference selection, and Daveon Boyd return under center for the Buccaneers while Grace, another second team all-conference pick, and Robert Franklin are back in the tailback slot.
Williams (5-10, 180 from Mansfield, Texas) completed 131 of 257 passes for 2,290 yards and 17 touchdowns with seven interceptions. He ranked second on the team with 446 yards on 96 carries and five TDs.
Boyd (5-10, 175 from Humble, Texas) completed 4 of 7 passes for 57 yards and one touchdown and one interception in seven games. He gained 24 yards on six carries.
Grace (5-10, 200 from Crosby, Texas) rushed for 1,192 yards on 253 attempts with 11 TDs. He added six receptions for 17 yards.
Franklin (5-8, 190 from College Station, Texas) played in nine games and gained 248 yards on 38 carries with two touchdowns.
Three players return to bolster the Buccaneer receiving corps.
Wideouts Keric Wheatfall, Sicory Smith and Quinton Newton are the catalyst of the Blinn receivers.
Wheatfall (6-2, 180 from Cypress, Texas) caught 25 passes for 375 yards and one touchdown in nine games. He also made a 10-yard run.
Smith (5-6, 155 from Cameron, Texas) started all 10 games as a freshman and made 23 receptions for 536 yards and seven TDs. He gained 27 yards on four attempts and one TD as a ball carrier.
Newton (5-10, 176 from Spring, Texas) caught 15 passes for 367 yards and one touchdown in only five games. He also scored on a 7-yard run.
Six redshirt sophomores are among 12 veterans returning along the interior of the Blinn offensive line.
Returning along the defensive line are tackles Michael Gayden and Jaylan Hill, along with all-conference selection Zechariah Hopkins and Kristen Williams at ends.
Gayden (6-1, 260 from Houston, Texas) recorded seven unassisted tackles and nine assists with two quarterback sacks for minus-9 yards in 10 games as a freshman.
Hill (6-2, 275 from Ennis, Texas) posted seven solo tackles and four assists in 10 games. He also made one quarterback sack for minus-6 yards.
Hopkins (6-1, 250 from Cuero, Texas) led the team with 11 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for minus-11 yards. He had 18 unassisted tackles and 14 assists.
Kristen Williams (6-4, 220 from Houston, Texas) finished with 27 solo tackles and seven assists. He recorded 4.5 quarterback sacks for minus-29 yards and one tackle behind the line for minus-9 yards.
Veteran Brennon Davis (6-2, 225 from Grapevine, Texas) anchors the middle linebacker spot. He made 27 unassisted tackles and 22 assists while returning one interception 3 yards.
Anchoring the secondary for the Buccaneers is safety Vonte Davis (6-2, 170 from Rosenberg, Texas).
Last season Vonte Davis — a second-team NJCAA All-American — posted 34 solo tackles and 14 assists in 10 games. He forced and recovered three fumbles for 62 yards and returned two interceptions for 15 yards.