LINDALE, Texas — The target is on the back of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M.
The Golden Norsemen were tabbed as the preseason favorite by coaches in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference and media members who cover the league’s teams during the league’s Media Day Friday, July 27 at Garden Valley Golf Club & Resort here
“I was a little surprised the vote was that way,” Norse head coach Zach Allen said. “I just think it shows the respect that we earned over the course of the last half of last season.
“We knew we were going to have a target on our back.”
NEO was picked fifth in both polls prior to the 2017 season, but notched a 26-10 win over Trinity Valley (Texas) College in the SWJCFC post-season championship game in Athens, Texas.
The Norse were 1-2 heading into Week 4 of the ’17 campaign, then went on a run that saw them win their final five regular-season games.
They squeezed out a 38-34 win against Blinn (Texas) College to set up the rematch with Trinity Valley.
The Cardinals had rolled to a 27-14 win in the first meeting of the teams also in Athens on Sept. 9.
NEO, Trinity Valley and Blinn all finished 5-2 in SWJCFC play.
Trinity Valley was seeded No. 1, NEO No. 2 and Blinn No. 3 for the playoffs.
Navarro (Texas) College pulled down the fourth seed for post-season play.
The Cardinals finished 5-2 in regular season conference action and received the post-season No. 1 while NEO (5-2) was the No. 2 seed and Blinn College (5-2) the No. 3 seed.
By winning the conference title, NEO nailed down a slot in the inaugural Midwest Classic Bowl at Robertson Field.
Independence (Kansas) Community College claimed a 30-20 win over the Golden Norsemen.
NEO picked up five first place votes and 50 total in the coaches’ poll.
Trinity Valley and Navarro were right behind, each receiving 49 points. Navarro picked up two first from the coaches.
Blinn was fourth with 47 points, followed by Tyler (Texas) Junior College, 39 (one first); Kilgore (Texas) College, 27; New Mexico Military Institute, 18, and Cisco (Texas) College, 9.
In the media poll, which also was decided by two points, the Norse received five firsts and 74 total.
Right on NEO’s tail was Trinity Valley with 72.
They were followed by Blinn, 64; Navarro, 63; Tyler, 45; Kilgore 44; NMMI, 19 and Cisco, 15.
Trinity Valley, Blinn and Navarro each picked up two first place votes.
Allen is among three new coaches in the league.
A member of the Norse staff for nine seasons, Allen succeeds Clay Patterson, who now is at Minnesota.
Former Norse head coach Sherard Poteet now is in charge at Trinity Valley while defensive coordinator Jim Gush was promoted to the top job at Navarro.
Poteet, NEO head coach in 2013, had been the Cardinals’ offensive coordinator, but took over when Brad Smiley accepted a position at Northwestern State in Louisiana.
The Norse begin SWJCFC play Saturday, Sept. 15 by hosting Trinity Valley.