MIAMI — You can say one thing about the 2018 Northeastern Oklahoma A&M football team: they manage to keep things interesting.
On Sept. 8 against Georgia Military, two touchdowns in the span of 1:34 in the third quarter rallied NEO (4-1 overall, 2-1 in the conference) to a 14-10 victory.
In their Sept. 15 game with Trinity Valley, defensive back Gervarrus Owens bumped the Cardinals’ Nathan Gascamp out of bounds on a fourth down play just short of the goal line to secure a 34-27 win.
Then against Navarro College on Saturday, Sept. 29, it was Golden Norse tight end Lonnel Burris’ turn.
The redshirt sophomore from Choctaw snagged a fourth-and-3 pass to keep the ball out of Navarro College’s hands and seal a 10-9 nail-biter at Red Robertson Field.
“It was drawn up … I had to make the play,” Burris said. “It was a great play from my QB Clayton Sims.”
That was only the third catch of the season for Burris, who has been a jack-of-all-trades for 10th-ranked NEO, splitting out and playing fullback.
“You’ve got to know they whole playbook when it comes to the offense to play tight end,” Burris said.
A 38-yard field goal by Jonathan Ingram melted an NEO lead down to one point with 3:41 remaining.
The Norse got a 32-yard return on the kickoff from Taquelin Harris to give them possession at their own 45.
Four plays later, they were at the Navarro 28-yard line and needed 3 for a first down.
Burris had to beat a Bulldog defender to make the catch for a 12-yard gain.
NEO ran two plays out of the victory formation, and then let the remaining seconds run down.
Burris said both the players and coaches wanted to bypass a field goal try and go for it on fourth down.
“It was both of us really wanted it,” Burris said. “We work on it sometimes in practice. When your number is called, you just have to make the play.”
“Lonell is a bigger, physical dude which allows for some of that deception like you saw on that last play,” Norse head coach Zach Allen said.
It looked like the game had the potential to be a blowout when the Golden Norse needed only eight plays to get what turned out to be the lone touchdown when Sims teamed with Tariq Bitson on a 25-yard scoring strike.
Tommy Heatherly’s PAT kick made it 7-0 with just over 4 minutes elapsed.
The game turned into a defensive struggle as the teams traded off field goals, Ingram nailing a 37-yarder with 7:37 left in the first half and 39 out in the third and Heatherly with a 34 yarder midway through the fourth.
Ingram had a 41-yard attempt go wide right late in the first period.
“We did just enough and give it up to Coach Rice (offensive coordinator Andrew Rice) for letting it all hang out there on the fourth-down call and throwing the dump to Lonell, one of our bigger playmakers.”
The Norse defense turned in another of those “bend but don’t break” performances, bottling up a Navarro offense that had been averaging 500-plus yards a game.
“That was our defense playing like our defense should,” Allen said. “Coach Crissup (defensive coordinator Zach Crissup) and those guys did an incredible job today. We didn’t get a lot of turnovers. We just went and played ball over and over and over again.
“That (Navarro) is a well-coached, really good football team that we have a good chance of seeing again (in the SWJCFC playoffs). It’s just a dadgum battle every week around here.”
NEO travels to Blinn Saturday, Oct. 6.