Two teams headed in opposite directions collide Saturday as the Northeastern A&M Golden Norsemen entertain the Apaches of Tyler Junior College at 2 p.m. in the regular season finale at Robertson Field.
While coach Rob Green's Golden Norsemen are mired near the bottom of the Southwest Junior College Football Conference standings with a 1-4 record, first-year Tyler head coach Danny Palmer has the Apaches on the brink of earning a post-season playoff berth with a 2-3 conference mark.
Both teams are 4-4 on the year.
“We know we're in control of our own destiny,” Palmer said. “We also fully understand that we're not just going to come to Miami and run rough-shod over NEO. They have a very tradition-rich program and we know coach Green and his staff will have them ready to play.”
The first round of the four-team playoffs will start Nov. 3 with the championship game scheduled for Nov. 10. Two of the conference teams have an opportunity to compete in either the Heart of Texas Bowl in Copperas Cove, Texas, or the Pilgrim Pride Bowl in Mt. Pleasant, Texas.
“Right now we're on a roll with two straight wins while NEO has fallen on hard times,” Palmer said. “But, I think that's what will make this game so appealing to the fans because the Norsemen have a chance to end on a positive note while we're hot after a playoff spot.”
Steeped in the tradition of being an intense, physical rivalry, the Golden Norsemen cling to a slim 20-18-1 advantage since the inception of the series in 1954.
Last season the Golden Norsemen earned a 35-27 win over the Apaches at Tyler's Trinity Mother Francis Rose Stadium. Deji Karim finished with 155 yards on 18 carries while Bo Bowling chipped in with 133 yards on 24 carries.
Thus far this season neither team is really tearing it up statistically. NEO's offense is ranked fifth in the conference with a 388.4 total yards per game average while Tyler's offense is sixth with a 318.8 total yard average.
Along with a 42-7 rout over Trinity Valley Community College last Friday in Tyler, the Apaches own a 29-23 victory over 16th ranked Cisco Junior College the fourth week of the season.
Guiding the Apaches offense is freshman quarterback Steven Schwark (6-2, 210 of Mesquite, Texas). Schwark ranks fourth in the conference in passing after completing 70 of 138 attempts for 971 yards and six touchdowns with eight interceptions. He has rushed for 26 yards on 29 carries.
Returning to the Apaches backfield at tailback is sophomore Jeremy Brown (5-10, 190 of Italy, Texas). Brown ranks fourth in the SWJCFC with 709 yards on 117 carries and six TDs. He has three receptions for 43 yards.
Freshman Ira Duckworth (6-0, 185 of Houston, Texas) alternates with Brown at tailback. Duckworth has rushed for 515 yards on 111 carries with seven touchdowns.
"Our philosophy going into this game will be to use our passing game to open up our running game," Palmer said. "In the past teams have had pretty good success running right at NEO and that's what we'll want to do."
Leading the Apaches receiving corps is freshman Alonzo Adams (6-0, 180 of Houston, Texas). Adams has made 27 receptions for 623 yards and five TDs. He has also gained 19 yards on five carries.
Veteran wide out Wayne Lee (5-10, 175 of Terrill, Texas) has made 17 catches for 156 yards and one touchdown.
While NEO's defensive unit is ranked near the bottom of the conference by allowing an average of 386.4 yards per game, the Apaches are at the bottom with a 389.5 average.
Anchor for the Tyler defensive unit is sophomore outside linebacker Kyle Roget (6-1, 235 of Arlington, Texas). Roget ranks third in the conference with 92 total tackles. He has also recorded 2.5 quarterback sacks.
Freshman weak side safety Jacolby Reed (5-10, 170, of Houston, Texas) has made 45 total tackles and 2.5 quarterback sacks while freshman free safety Calvin Rubles (6-2, 180 of Dallas, Texas) has contributed 41 total tackles.
Leading the Apaches with three interceptions is freshman Jason Teague (6-0, 170 of Carthage, Texas). Teague has contributed 29 total tackles.
Norse notes: Prior to opening kickoff, a tailgate party will start at 1 p.m. under the big top tent located in the north endzone. Cost of the meal is $6 per person for a foot-long cheese coney, Fritos, cole slaw, cookies and a drink. Tailgate tickets will be sold at the northeast gate. More than 20 sophomores will be recognized for their two-year contribution to the Golden Norse football program. Game tickets will go on sale at 1 p.m. Cost is $6 for adults and $3 for students and senior citizens.