Now that the “Nightmare on I Street” is over for Northeastern A&M Golden Norseman head coach Rob Green and his staff, they will turn their attention to restocking the cupboard.
“Now it's time for us to hit the road and go get some more players,” Green said following the shocking 41-34 loss to Tyler Junior College Saturday to end the regular season.
With the come-from-behind win by the Apaches, the Norsemen finished 4-5 on the season and 1-5 in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference.
Although first-year coach Danny Palmer guided Tyler to a 3-3 conference record and a 5-4 overall mark, the Apaches failed to qualify for the four-team post season playoffs.
Despite a 26-20 loss to Cisco Junior College on Saturday, sixth-ranked Kilgore College won the conference regular season title with a 5-1 record.
The 7-2 Rangers will host No. 16th Cisco (7-2, 4-2) Saturday in a semifinal playoff game.
Defending national champion Blinn College dropped a 42-18 decision to Navarro College on Saturday to finish 4-2 in the conference and 7-2 overall.
The seventh-ranked Buccaneers will travel to Corsicana, Texas, Saturday for a rematch with the Navarro Bulldogs (6-3, 4-2).
Winners of the semifinal playoffs will face each other on Nov. 10 for the SWJCFC championship.
Prior to the game with Tyler, 21 sophomores were introduced to the hometown crowd. The Golden Norsemen are expected to return three starters on the offensive side and four on defense.
“This is nothing new,” Green said. “At the junior college level you have to retool every year. But we lose a large portion of our offense and some key components on defense, so we'll have to really pound the pavement to get some quality players in here.”
Sophomore quarterback Bo Bowling almost single-handedly guided the Golden Norsemen to what seemed to be a comfortable 24-0 halftime lead.
After a 40-yard field goal by sophomore Jeremy Knott gave NEO a 3-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, Bowling threw touchdown passes of 30 yards to sophomore Dee Williams and 50 yards to freshman Ryan Gonzales. He sandwiched those around a 2-yard TD run.
As much as Bowling proved to be the darling of the first half, he quickly turned into a pariah in the final 30 minutes.
Back-to-back interceptions allowed the Apaches to climb back into the game.
Touchdown runs of 1 and 8 yards by Chris Davis and a 4-yard touchdown pass from Steven Schwark to Vincent Brooks rallied Tyler to within 24-19 heading into the fourth quarter.
Just 33 seconds into the final quarter, Knott kicked a 20-yard field goal as the Golden Norsemen clung to a precarious 27-19 lead.
Davis continued his torrid ground assault with touchdown runs of 10 and 4 yards to propel Tyler to a 34-27 lead with 2:52 remaining in the game.
The Bowling-to-Gonzales duo clicked again for a 7-yard touchdown pass to create a 34-34 tie with 1:59 showing on the clock.
Freshman kick returner Alonzo Adams appeared to take the wind out of the Golden Norse sails with a spectacular 93-yard kickoff that which took only 14 seconds of the clock.
Down, but not out, the Golden Norsemen had one last shot at tying the score as Bowling let fly a pass on a fourth-and-31 call from the Tyler 47-yard line.
The pass came down in a cluster of at least eight players and NEO's Williams appeared to have caught the ball at the 3-yard line.
But, as he turned towards the goal line, the ball fell to the ground as an incomplete pass.
Bowling, who is NEO's all-time leading rushing quarterback with 1,455 yards in 11 games, led all rushers with 140 yards on 28 carries.
He also completed 9 of 22 passes for 161 yards with two TDs and two interceptions.
Gonzales led the Norse receiving corps with three catches for 80 yards.
NEO's all-time leading receiver Curtis Tucker (1,595 total yards) also caught three passes for 78 yards.
Freshman defensive tackle John White led NEO with eight unassisted tackles and eight assists. Sophomore middle linebacker Jayson Bates contributed seven solo tackles and seven assists.
While NEO's defensive unit surrendered 438 total yards, the Apaches gave up 428 total yards to the Golden Norse.
The difference-maker for the Apaches were the 10 quarterback sacks for a combined minus-66 yards while NEO had only one sack for minus-2 yards.