Following an open date on Sept. 26, coach Donnie Bigby's Golden Norsemen entertain the Rangers of Kilgore (Texas) College during NOW Days celebrations at 3 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 2, on Robertson Field.
Fifth-year head coach J.J. Eckert guided the Rangers to fourth place in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference with a 3-3 record. The Rangers dropped a 24-10 decision to then No. 1 ranked Navarro College in the conference semifinals to finish 4-6 on the year.
Eckert, son of former Northeastern State University head coach Tom Eckert, has compiled a 22-17 record with the Rangers.
Last season Kilgore received 23 points off Northeastern A&M turnovers as the Apaches rolled to a 68-36 victory at R.E. St. John Stadium. The Norsemen had four interceptions and three fumbles in the game. Kilgore also returned a blocked extra point for a safety.
NEO still maintains a 17-10 lead in the series which dates back to 1951.
During spring drills, Eckert and his staff returned 46 players from last year's squad which averaged 371.4 total yards per game on offense and 356.1 total yards on defense.
Engineer of the Rangers offense is quarterback Hans Cook (5-11, 201 of Deer-Park, Texas). As a freshman, Cook completed 52 of 74 passes for 673 yards and six touchdowns with two interceptions. He also led the team with 437 yards on 87 rushes and two TDs.
Challenging Cook for the starting job is Si'Darius Blackshire (6-1, 235 of Carthage, Texas). Blackshire completed 29 of 56 passes for 509 yards and one touchdown with one interceptions. He rushed for six yards on 12 carries with two touchdowns.
Expected to return in the Rangers backfield at tailback are Terrance Cannon, Daniel Thompson and Liquor Lockhart.
Cannon (6-0, 250 of Talco, Texas) gained 233 yards on 55 carries with three TDs. He also caught five passes for 13 yards and one touchdown while returning one kickoff for 13 yards.
Thompson (5-8, 175 of New London, Texas) rushed for 197 yards on 37 yards and two TDs.
Lockhart (6-1, 260 of Fort Worth, Texas) finished with 173 yards on 31 carries and four touchdowns.
Veteran Trae Hawkins (6-2, 295 of Pittsburg, Texas) leads the Rangers receiving corps after making 19 receptions for 150 yards and one TD as a freshman.
Wide out Kelvin Hall (6-4, 215 of Jacksonville, Texas) also bolsters the receivers after catching 12 passes for 151 yards and one touchdown last year.
While ranking fourth in the conference overall on the defensive side, the Rangers' secondary featured two of the top three interceptors in the league. Graduation took sophomore cornerback Jimmy Anderson while Junior Osunde (5-10, 180 of Arlington, Texas) returns. Both players recorded four interceptions last season to finish one behind league leader Trevor Drayton of Navarro College.
Osunde posted 40 total tackles with two tackles behind the line of scrimmage for a loss.
Also returning to the back end of the Rangers secondary at safety is veteran Josh Wilson (6-0, 190 of Humble, Texas). Wilson recorded 43 total tackles with two deflected passes as a freshman.
At the other safety spot is Jacorey Quarterman (6-2, 195 of Miami, Fla.) who finished with 14 total tackles last season.
Linebacker Cameron Bridgewater (6-1, 195 of Channelview, Texas) is expected to return to the middle of Kilgore's defense. Bridgewater posted 16 total tackles as a part-time starter his freshman year.
Sophomores James Scottt (6-2, 255 of Coldsprings, Texas) and Tahare Ray (6-2, 210 of Springs, Texas) should see action at linebacker. Scott made 10 total tackles last season while Leach added seven solo stops.
Returning at the defensive end position is redshirt Darren McClin (6-0, 240 of Marshall, Texas). Last season McClin sat out with an injury.
Anchoring the interior defensive line are Xavier Bryant, Brandon Hawkins, Kadarius Reeder, Steve Richard and LaDerick Calico.
Bryant (6-1, 305 of Mount Enterprise, Texas) made 23 total tackles with 2.5 quarterback sacks and three fumble recoveries.
Hawkins (6-2, 295 of Pittsburg, Texas) finished with seven total tackles and one quarterback sack with two tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Reeder (5-11, 255 of Tyler, Texas) posted three total tackles in one game.
Richard (6-4, 295 of Dallas, Texas) made four total tackles last year.
Calico (6-2, 275 of Tyler, Texas) compiled nine total tackles, one quarterback sack and one deflected pass as a freshman.