KILGORE, Texas - With the No. 1 seed in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference on the line, first-year head coach J.J. Eckert expects his sixth-ranked Kilgore College Rangers to close out the home portion of their schedule in style Saturday against the Northeastern A&M Golden Norsemen.
A large Family Day crowd is expected at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium for the 3 p.m. kickoff.
While the four post-season teams for the SWJCFC playoffs have been locked up, the order of the playoffs have yet to be decided with two weeks remaining in the regular season.
Semifinals for the conference start Nov. 3 while the conference championship game is scheduled for Nov. 10.
Eckert, former quarterback and son of long-time coach Tom Eckert at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, assumed the head coaching position at Kilgore after one season as head coach at Garden City, Kan.
He replaced seven-year veteran Jim Reeves after the Rangers finished 6-6 on the year, which included a 19-7, win over Fort Scott, Kan., in the C.H.A.M.P.S. Heart of Texas Bowl in Copperas Coves.
Kilgore sits atop the SWJCFC with a perfect 4-0 record. The only loss through seven games was a 29-28 nail-biter in the season opener with 2nd ranked Butler (Kan.) Community College.
Along with the Rangers, 7th ranked Blinn College and 9th rated Cisco College have earned playoffs spots along with Navarro College. Blinn (6-1 and 3-1) hosts Cisco (6-1 and 3-1) in Brenham on Saturday while Navarro (4-3 and 3-2) plays a non-conference game with Arkansas Baptist.
Even if Navarro and either Blinn or Cisco finish with a 3-3 conference record and the Golden Norsemen (4-3 and 1-3) defeat Kilgore and Tyler, the Norsemen would not qualify for the playoffs because they have lost to all of the teams above them.
Last weekend the Rangers used a balanced offensive barrage to bury Trinity Valley 34-6 in Athens, Texas. The Rangers systematically dismantled the reeling Cardinals with another balanced attack, racking up 26 first downs on 273 rushing yards and 245 passing yards.
Averaging 417.5 yards per game in total offense, the Rangers ground game centers around the talents of freshman tailback Cornelius Shackleford (5-11, 190, of Tyler, Texas). Shackleford has rushed for 802 yards on 128 carries with five touchdowns. He has also caught six passes for 29 yards.
Freshman LaRon Elmer (5-9, 165 of Mesquite, Texas) provides a solid 1-2 punch in the Kilgore backfield. Elmer has rushed for 313 yards on 71 carries with seven TDs.
Veteran Logan Morris (5-10, 180 of Corpus Christi, Texas) starts at quarterback for the Rangers. Morris has completed 88 of 152 passes for 1185 yards and 15 touchdowns with four interceptions. Morris has added 128 yards on 43 rushes and one TD.
Sophomore Ernest Quander (6-3, 217 of Austin, Texas) leads the Kilgore receiving corps with 29 catches for 386 yards and four TDs.
Freshman tight end Woody McClendon (6-3, 245 of Texarkana, Texas) has 11 receptions for 108 yards while freshman wide out Kendrick Johnson (5-8, 170 of Mexia, Texas) has 11 catches for 254 yards and two touchdowns.
Featuring the largest offensive line in the conference with an average of 304 pounds, the Rangers interior line is led by sophomores Robin Williams (6-2, 310 of Boyd, Texas) and Anthony Holder (6-2, 325 of Dripping Springs, Texas) at guards and Brad Gillory (6-3, 300 of Lafayette, La.) at right tackle.
Allowing an average of 341.5 total yards per game on defense, the Rangers feature five freshmen in their starting lineup.
Cornerback Victor Carmichael (6-0, 180 of Waco, Texas) leads the Kilgore defensive unit with 45 total tackles.
Strongside linebacker Corey Whitfield (6-2, 190 of Palestine, Texas) has recorded 43 total tackles.
Veteran cornerback Kendrick Manning (5-11, 180 of Eatonton, Ga.) has made 39 total tackles.
Sophomore strong safety Jamall Skipper (5-9, 180 of Killeen, Texas) leads the conference with five pass interceptions for 81 yards and one touchdown.