Coming within one series of upsetting the nation's No. 1 team, the Kilgore College Rangers dropped a 22-17 decision Saturday night to defending national champion Navarro College at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium in Kilgore, Texas.
Coach J.J. Echert and Kilgore's starting tight end return to the sidelines Saturday as the winless Rangers host the Northeastern A&M Golden Norsemen at 3 p.m. during homecoming festivities at R.E. St. John Stadium.
The Golden Norse, coming off an open date, enter the game with a 2-2 season record and a 0-2 mark in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference.
"Our guys have really worked hard to get better during these last 10 days,” Golden Norse interim head coach Dale Patterson said. "They understand that they should have won the game (26-25 loss) with Cisco and they know that the mistakes they made can’t be repeated.
"We don’t pay any attention to records because we want to remain focused on what we have to do to win the game,” Patterson said. "Our players know that they are on the cusp of being consistent winners, but they also understand that we’ve still got some work to do.
"We haven’t been able to shake that ‘work in progress’ tag yet,” Patterson said. "But, if they keep putting in the time and effort they’ve exhibited this past week, then we’ll get this project done and make the playoffs.”
The Rangers, who have started slow and then finished fairly strong the last two seasons, are confronted with that challenge again in 2011 after dropping last Saturday’s game to Navarro. Kilgore is 0-4 on the season and 0-2 in the conference.
During Eckert's four years as head coach, Kilgore has appeared in the SWJCFC post-season playoffs every year.
The last three straight seasons the Rangers have started 0-4 only to reach the post-season.
The game against Navarro actually came down to the final play.
Trailing by the eventual final score and with no time outs, Kilgore quarterback Drew Jackson got the Rangers to their own 37-yard-line.
But he was down to the final seconds, and had to heave the ball in desperation down the field. Navarro batted it down, and escaped R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium with the win.
Eckert had to sit out the game against Navarro when the NJCAA ruled that he played an ineligible player against Trinity Valley on Sept. 10.
The Rangers had an open date Sept. 10, and Eckert was notified that tight end Mason Powledge, who had been flagged twice in the final minutes of Kilgore's game against Tyler Junior College, should not have played against Trinity Valley the following week.
Eckert protested, maintaining the Rangers were unaware Powledge was not eligible, but the NJCAA stuck with its ruling and as a result, Eckert and Powledge were both suspended for the game against Navarro.
Defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley coached the game in Eckert's place.
The Rangers ran 68 offensive plays compared to 67 by Navarro.
Kilgore's defense held the Bulldogs to just the one third-quarter touchdown and 73 passing yards.
Navarro had 97 rushing yards on the night, and Kilgore's defense had four quarterback sacks.
NORSE NOTES: Mack Butler, a former NEO assistant coach and current director of football operations at Oklahoma State University, will be the featured speaker Wednesday during the weekly meeting of the Golden Norse Football Booster Club. The noon luncheon will be held in the Bruce Carter Student Union Ballroom. Cost is $7.50 per person at the door.