When the lights go up Saturday night on the 2007 football season, both the Northeastern A&M Golden Norsemen and the Dodge City Community College Conquistadors will be answering several questions about their respective teams.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Robertson Field.
"This is when the fun begins," Golden Norse head coach Rob Green said. "We've done all that other work starting last winter in the weight room and progressing through spring practice and preseason drills. This is the reason you prepare and it's the reason I'm a head coach."
Entering his third season as head coach, Green began preseason with 24 returning sophomores.
Last season Green guided the Golden Norsemen to their second consecutive second place finish in the SWJCFC. The Norsemen finished 3-3 in the conference and dropped a 14-12 decision to Kilgore College in the conference semifinal game at Robertson Field. The Golden Norsemen finished 3-6 on the season after forfeiting two victories because of an ineligible player.
Fans are invited to participate in a tailgate party starting at 6 p.m. in the north endzone under the canopy. Cost is $6 per person that includes barbecue sandwiches, potato chips, baked beans, cookies and pop. Tickets will be sold at the northeast gate.
Season tickets for five Golden Norsemen home football games remain on sale. Reserved season tickets are $40 per person while a general admission pass is $25. A general admission family pass that includes two adults and three children under the age of 16 is $50.
Tickets purchased at the gate for individual games are $6 for adults and $3 for students and senior citizens.
Anyone wanting ticket information should contact Kathie Hulsey at 540-6327.
Just like NEO's Rob Green, Marcus Garstecki enters his third year as head coach of the Conquistadors. The Conqs finished fifth in the Jayhawk Conference last season with a 3-4 record while compiling a 4-5 overall record.
"We think Dodge City will try to establish first by running a lot of play-action stuff at us," Green said. "Even though they lost their offensive coordinator, I think they'll stay pretty much with the same schemes.
"Along the same lines, they aren't quite sure what we'll try to do offensively," Green said. "Our philosophy will be to establish a solid running game by using the pass to set that up."
NEO returns five starters on the offensive unit while seven veterans return on defense.
Heading the list of returning starters are a pair of preseason National Junior College Athletic Association all-Americans - offensive lineman Mark Chesnut (6-3, 284 of Miami) and place-kicker Jeremy Knott (6-4, 184 of Tulsa Union).
"We're vastly improved offensively over what we were last year. I'm a true believer that any time you can run the football, it allows you to have a more diverse offense. We've got a lot of experience coming back with Bo Bowling at quarterback."
Bowling (5-10, 205 of Tonkawa) started the last four games as a freshman after replacing Blake Byford who switched to tight end. Once Bowling took control of the Golden Norse offense, he finished second on the team in rushing with 316 yards on 96 carries and seven touchdowns. He completed 31 of 62 passes for 268 yards with four interceptions and no TDs.
Joining Bowling in the backfield is freshman Shaun Baker-Hughes (6-0, 190 of Tulsa Edison). Baker-Hughes and freshman Manny Abington (6-0, 195 of Pawnee) will alternate in the backfield.
"But I think Shaun Baker-Hughes is going to step up and be a tremendous player," Green said. "He may not have Deji's (Karim) overall speed, but he's very shifty and accelerates real well."
After missing last season with an injury, Curtis Tucker (6-1, 208 of Cushing) returns to anchor the Golden Norse receiving corps along with Byford (6-1, 241 of Edmond North) at tight end and freshman Dee Williams (6-3, 235 of Ashdown, Ark.) at the other wide out spot.
"A year ago we were starting four true freshmen along our interior offensive line," Green said. "With the exception of freshman Jeremy Bean (6-5, 290 of Broken Bow) at left tackle, we've got four experienced players anchoring our offensive front. That should make a considerable difference.
"We expect Dodge City to throw a 4-4 front at us defensively," Green said. "Coach Garstecki is their defensive coordinator, so we think he'll give us the same look we got last year.
"Back in the day coaches used to worry about whether you were going to face a 4-4 or 4-3 base on defense," Green said. "But you've got to block them all, so your basic blocking scheme doesn't change that much.
"Our defense should be greatly improved over last year because coach (Travis) Rhatigan has a year under his belt as defensive coordinator," Green said. "He got quite an indoctrination from Dodge City last year because they threw the ball all over the field. With seven players that saw considerable playing time as freshmen, that in its self should make us better."
Veterans Colton Johnson (6-5, 228 of Tulsa Lincoln Christian) and Colby Lassley (6-3, 239 of Mustang) anchor the front line at ends with freshmen John White (6-4, 275 of Moore) and Austin Emerson (6-2, 270 of Sperry) at tackles.
Sophomore Jason Bates (6-1, 237 of Alva) returns at middle linebacker flanked by freshmen Darran Kinsey (6-1, 190 of Goliver Prep, Fla.) and Randy Tonche (6-4, 220 of Sallisaw) on the outside.
Returning at cornerbacks are sophomores Adryan Adams (6-1, 190 of Oklahoma City Millwood) and Leotist Gordon (5-9, 183 of Putnam City) with veterans Kylee Hill (5-10, 191 of Bristow) at free safety and Emmanuel Jones (6-0, 205 of Tulsa Union) at strong safety.
The Golden Norsemen will have an open date on Sept. 1 before beginning a two-game road trip on Thursday, Sept. 6, at Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium against Arkansas Baptist College.