Unleashing a balanced offense and a stingy defense, Northeastern A&M's Golden Norsemen opened the season Saturday night with a 48-15 victory over Dodge City Community College before approximately 1,800 fans at Robertson Field.
“This was a typical first game for both of us,” NEO head coach Rob Green said. “We did some good things and then there were some mistakes. It gives us something to build on.”
After open date next weekend, the Golden Norsemen start a two-game road trip on Thursday, Sept. 6, by facing the Arkansas Baptist College Buffaloes at 7 p.m. in Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium.
Both teams sparred with each other in the first quarter with the Golden Norsemen missing an opportunity to get on the scoreboard. Sophomore placekicker Jeremy Knott missed a 25-yard field goal attempt wide right to end a 56-yard, eight-play drive by NEO with 6:01 left in the first 15 minutes.
Early in the second quarter the Norsemen defense created a scoring chance after freshman linebacker Tavis Hogsett recovered a fumble by Dodge City quarterback Colby McGill at the Conquistadors 21-yard line.
Former Miami High School standout Kaelin Woods came off the bench after starter Bo Bowling proved ineffective in NEO's first three series.
Woods found freshman wide receiver Walter Coleman open on a 6-yard touchdown pass with 12:23 left in the second quarter. Knott kicked the extra point for a 7-0 Golden Norse lead.
“Bo came out and was getting a little frustrated and tried to force some things,” Green said. “We knew Kaelin has an excellent arm and is very poised running the offense, so we moved Bo to running back where he could do his thing and let Kaelin do what he does best.”
After stopping the Conquistadors on their next series, the Golden Norse needed only three plays to reach the endzone from 65 yards out. Woods connected with veteran wide out Curtis Tucker for a 51-yard pass play down to the Dodge City 3-yard line.
Bowling culminated the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run with 9:31 until halftime. Knott's PAT created a 14-0 Norse margin.
Knott, a NJCAA preseason All-American selection, nailed a 41-yard field goal to end an 83-yard, eight-play drive by the Norse. NEO's lead swelled to 17-0 with 3:16 before intermission.
Dodge City made their own switch between quarterback and running back as McGill, a graduate of Edmond High School, went to the sideline as running back Sedrick Bryant moved under center in the final three minutes of the half.
Aided by a 15-yard personal foul penalty against NEO's defense, the Conquistadors covered 56 yards in four plays. Bryant had runs of 7, 18 and 17 yards before scoring on a nifty 20-yard touchdown run. Cory Dreiling kicked the point-after to trim the deficit to 17-7 with 1:50 before halftime.
Attempting to punt from their own 10-yard line with just three seconds left on the clock, Dodge City punter Chris Pense had the snap sail over his head and out the back of the endzone for a two-point safety for a 19-7 Norse lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, sophomore return specialist Kylee Hill electrified the partisan crowd with a 75-yard return for a TD as the horn sounded. Woods trotted onto the field and tossed a two-point conversion pass to Kevin Radford giving NEO a 27-7 cushion at the break.
Taking the second half kickoff Woods guided the Golden Norse 57 yards in eight plays before connecting with former Commerce High School tight end Damyon Dooley for an 8-yard touchdown pass. Knott's extra point increased the lead to a 34-7 margin.
A blocked punt by linebacker Levi Weeden gave Dodge City a scoring chance at the NEO 21-yard line. After Bryant ripped off a 19-yard run, the freshman found wide out Tyler Kirby open for a 3-yard TD pass. The conversion run by Bryant failed as the Conquistadors trailed by a 34-13 score heading into the fourth quarter.
The Golden Norse defense forced the only interception of the game as sophomore free safety Emmanuel Jones returned an errant Bryant pass 31 yards to the 2-yard line.
Bowling scored on a 2-yard run and the PAT by Knott created a 41-13 lead for NEO with 10:20 left in the game.
Mounting a sustained drive on their next possession, the Golden Norse marched 70 yards in 10 plays. Freshman running back Jeremiah Sampson scored on a 20-yard run with 4:10 showing on the clock. The extra point by Knott closed out NEO's scoring.
A mental error by NEO punt return specialist Leotist Gordon accounted for Dodge City's final points.
Gordon fielded a booming 65-yard punt by Pense at the NEO 9-yard line and retreated into the endzone. Conquistadors cover man Craig Venters tackled Gordon in the endzone for a safety with 2:22 remaining in the game.
The Golden Norsemen generated 375 yards in total offense.
that included 192 yards rushing and 183 yards passing.
Bowling rushed for 124 yards on 25 carries and scored two TDs to lead the NEO ground game. Sampson added 35 yards on two carries and one TD late in the fourth quarter.
Woods completed 13 of 21 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns. Bowling added 3 of 5 for 21 yards.
Tucker led the NEO receiving corps with seven receptions for 126 yards while Coleman added four catches for 18 yards.
Bryant rushed for 103 yards on 23 carries as Dodge City was held to 243 total yards on offense. Bryant also completed 7 of 11 passes for 71 yards and one TD with one interception.
Freshman wide out Jesse Julmiste caught five passes for 38 yards and Tyler Kirby added four receptions for 62 yards.