Just like starting out in first grade, the Northeastern A&M Golden Norsemen had to find their way around the first quarter Saturday night en route to a 48-15 victory over Dodge City Community College at Robertson Field.
“We didn't know what to expect quite frankly,” Golden Norse head coach Rob Green said. “Since we had no film to go on, we didn't know what Dodge City was going to throw at us either offensively or defensively.”
“Once we got rid of the jitters in those first three series, we settled down and played pretty good football the rest of the way,” Green said. “We made the typical first game mistakes that can be corrected these next 11 days before we go to Arkansas.”
NEO will not play again until Thursday, Sept. 6, when they travel to Little Rock for a 7 p.m. game with the Arkansas Baptist Buffaloes at War Memorial Stadium.
Arkansas Baptist begins their football program after 51 years by traveling to Athens, Texas, Saturday, Sept. 1, to face Trinity Valley Community College.
“We were very fortunate to come out of our game with Dodge City with no major injuries,” Green said. “Anytime you can play a game and not get anybody hurt you're in good shape.”
After gaining only 65 total yards and missing a 25-yard field goal attempt during three series in the first quarter, Green tweaked the Golden Norse offense that reeled off 27 points in the second quarter against Dodge City.
“I noticed that Bo (Bowling) was getting frustrated running the offense,” Green said. “But, because of his athletic ability I knew he had to stay on the field, so we brought in Kaelin (Woods) and put Bo at running back.”
Both Bowling and Woods adapted to the change as the Golden Norse offense accumulated 154 yards and scored on four out of five series in the second quarter.
NEO's defense forced Dodge City quarterback Colby McGill to fumble and freshman linebacker Tavis Hogsett recovered the ball at the Conquistadors 21-yard line.
Woods, a redshirt freshman from Miami, connected with freshman wide out Walter Coleman for a 6-yard touchdown pass in the first three minutes of the second quarter. Jeremy Knott kicked the point-after for a 7-0 Norse lead.
Following a 3-and-out series by Dodge City, Woods found veteran wide out Curtis Tucker open on a 51-yard pass play to give NEO another scoring chance.
Bowling capped the 67-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run on the third play of the possession. Knott's PAT increased the lead to a 14-0 margin at the 9:31 juncture.
“We were getting man coverage on the corners,” Green said. “So we knew that if Kaelin had any time, he could get the ball down field. Our offensive line did a great job protecting him.”
Consuming more than five minutes on the clock, the Golden Norse offense covered 83 yards in eight plays before Knott connected on a 41-yard field goal to create a 17-0 NEO cushion.
Dodge City responded with a 56-yard, four-play drive as running back/quarterback Sedrick Bryant scored on a 20-yard run.
The drive was aided by a 15-yard personal foul penalty on the NEO defense after a 15-yard scamper by Bryant. Cory Dreiling's extra point cut the margin to 17-7 with 1:50 before halftime.
An errant snap on a 4th-and-10 play sailed over Dodge City punter Chris Pence's' head and out of the endzone for a two-point safety for NEO with just three seconds left before half.
Golden Norse kick return specialist sophomore Kylee Hill took the ensuing kickoff and raced straight up the middle of the field for a 75-yard touchdown as time expired.
Woods tossed the two-point conversion pass to Kevin Radford as NEO carried a 27-7 lead to the locker room.
Receiving the second half kickoff, the Golden Norsemen needed eight plays to cover 57 yards. Sophomore tight end Damyon Dooley snared an 8-yard TD pass from Woods on a 2rd-and-goal call. The extra point by Knott increased the lead to 34-7 with 11:29 left in the third quarter.
After Dodge City recovered a blocked Knott punt at the NEO 21-yard line, Bryant fired a 3-yard touchdown pass to wide out Tyler Kirby with 1:22 remaining in the quarter.
The two-point conversion run by Bryant was stuffed as the Conquistadors trailed by a 34-13 score.
Sophomore strong safety Emmanuel Jones intercepted an errant Bryant pass and returned it 31 yards before being tackled by Bryant at the 2-yard line.
Bowling scored on a 2-yard plunge and Knott added the extra point to give NEO a 41-13 lead with 10:20 left in the game.
The Golden Norse offense mounted a 70-yard, 10-play drive that consumed more than five minutes on the clock. Freshman running back Jeremiah Sampson culminated the drive with a 20-yard run. Knott's PAT closed out the scoring for NEO with 4:10 left on the clock.
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.