Editor's note: This is the seventh in a series of articles previewing the teams the Northeastern A&M Golden Norsemen play during the 2008 football season.
KILGORE, Texas - Concluding the home portion of the season, the Northeastern A&M Golden Norsemen entertain the Kilgore College Rangers, Saturday, Oct. 25, in a 3 p.m. homecoming game at Robertson Field.
Under the direction of second-year head coach J. J. Eckert (former quarterback at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah), the Kilgore Rangers start the preseason ranked 14th by the National Junior College Athletic Association/JC Football.com rankings.
After two years as head coach at Garden City, Kan., Eckert guided Kilgore to an 8-4 record last season. The Rangers won the Southwest Junior College Football Conference regular season crown with a 5-1 record.
Kilgore dropped a 54-28 decision to Navarro College in the SWJCFC post-season championship game at Kilgore's R. E. St. John Stadium.
Traveling to Copperas Coves, Texas, the Rangers suffered a 62-28 defeat at the hands of third ranked Mississippi Gulf Coast in the fourth annual C. H. A. M. P. S. Heart of Texas Bowl.
Against the Golden Norsemen last season, the Rangers scored two touchdowns (42 and 24 yards) on interception returns and one on a 75-yard kickoff return en route to a 70-31 victory at R. E. St. John's Stadium. Cornelius Shackleford rushed for 147 yards as the Rangers generated 403 yards in total offense.
Two NJCAA/JC Football.com preseason all-American selections bolster the potent Kilgore offense.
Shackleford (5-11, 190 of Tyler) returns to spearhead the Rangers offense at tailback. Last season Shackleford ranked second in the SWJCFC with 1,204 yards on 198 carries and five touchdowns. He also caught eight passes for 30 yards.
Broken Arrow graduate Prince McKinney (5-10, 180) is expected to return to battle Shackleford for playing time. McKinney rushed for 286 yards on 44 carries with three TDs while catching four passes for 55 yards and two touchdowns.
Most pressing decision Eckert and his staff face will be finding a replacement for graduated Logan Morris at quarterback. Morris ranked second in the conference by completing 120 of 212 passes for 1,591 yards and 19 touchdowns with six interceptions.
Preseason all-American tight end Woody McClendon (6-3, 245 of Texarkana, Texas) and wide receiver Kendrick Johnson (5-8, 170 of Mexia, Texas) return to the Rangers receiving corps.
McClendon caught 18 passes for 185 yards and one touchdown while Johnson made 12 receptions foe 325 yards and three TDs. Johnson also returned 12 punts for 120 yards and 15 kickoffs for 381 yards and one TD.
Among the 46 returning sophomores expected to report for fall preseason on Aug. 12, the Rangers have five returning starters on the defensive side.
Returning along the defensive front for the Rangers are tackles Xavier Richard and Steve Thomas.
Richard (6-2, 275 of Houston, Texas) recorded 11 total tackles and one quarterback sack for minus-12 yards.
Thomas (6-3, 275 of Mesquite, Texas) posted 28 total tackles with two sacks for minus-14 yards.
Anchoring the defensive end spots are Kendall Abron and Tony Johnson.
Abron (6-1, 230 of Gilmer, Texas) led the Rangers with four quarterback sacks for minus-29 yards with 26 total tackles as a starter.
Johnson (5-11, 245 of Longview, Texas) came off the bench to record 13 total tackles.
Three veterans return to the Rangers linebacking corps led by Cory Whitfield, Jarrod McCarty and Rashad Williams.
Whitfield (6-2, 190 of Palestine, Texas) paced Kilgore with 56 total tackles and three quarterback sacks for minus-21 yards.
McCarty (6-1, 215 of Missouri City, Texas) made 36 total tackles with two sacks for minus-19 yards.
Williams (6-1, 220 of San Antonio, Texas) finished with 30 total tackles and two sacks for minus-11 yards.
Veteran Victor Carmichael is expected to return at a corner for the Rangers. Carmichael (6-0, 180 of Waco) posted 45 total tackles.