CORSICANA, Texas - Caught in a log jam for third place in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference, the 16th ranked Northeastern A&M Golden Norsemen make the 435-mile trek to Corsicana, Texas for a 3 p.m. homecoming contest with the Navarro College Bulldogs.
Prior to kickoff, a tailgate party will be held in the southeast corner of the parking lot. A large partisan crowd is expected for homecoming festivities on the Navarro campus. Crowning of the queen and king will be conducted during halftime ceremonies.
After suffering a tough 47-36 conference loss to Cisco, Texas last weekend at Robertson Field, coach Rob Green's Golden Norsemen dropped seven spots to 16th in the weekly National Junior College Athletic Association poll.
The Golden Norsemen take to the road with a 1-1 SWJCFC record and a 4-1 season mark.
“After the tough loss to Cisco, there were six points that we stressed to this team that we had to correct before we played Navarro,” Green said. “We can't continue to let the opposition throw over the top or be wide open in the flats on defense.
“We've also got to make our field goals and extra point attempts,” Green said. “We've got to cut down on our turnovers like interceptions. Cisco caught a tipped pass and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown. We threw two interceptions where the ball should have never been thrown in the first place.
“Interceptions can occur when you have a breakdown in blocking schemes.”
First-year head coach Ray Woodard has guided the Navarro Bulldogs to a 2-1 conference record and a 3-2 season mark. Averaging 49 points the past two games; the Bulldogs crushed Tyler Junior College 63-28 before beating Trinity Valley 35-14 last weekend.
“Navarro has a very explosive offense,” Green said. “After all, they hung 63 points on a pretty good Tyler football team.
“They've got excellent skill people and they've got three players in (Jeremy) Sanders, (Eric) Humphrey and (Andre) Bevil that they alternate in and out at quarterback. Throw into that mix (Tyrone) Ross at tailback and they feature the second-best running game in the conference.
“They line up in a multiple formation and spread things out the first play and then they line up in the I formation the next,” Green said. “They're on a roll right now and they've been successful getting the two quarterbacks out on the edge and putting them in a run-pass situation.”
Sophomore quarterback Bo Bowling is expected to return near full speed after being slowed last week with a staph infection in his right leg.
Bowling, who ranks second in the SWJCFC in rushing with 691 yards on 103 carries and nine touchdowns, was held to only 93 yards in 17 carries against Cisco. Bowling ranks fifth in the nation in rushing.
“From here on out the competition just gets tougher,” Green said. “We've got to cut down on these mistakes in order to give ourselves a chance to win.
“We've got to get back to a 60-40 run-pass ratio. A lot of that has to do with Bo's availability. He wasn't at full strength last week and it showed. But, he's been taking some antibiotics and he is getting close to 100 percent. Bo's such a competitor that he doesn't want to sit out one play, much less a quarter and definitely not an entire game.”
Redshirt freshman Kaelin Woods will alternate with Bowling at quarterback. Woods completed 28 of 47 passes for 342 yards and three TDs with three interceptions against Cisco. Woods ranks 23rd in the nation in passing with 60 of 94 for 576 yards and seven TDs and three interceptions.
“We can't throw the football 51 times a game and expect to win,” Green said. “We've got to get back to running the football and using the pass to set that up. It's important not develop a particular tendency that would allow them a chance to sit and dig in on defense.
“Year in and year out I've always felt that Navarro had some of the most talented defensive players in the league and this year is no different with (Malcolm) Blount at defensive end,” Green said. “He earned defensive player of the week recognition in the conference.
“They're not a big stunting team for the most part, but Blount had 5.5 sacks against Trinity Valley. They just like to line up and come at you.”
Defensively, the Golden Norsemen are allowing an average of 368.4 total yards per game.
Sophomore free safety Kylee Hill earned special teams player of the week honors in the conference after recording 18 total tackles against Cisco. Hill leads the Norse with 31 unassisted tackles and 13 assists.
Hill has three pass deflections with one interception.
Middle linebacker Jayson Bates has record 30 solo tackles and 39 assists with two quarterback sacks for minus-5 yards and one fumble recovery.
Former Miami Wardog Logan Zabel has made 30 unassisted tackles and 30 assists as an outside linebacker. Zabel has two sacks for minus-18 yards with a fumble recovery.
Freshman defensive tackle John White has recorded 30 tackles and 27 assists while veteran strong safety Emmanuel Jones has 30 solo tackles and 22 assists.
NEO's defense will be without the services of sophomore cornerback/kick returner Leotist Gordon who suffered a knee injury in the Cisco game.
Freshmen Abraham Woodard (5-11, 175 of Tulsa Memorial), Housen Maxwell (6-1, 200 of Fort Worth, Texas) and Eric Williams (5-10, 175 of Tulsa Union) will rotate at the corner position.