Winners of three of their last four games, the Kilgore Rangers visit Robertson Field Saturday for a 3 p.m. homecoming clash with the Northeastern A&M Golden Norse-men.
“I don't know about playing at NEO on their homecoming,” Kilgore head coach J.J. Eckert said. “They are the type of team that could really give you trouble.”
Kilgore, the defending regular season Southwest Junior College Football Conference champion, comes to Miami with a 3-2 conference record and a 4-3 overall mark.
The Rangers are currently third in the race for the four-team playoffs that begin next month.
NEO is tied with Trinity Valley, Arkansas Baptist and Tyler for the fourth playoff spot with a 2-3 conference record. The Norsemen are 2-5 on the season.
Last weekend the Rangers dismantled then-No.17 Trinity Valley by a 35-23 score in Kilgore.
Ranked as the oldest rivalry between NEO and teams south of the Red River, the Golden Norse own a 17-10 advantage in the series, which started in 1951.
Last year, the Rangers amassed 413 total yards en route to a 70-31 rout over the Norsemen at R.E. St. John Stadium.
Under Eckert's guidance in his first year last season, the Rangers won the SWJCFC regular season crown with a 5-1 record. The Rangers dropped a 54-28 decision to Navarro in the conference championship game.
Kilgore endured a 62-28 drubbing at the hands of Mississippi Gulf Coast in the Copperas Cove Heart of Texas Bowl to finish 8-4 on the season.
The Rangers, with 26 returning sophomores, knocked Blinn College from atop the nation's No. 1 spot.
Kilgore defeated Blinn 20-17 in three overtimes on Sept. 27.
Eight freshmen start on an offense that averages 323.3 total yards per game.
Freshman Lane Johnson (6-6, 230 of Groveton, Texas) is at the controls of the Kilgore offense at quarterback.
Johnson has completed 21 of 39 passes for 328 yards and two touchdowns with five interceptions.
Veteran Cortez Smith (6-3, 175 of Hooks, Texas) leads the Rangers receiving corps with 18 catches for 334 yards and four TDs.
Gone from the Kilgore running game because of injuries are sophomores Cornelius Shackleford and LaRon Elmer.
Both runners had rushed for more than 400 yards each before suffering injuries.
Freshmen Donielle Hill (5-10, 190 of Dallas, Texas) and Jazmon Moon (5-8, 200 of Longview, Texas) fill the void in the backfield. Hill has gained 142 yards on 23 carries with two TDs while Moon will be making his first start.
While the Rangers offense is in transition, the defensive unit ranks third in the conference by allowing an average of 290 total yards per game.
Sophomore safety Victor Carmichael (6-1, 190 of Waco, Texas) leads the defense with 54 total tackles.
The entire Kilgore defensive front are sophomores led by tackles Alex Kautai and Xavier Richard.
Kautai (6-1, 295 of Euless, Texas) has 26 total tackles and one quarterback sack while Richard (6-2, 275 of Dallas, Texas) has 16 total tackles.
Starting at ends are veterans Petty Westmoreland (6-1, 235 of Beckville, Texas) and Donquell Davenport (5-11, 235 of Tatum, Texas).
Westmoreland has made 23total tackles while Davenport has 24 total tackles.
Freshman cornerback Jimmy Anderson (5-9, 160 of Round Rock, Texas) leads the SWJCFC with five pass interceptions while recording 27 tackles.