Caught in a log jam for second place in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference, the Northeastern A&M Golden Norsemen return home Saturday to host the nation's No. 1 junior college program, the Bulldogs of Navarro College at 3 p.m. on Robertson Field.
Prior to the Trinity Valley game, a tailgate party will be held in the north endzone area under the big tent.
Tickets are $6 per person and will go on sale at 2 p.m. at the northeast gate. The meal will be a barbeque sandwich with chopped onions and relish, mustard and ketchup, cole slaw, potato salad, cookies and a drink.
Tickets purchased at the gate for individual games are $6 for adults and $3 for students and senior citizens.
“Playing the No. 1 team in the nation is a great challenge for our kids,” Golden Norse head coach Rob Green said. “Last week on the bus ride back from Cisco, Texas, I asked one of our coaches ‘who do we play next week?'
“That's the kind of focus we have week in and week out,” Green said. “We don't ever look ahead until we start game-week preparation, no matter who the opponent is.
“In essence, this is our bowl game because we're on the hallowed ground of Robertson Field, in front of our hometown fans and playing the No. 1 football team in the country,” Green said. “We're fired up for this kind of challenge.”
Joining the Norsemen at 2-1 are eighth-ranked Blinn College, No. 12th Trinity Valley and 24th-ranked Kilgore College.
The Norsemen (2-3) are riding a modest two-game winning streak following a 28-22 win in overtime last weekend at Cisco, Texas.
Following a one-game suspension for violation of team rules, freshmen placekicker Matt Berrey, running back Dominik Williams and wide receiver Alonzo Adams are expected to be back in uniform.
“Because of the importance of the kicking game in a contest of this magnitude, it's good to have Matt (Berrey) back on the field,” Green said. “Both Dominik and Alonzo give us quality depth at their positions.”
First-year head coach Nick Bobeck has the Navarro College Bulldogs sitting atop the weekly National Junior College Athletic Association/J.C, Football.com poll with a perfect 5-0 record.
Last weekend the Bulldogs rolled to a 35-6 victory over previously undefeated Trinity Valley in Corsicana, Texas.
“Navarro is the most balanced football team we've faced thus far,” Green said. “They have an experienced, poised quarterback that executes their offense almost flawlessly.
“The key element of their offense is the fact that they don't turn the football over very much,” Green said. “Add to that their big-play capability and they are a very formidable football team. They're also very opportunistic on offense.”
“Our biggest adjustment defensively, is that we've got to get back to gang tackling the football,” Green said. “In the second half against Cisco, they ran for 200 yards because too many times we left guys out in one-on-one situations and too many times they whiffed. “Navarro has a running back in (William) Powell and a quarterback in (Andre) Bevil that can break the long-gainer once they get on the edge,” Green said. “We've been improving in our pass coverages and our flushing the quarterback into hurries.”
Golden Norse linebackers Robert Spann, Johnny Row and Randy Tonche' are the top three tacklers in the SWJCFC. Spann has 63 tackles while Row has made 62 tackles and Tonche' has 56 total stops.
“This is another one of those games where, offensively, we want to get the ball snapped as many times as we can,” Green said. “Over the last three games we've been averaging about 77 snaps per game. “We'd be satisfied with that against Navarro,” Green said. “We also want to improve our proficiency in the red zone and come away with some points.
“Right now we've got a rhythm with our offense and have been moving the ball with consistency,” Green said. “We're in a ‘run-to-throw' mode with our offense.”
Freshman tailback Cardell Clemens (6-0, 200 of Glenpool) ranks second in the conference with 604 yards on 127 carries and seven touchdowns. He also has seven receptions for 71 yards.
“We think Navarro will try and take away our tailback,” Green said. “If they try to do that, then we'll throw the ball more.
“They have a very sound, balanced defense,” Green said. “They don't have any real superstars, but they don't have any glaring weaknesses either. From time to time they like to bring people off the edges, but they play the type of defense where all 11 players are involved.”
NEO quarterback Trey Munden (6-1, 205 of Verdigris) ranks second in the conference by completing 66 of 125 passes for 859 yards and three TDs with eight interceptions.
Sophomore wide receiver Colton Chelf (6-0, 180 of Claremore Sequoyah) is second in the SWJCFC with 21 receptions for 431 yards and one TD.