Less than two months after a devastating flood inundated both the Northeastern A&M College football field house and completely covered Robertson Field, coach Rob Green's Golden Norsemen will open the 2007 season Saturday at 7 p.m., by hosting the Dodge City Community College Conquistadors.
“It is simply unbelievable the amount of work that has been done to get things ready to go,” Green said. “Everything has been spotlessly cleaned from the grass on our practice field and on Robertson Field, to the inside of our dressing facilities and the restrooms, concession stands and the stadium seats themselves.
“The start of the season is when the fun begins,” Green said. “We did all that hard work in the weight room after the season and practiced hard in the spring.
“Then we came back after summer and began two-a-days last week,” Green said. “So now, we'll get to see the fruits of our labor.”
Last season the Golden Norsemen compiled a 3-6 record in Green's second year as head coach. The record includes forfeits of victories to Dodge City and Ranger because of an academically ineligible player.
For the second straight year Green guided the Golden Norsemen to a second place tie in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference. After finishing 3-3 in the league, the Golden Norse dropped a 14-12 decision to Kilgore, Texas in the conference semifinals at Robertson Field.
Just like Green, Marcus Garstecki is in his third season as head coach at Dodge City.
Last season the Conquistadors finished fifth in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference with a 3-4 record.
After receiving the forfeit from NEO, the Conqs finished with a 4-5 season mark.
“They were a good offensive football team last season,” Green said. “But because this is the first game of the season, we don't have any film on them and they don't have any on us.”
Playing before a large crowd at Dodge City's Memorial Stadium last season, the Golden Norsemen rallied from an eight-point third quarter deficit to earn a 41-36 victory over the Conquistadors.
The Golden Norsemen took the opening kickoff and needed only two plays to cover 65 yards for their first touchdown in 2006.
Sophomore running back Deji Karim quieted the partisan crowd with a 53-yard touchdown run just 36 seconds into the game.
Freshman wide receiver-kick holder Michael Barnett took a bad snap on the extra point and tacked on the two-point conversion to give NEO an 8-0 lead.
Dodge City responded with a methodical drive on its first possession.
The Conqs covered 66 yards in seven plays before running back Rod Ferguson scored on a 25-yard run with 11:10 left in the first quarter.
A conversion pass from quarterback Alex Melugin to wide receiver Corey Schultz created an 8-8 tie.
Karim displayed his versatility by returning the ensuing kickoff 87 yards to give NEO another scoring chance. Only a tackle by Dodge City cornerback Justin Morton prevented Karim from scoring.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Blake Byford culminated a three-play drive with a 4-yard touchdown run. Jeremy Knott kicked the extra point to give the Golden Norsemen a 15-8 margin with 9:34 left in the first quarter.
Consuming more than 13 minutes, the Conquistadors needed 17 plays to drive 81 yards for the tying touchdown.
During the drive, Melugin converted three fourth down situations.
Melugin connected with wide receiver Kennard Burton for a 9-yard touchdown pass at 11:23 of the second quarter. Ethan McDonald booted the point-after for a 15-15 tie.
After a 74-yard, eight-play drive by the Golden Norsemen stalled at the Dodge City 21-yard line. Knott connected on a 38-yard field goal to create an 18-15 Norse lead with 8:14 before halftime.
During Dodge City's next possession, quarterback Melugin suffered a slight concussion on a quarterback sack by NEO's Terrance Gaston.
Freshman Marcus Allen replaced Melugin and drove the Conquistadors 62 yards in six plays for a go-ahead touchdown.
Allen hit Burton in full stride for a 48-yard pass play before free safety Adam Roberts tackled Burton on the 1-yard line.
Ferguson leaped over from the one and McDonald kicked the extra point to give Dodge City a 22-18 lead with one minute before halftime.
With just one second left, Knott trotted on the field after a 65-yard, four-play drive and kicked a 38-yard field goal as the Norsemen trailed 22-21 at intermission.
Dodge City took the second half kickoff and marched 67 yards in four plays before Allen scored on a 1-yard plunge with 12:34 showing on the clock.
McDonald's extra point increased Dodge City's lead to a 29-21 margin.
NEO consumed two minutes and covered 82 yards in seven plays before Knott connected on a 53-yard field goal, Knott's kick trimmed the deficit to 29-24 with 10:46 left in the third quarter.
Following a six-play series by Dodge City, Golden Norse return specialist Gerald Jones took a Chris Pence punt and broke four tackles en route to a 74-yard punt return for a touchdown. Karim scored the two-point conversion to propel NEO to a 32-29 lead with 7:45 remaining in the third quarter.
An interception by cornerback Adryan Adams created another NEO scoring opportunity.
After the drive stalled at the Dodge City 25-yard line, Knott kicked his fourth field goal of the game from 47 yards to give NEO a 35-29 cushion with 4:07 showing on the clock.
Karim scored on a 43-yard run for NEO's final touchdown with 10:50 left in the fourth quarter as the Golden Norsemen held a 41-29 margin.
A 53-yard touchdown pass from Allen to Schultz with 1:17 left in the game proved to be the last gasp for the Conquistadors.
Generating 363 yards in total offense, the Golden Norse ground game accounted for 238 yards on 36 carries. Karim led all rushers with 171 yards on 13 carries.
Byford completed 8 of 18 passes for 125 yards for NEO. Shad Scarbrough caught three passes for 28 yards while Gerald Jones made two receptions for 50 yards.
NEO's defense allowed 517 yards in total offense by the Conquistadors. Ferguson led the ground game with 139 yards on 24 carries while Allen completed 19 of 32 passes for 217 yards and Melugin hit 13 of 22 passes for 154 yards.
Norse notes: The first weekly meeting of the Golden Norse Booster Club will be noon Wednesday in the Bruce G. Carter Student Union Ballroom. Admission for the luncheon is $5 per person at the door. Coach Green will introduce members of his coaching staff and discuss the Dodge City game. …
Season tickets for five Golden Norsemen home football games remain on sale.
Reserved season tickets are $40 per person while a general admission pass is $25. A general admission family pass that includes two adults and three children under the age of 16 is $50.
Tickets purchased at the gate for individual games are $6 for adults and $3 for students and senior citizens
Anyone wanting ticket information should contact Kathie Hulsey at 540-6327.