MIAMI — In bad need of a huge play, Gervarrus Owens delivered for Northeastern Oklahoma A&M.
A redshirt freshman defensive back from Southmoore, Owens bumped Trinity Valley tight end Nathan Gascamp out of bounds just shy of the end zone.
The fourth-down play preserved a 34-27 win by the fourth-ranked Golden Norsemen Saturday, Sept. 15, in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference for both teams at Red Robertson Field.
“This team seems to make things interesting. I will handle the heart attack every week as we end up on the right side of things,” Norse head coach Zach Allen said. “It shows a lot about our team to make a play at the end.
Trinity Valley quarterback Colton Atkinson found Gascamp open on a route at the NEO 6.
It looked like Gascamp would get into the end zone to cap off a furious rally by the Cardinals — but Owens turned in the play of the night with 21 seconds remaining.
“They (members of the defensive unit) stepped up to the plate,” Allen said. “I can’t say enough good things about the effort those guys put forth every single day.
“They are starting to become a really nice defense.”
A 14-yard touchdown pass from Clayton Sims to Marcheenan Hair and Tommy Heatherly’s PAT kick at 9:32 gave the Norsemen a critical 21-point margin.
Critical because Trinity Valley got a pair of scores in just over two minutes — including a 96-yard punt return — to get to within seven points with 3:29 remaining.
Instead of being able to burn time on its ensuing possession, NEO ran four plays and had to punt.
Heatherly’s 43-yard boot pinned the Cardinals at their 10-yard line with 1:41 left in the game.
Five plays later, TVCC was knocking on the door at the Norse 6.
Atkinson threw incomplete twice then hooked up with Gaskamp.
He turned up field, but ran into a group of Norse defenders, led by Owens, who shoved Gaskamp out of bounds at the NEO 4.
“We got him in the flat. The defense did a good job of keeping him from getting to that right pylon,” said former Norse quarterback and head coach Sherard Poteete, in his first year heading up the Trinity Valley program. “It came down to one play and at the end of the day, hey, NEO made the play.”
It looked like the Golden Norsemen were going to turn the game into a rout when they jumped out to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter.
Darran Williams blasted his way into the end zone from the 2 on the game’s third play.
A fumble recovery by freshman Nathan Eggleton set up a 4-yard run by Micah Cooper then a blocked punt was returned 12 yards by Shelby Washington.
“It gave us confidence early in all facets of our offense,” Allen said. “It just showed later on in the third quarter when we had to make a few plays and extend the lead, we were able to.”
That’s when Carl Garmon added a 1-yard touchdown at 3:27 of the third. The PAT by Heatherly left the Norse with a 27-13 lead.
Hair’s touchdown catch, his second of the season, created a critical 21-point advantage.
“We had a chance to win,” Poteete said. “Zach Allen and Zach Crissup have done a great job with those guys. Their defense played their butts off tonight and made us earn everything we got.
“It’s just hard to overcome when you don’t score in the first quarter.”
This marked the third straight game the Cards had been blanked in the opening frame.
Williams was NEO’s leading rusher with 125 yards on 24 carries.
Garmon ran the ball 11 times and picked up 111 yards.
Quarterback Clayton Sims completed 7 of 17 passes for 156 yards and the scoring strike to Hair.
Hair snagged three passes for 64 yards. He already has 11 receptions in three games.
The Norse hit the road for the first time Saturday, Sept. 22, traveling to Tyler, Texas.