Most four-year college football programs won’t open their season until next week, but two local programs – longtime rivals and conference foes – hit the gridiron against each other tonight.
Coach J.J. Eckert’s Kilgore College Rangers will open their 81st football season tonight against a very familiar opponent: Tyler Junior College, a non-conference game between the two Southwest Junior College Football Conference rivals. It’ll be a different setting, though: the game will be played at Lindale’s Eagle Stadium, a 7 p.m. kickoff. It’s being played there because Rose Stadium, TJC’s home, has renovations that aren’t complete.
The two teams will meet again here at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium on Oct. 27, the regular-season finale, and that will count in the conference standings. The goal for both, and for all the conference teams, is to get into the conference playoffs and win the SWJCFC championship in early November, and perhaps go on to represent the conference in a bowl game.
The rivals typically meet twice a season, and did so last year, with split results. TJC beat KC here, 22-8, in weather off of Hurricane Harvey, and then the Rangers returned the favor, 31-20, at Rose Stadium to close the season. Both programs narrowly missed the playoffs. KC finished 5-4, and KC all-time is 496-293-14.
Eckert brings back five starters on each side of the ball, including sophomore quarterback Jacob Frazier, who split time with a few players a year ago. Frazier completed 88-of-122 passes for 1,001 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions, KC’s leading passer. He has help returning in the backfield, players like Carlos Frank and Roger McCuller. Wide receivers come back, as well, including Jonathan Mackey, Lucky Daniels, Rod Ford and Kevin Jones.
Defensively, KC will need to replace two-time NJCAA All-American linebacker Troy Burnett, who’s now at Tarleton State. Defensive end Samuel Johnson, who had four sacks a year ago, returns.
Eckert and TJC coach Danny Palmer are each in their 12th season – Palmer was injured in last week’s scrimmage in a collision and has said he’ll coach tonight’s game from the press box.
Hear tonight's game online at https://www.meridix.com/channel/?liveid=kcathletics#/schedule, that's online only, with Mark McLain and Gary Richards calling the action. Longtime KC broadcaster Manny Almanza has decided to retire from broadcasting.