Let’s cut to the chase: there have been some big football games between Kilgore College and Trinity Valley over the years. But this one has to rank right up there with any that’s happened in the last decade.

Kilgore College visits Trinity Valley in Athens this Saturday, and at stake is the lead in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference standings. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Both teams only have one loss, and the season is dwindling down. Trinity Valley is 4-1, ranked 10th in the NJCAA’s top 20 poll, and has three games left after KC – but two of them are RPA College and Air Force Prep, both out of conference and truthfully overmatched opponents. The Cardinals close the regular season with a trip to Corsicana to take on Navarro College.

The Rangers, ranked sixth in the nation and back on track after a home loss to Cisco three weeks ago, still have to play No. 9 Blinn and end the season with a rivalry game at Tyler Junior College. So the Rangers have the harder road.

The team who finishes with the conference’s best record at the end of the regular season is the number one seed in the SWJCFC’s four-team playoff that begins Nov. 2. KC did that last year, then won the playoff title, too.

The Cardinals went 3-0 before running into Blinn at Brenham two weeks ago, and the two played in a very low-scoring game (Blinn won, 10-6). Last week, Trinity Valley got its momentum back a bit with a 46-13 dusting of Cisco.  The Cards are 4-0 at home, and while they’re averaging 26 ½ points a game, they’re only giving up about 11.

TVCC has played three quarterbacks, although sophomore Jeremy Hunt has the most action. Hunt is 68-of-118 for 925 yards, seven touchdowns and just two interceptions. His leading target so far has been Keonta Fiakpui, with 15 catches, 217 yards and a touchdown. Kyle Wakefield, with 11 catches for 99 yards, is the only TVCC receiver with more than one score – he has two.

The trend right now in college seems to be running back by committee, and Trinity Valley is no different. Their leading rusher, Bernard Dankyi, has just 170 yards this season. Cordrick Dunn has 150.

On special teams, KC will see a good kicker and punter in TVCC’s Eddie Godina, who’s averaging 41 yards a kick, on 25 punts, and has made 14 field goals in 17 tries, his long from 54 yards out. He’s made 11 of his 13 extra points and leads the team in scoring.

Defensive standouts for Trinity Valley include sophomore defensive end Derrick Ray, with his 3 ½ sacks and 22 tackles; sophomore linebackers Race Moser and Joren Dickey, and defensive back Deterious Bryant (seven tackles for loss). Interestingly, Trinity Valley has won four games out of five, but is doing it without creating many turnovers. They have only 10 all season, and eight of them are fumble recoveries; they have only two interceptions.

KC, on the other hand, has a ball-hawking defense with 12 interceptions, with three each by Jabari James and Geovonte Howard. Linebacker Quinton Sharkey has been a freshman godsend, leading the team in tackles (an even 50,  8 ½ per game) and two interceptions. Another couple of freshmen, linebacker Keith Harris and defensive back Jonathan Riley, are second and third in tackles, and defensive tackles Sedrick Williams and Kelton Moss, both sophomores, have combined for 8 ½ sacks and eight tackles for loss.

The Rangers are allowing 23 points per game, but only 205 passing yards and 119 rushing yards a contest. They’re scoring 39 points a game.

Quarterback Jacob Frazier returned for his sophomore season and that’s proven to be a good decision. He’s completed 75 percent of his passes (94-of-125) for 1,639 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions. He also leads the team in rushing (274 yards and six scores).

His receiving corps is a good one, led by the TCU transfer Omar Manning. Manning has 33 catches for 695 yards and six touchdowns. Gabe Douglas has 20 catches for 336 yards and four touchdowns, and Da’Shawn Williams and running back Scooter Adams each have two touchdown catches.

Also out of the backfield has been freshman running back Earnest Crownover, who has 254 yards, averages just over 6 yards a carry, and two touchdowns.

KC, who beat Trinity Valley 49-24 a year ago, is off next Saturday (Oct. 12) and then plays Blinn here on Oct. 19, visiting Tyler the final weekend of the regular season (Oct. 26).

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