KC-Willie Gooden

Kilgore College head football coach Willie Gooden (left) talks with Demarcus Crosby (9), Kadarion Johnson (92), Marcus Wiser (95), and Maurice Westmoreland (0) after the Rangers beat Tyler Junior College last Saturday. Gooden and the Rangers host Tyler again today at 1 p.m.; the winner advances in the SWJCFC playoffs, and for the loser, the season is over.

It’s already been a wild season for the Kilgore College Rangers football program.

And if they want to extend it, and play for a championship, they have to win today, at home.

Kilgore College (5-4 overall this season) will host rival Tyler Junior College (5-4) at 1 p.m. today here at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium, a game that’s a part of the Southwest Junior College Football Conference playoffs – KC seeded second, TJC seeded third.

The two teams just played here last week. But this is a unique season.

The winner moves on to face either New Mexico Military Institute or Blinn next Saturday in the conference’s championship game. Those two play today in Roswell, N.M.. New Mexico Military is the top seed in the playoffs, and if they win today, they would host either KC or Tyler next week. If, however, Blinn pulls the upset (and it would be an upset), then the title game would be either here or at Rose Stadium in Tyler.

At any rate, KC is still alive for these playoffs after a win over Tyler just a week ago, right here at R.E. St. John, and some “football miracles:” Trinity Valley and Blinn both lost road games, and Cisco lost as well. KC went from being unseeded and out of the playoffs to beating Tyler, then getting everything it needed to move all the way up to the second seed, and hosting TJC today.

The game will be streamed on the Kilgore College YouTube channel.

To say coach Willie Gooden’s KC Rangers have been on a roller-coaster season would be an understatement. They began the season ranked in the top five in the national rankings, whipped TJC at Rose Stadium, got all the way to second in the national poll – and then proceeded to lose four straight games.

Almost as inexplicably, the Rangers bounced back, ending their losing streak by beating Trinity Valley in a game they HAD to win two weeks ago, then coming from behind to beat Tyler for the second time this season last week. Tyler has lost seven straight meetings to the Rangers, and if the Apaches are going to do anything beyond today, they have to win.

Last week, KC trailed Tyler, 14-7, for most of the first half, only to come back for a 31-21 win.

Tyler lost quarterback General Booty – and KC got a personal foul on the hit. The Apaches faked a field goal, didn’t get the first down, and then watched as KC quarterback Malcolm Mays led the Rangers 75 yards and the game-tying touchdown on a 9-yard run by Kendric Rhymes.

Booty’s backup, Landry Kinne, didn’t play all that poorly at first, but was picked off twice by KC: once by Moses Alexander that led to a 36-yard field goal by KC kicker and former Sabine standout Eduardo Jaimes – that gave KC a 17-14 lead, a lead for good, as it turned out.

Then Dakerric Hobbs intercepted Kinne and Mays made the Apaches pay: a 14-yard pass to Cassius Allen to give the Rangers a 24-21 lead, still in the third quarter.

TJC scored on a 13-yard grab by Jeremiah Cooley in which he just snuck the ball over the corner of the end zone and the pylon. That got TJC within three, 24-21, with 6:29 left in the game.

But the Rangers would smother the clock, holding on to the ball as TJC’s sideline could do nothing but watch – the defense couldn’t get off the field. Finally, after one touchdown was called back on a hold, the Rangers got into the end zone. Donerio Davenport scored with exactly a minute left on the fourth-quarter clock.

KC went up by two scores (31-21), and Tyler really could do nothing: the clock expired during a run play.

In the first meeting, the non-conference game between the two that opened the season, KC won, 49-28.

Mays, a 6-5 strong-arm signal caller from Arlington, accounted for five of the Rangers’ scores. He threw four TD passes and ran for another as the Rangers were in control throughout.

KC has beaten TJC 10 of 11 games and leads the all-time series, 63-62-1. Tyler’s last win was on Aug. 26, 2017, by a 22-8 score in a non-conference game.

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