How in the world does a team go from being sixth in their conference standings and not in the playoff picture to number two in the standings and hosting a playoff game in one afternoon?

Welcome to the wild and wacky world of the Southwest Junior College Football Conference playoffs.

Kilgore College began the day last Saturday as the sixth-place team in the SWJCFC, needing to beat Tyler Junior College and get major help to get into the top four to make the playoffs – otherwise, their season would be over.

Not only did KC beat Tyler again, for the seventh straight time, and not only did KC get the help it needed, it got far, far more: the Rangers beat TJC, and rose all the way from sixth to second place. Coach Willie Gooden and the Rangers (5-4) will host Tyler – a third meeting between the teams – this Saturday, Nov. 12, at 1 p.m.

You can get tickets at the gate, but you don’t have to wait. Tickets are on sale now online at the college’s website, kilgore.edu/fb-tickets.

The season is over for the loser of that game, but for the winner, it’s a trip to the conference title game.

In the other game, top-seeded New Mexico Military will host Blinn.

“We knew with the situation that if we beat Tyler,” Gooden said, “we had a really good chance of getting in. …Preached all week, we’ve gotta believe. ... Now we know how to win again, and how to overcome a loss. A lot had to happen, but we’re so thankful, and we got what we wanted: an opportunity.”

KC’s turnaround really started the week before, with a home win over Trinity Valley. Even though the Rangers had lost four straight games, one of them was non-conference: Snow College, from Utah.

So the win over Trinity Valley gave Gooden and his team a tiebreaker over Trinity Valley and Blinn. The win over TJC yesterday was essential, but by virtue of the tiebreakers they held over Trinity Valley and Blinn, KC needed just one of them to lose in order to get up to fourth place.

Instead, what KC got was far more. Trinity Valley lost at New Mexico Military. Blinn lost at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. And to top everything off, Navarro beat Cisco (and on the last play of the game, 35-30!), and KC got its win over TJC.

The end result of all that? Trinity Valley and Cisco fell all the way out of the playoffs. New Mexico Military was never in jeopardy and held its number one seed. KC moved all the way up to number two. TJC had enough wins already that, coupled with those other teams losing, the Apaches still got in. And with Cisco losing, it allowed Blinn to also get in with a loss.

Huh?

Just a crazy finish. And now, there will be a THIRD game between rivals KC and TJC this coming Saturday. The two met in a non-conference game at the start of this season, a 49-28 win. Then Saturday, the 31-21 come-from-behind Rangers win. And now a third meeting.

It was not conventional, either.

Already leading 14-7 and driving for a potential two-touchdown lead, TJC quarterback General Booty was injured on a hit KC was flagged for, and did not return to the game.

The Apaches elected to fake a field goal, which turned into disaster for them and a loss of about 10 yards. KC quarterback Malcolm Mays methodically led the Rangers 75 yards, scoring the game-tying touchdown on a 9-yard run by Kendric Rhymes. That sent the game into halftime tied at 14.

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 did give the Rangers and their fans a scare, a one-handed spectacular 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.

Mays finished having completed 19-of-37 of his passes for 207 yards and the touchdown to Allen. KC’s first-half touchdown was by former Kilgore High star Kennieth Lacy, who scored on a 6-yard run. Lacy finished with 49 yards and the score on 11 carries. Mays had 74 yards on 10 carries.

Eight different players caught passes in the game. Freeman had four catches for 57 yards; Willie McCoy had four for 50 yards; Allen had three for 34, and the score; Garrison Johnson had three for 34, as well; Marques Pearson had two for 10; and Rhymes, Lacy and Davenport each had a catch: Rhymes for 9 yards, Lacy for 8, and Davenport for 5.

Jaimes had the one field goal and was 3-of-3 in extra point attempts. Kenny Pham punted five times for an average of 43.8 yards, a long of 58. And Freeman had a 70-yard return.

Defensively for KC, Derrion Clark had 10 tackles, including 1 1/2 for loss, a half-sack, a pass break-up, a quarterback hurry and a forced fumble. Keith Harris had nine tackles, a half-tackle for loss and a blocked kick; Kylan Guidry had five tackles, a sack, a fumble recovery and a hurry; Maurice Westmoreland had four hurries; Kadarion Johnson had a sack; and Hobbs and Alexander each had an interception.

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