It was practically inevitable – but not completely. Nothing in football is ever really inevitable.

Still, the Kilgore College Rangers are the Southwest Junior College Football Conference regular season champions for a second straight year. And it just feels right.

KC turned back a stern challenge from Tyler Junior College today, with Tyler actually leading 21-7 before the Rangers fought back and won, 34-28, in overtime.

KC already had pretty much clinched everything it could clinch in conference, but now it’s official: they finished the regular season 8-1, 7-1 in conference play, and are the number one seed for the conference’s four-team playoff, which begins next week. KC will host the number four team, but right now, the only thing that’s sure is that KC is the number one team, and Trinity Valley is second.

That means KC will host an opponent here at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium next Saturday. Trinity Valley will host an opponent at Bruce Field in Athens on Saturday. And other than that, it’s like the old game of 52-card pickup.

Five teams are tied with 3-4 conference records: Cisco beat New Mexico, but lost to Tyler and Navarro. Navarro beat Tyler, Cisco and New Mexico, so they would appear to be in. Tyler beat Cisco, but lost to New Mexico and Navarro. It’s a mess.

Of note: at 11:55 p.m. Saturday night, New Mexico Military coach Joe Forchtner put this message on Twitter: "Hey, @nmmibroncos...We're going to the playoffs!! At Kilgore next week!"

New Mexico beat Blinn, 45-42, on Saturday.

When the final two playoff teams are announced, we’ll have it here on kilgorenewsherald.com.

Saturday afternoon at Rose Stadium, Tyler had its own destiny in its hands. If the Apaches had won, and been able to pick up a fourth conference win, most likely they’d be in.

And for three and a half quarters, it looked like that might be the likely scenario.

The first score of the game was almost as much of a mess as the conference standings are. Tyler appeared to have scored on an 11-yard touchdown pass from David Johnson to Jacob Kainer, but a holding flag brought TJC back. Two plays later, the Apaches lined up for a 42-yard field goal, but holder Nate Overholt hopped up and threw the ball to Kainer, who scored the 25-yard touchdown and gave TJC a 7-0 lead, with just under six minutes left in the quarter.

A pick-six – a rare interception by KC quarterback Jacob Frazier – turned into an immediate second touchdown for Tyler just after the clock reached the second quarter. Miles Wilson picked off Frazier and returned the pick about 60 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

KC fought back, though, putting together a 12-play, 60-yard drive, the key play a third-down and 14 conversion – a pass from Frazier to former Kilgore High School standout Melek Hamilton – and a personal foul call on TJC. Hamilton would have a big impact later, as well. Running back Earnest Crownover would ultimately score the touchdown for the Rangers on a 1-yard run, and Luis Reyes booted the extra point and KC trailed 14-7. The score remained that way at halftime.

The Apaches extended their lead to 21-7 in the third quarter, and then the Rangers began their comeback. Frazier, KC’s leading rusher on the season, guided the team on a 15-play, 90-yard drive that saw Frazier get the score on a 3-yard run. The extra point got KC within a score, with 5:45 left in the third.

The Rangers forced a Tyler punt on the next Apache series and then KC pulled the long-drive trick again, this time marching 80 yards and finishing up with a 10-yard run by Crownover, tying the game with 49 seconds left. Reyes’ point after split the uprights to make the tie official, and the game went to overtime.

KC got a 4-yard run by Kevon Latulas to score first, for their first lead of the day, 28-21. Tyler tied it on a 8-yard run by Taequan Tyler.

In the second overtime, TJC went on offense first, but as he has all season, KC defensive lineman Sedrick Williams did what he does: he sacked the quarterback and threw TJC into a fourth down. This time, though, the fake didn’t work: Overholt rolled out to throw and was sacked by KC’s Jadrian Taylor. So KC got the ball with the score tied at 28, and any score would win the game.

Frazier got KC out of trouble, getting a first down with his legs on a third and 12, and then on second down, Hamilton would end the game: he scored on a 6-yard run, and that ended it, officially making KC regular season SWJCFC champs again.

KC has just one three losses since August, 2018, and is 18-3 in that time frame. Regardless of the opponent, they’ll be home next week.

Watch kilgorenewsherald.com for the conference’s playoff announcement.

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