Melek Hamilton (10) with nowhere to go

Kilgore College running back Melek Hamilton (10, center) is surrounded by New Mexico Military defenders in Saturday's Southwest Junior College Football Conference semifinal playoff game, here at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium. New Mexico Military upset KC, 20-10, and advances to the SWCJFC title game next week at Navarro. KC finished its 2019 season, the first for head coach Willie Gooden, with an 8-2 record. (Photo by MICHAEL HAMPTON)

It appears that, somewhat shockingly, suddenly, the Kilgore College Rangers have played their final football game of the 2019 season.

The Rangers, who were ranked third in the nation last week and were the number one seed in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference playoffs, were upset Saturday here at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium, by visiting fourth-seed New Mexico Military Institute, 20-10.

KC finished 8-2 overall, unless for whatever reason the program is offered a bowl game. KC played in the TIPS-CHAMPS Heart of Texas Bowl in Waco last year, but that’s an honor that traditionally goes to the SWJCFC champion.

In addition to KC losing, second-seeded Trinity Valley lost, as well, to Navarro. That means the conference’s title game will be in Corsicana next week: New Mexico Military at Navarro, next Saturday.

The new national poll has the Rangers seventh. There’s a pretty good chance that they’ll end up the highest-ranked team from the conference, in spite of not winning the conference playoff title or even being in the title game.

KC  was upended on Saturday by a New Mexico Military team in the SWJCFC playoffs for the first time. In fact, NMMI had never beaten KC before; they’re now 1-4 against the Rangers.

The big play of the day came with just over a minute remaining. KC, with the ball at the Broncos’ 24-yard-line and trailing 13-10, fumbled the ball – New Mexico’s Daemahni Williams grabbed it up and returned it 75 yards for the game-sealing score, the 20-10 final. KC had one of Luis Reyes’ field goal attempts blocked on its previous possession, but the Rangers’ defense forced a NMMI punt to get the ball back.

Penalties had a good bit to do with the Rangers’ fate, too – they were flagged 15 times for 135 yards.

The game had been tied at seven at the half. NMMI scored on a 25-yard halfback pass to Diego Miranda from Fred Jackson, with 4:43 left in the second quarter. KC’s defense set up its score: defensive back Jadrian Taylor forced a fumble, and teammate Jacorian Barnes recovered it at the Broncos’ 11. Former Kilgore standout Melek Hamilton scored on a 9-yard run and Reyes’ extra point sent the game to the halftime break tied up.

Reyes hit a field goal in the third quarter to give the Rangers their only lead of the day, but then Jackson scored for the Broncos on a 1-yard run later in the quarter. The extra point was botched, but that gave NMMI the 13-10 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

The Rangers finished with 444 yards of total offense, 330 of it on the ground, on 59 carries. Frazier led the way with 108 rushing yards. Kevon Latulas had 72, and Hamilton, 58, with the touchdown.

Taylor had two sacks for the Rangers. Barnes had one, and led KC with 12 tackles.

This is a KC program that has had one of its best two-year runs in a while: the Rangers went 10-2 last year and won both the regular season and conference playoff championships, then beat Pima in that Heart of Texas Bowl. This year, KC went 8-2, so the Rangers are 18-4 the last two seasons.

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