KC spring

Kilgore College football coach Willie Gooden (second from right) looks on during a recent practice. The Rangers wrap up their spring practice today with the annual Blue-Gray Game. The 2022 Rangers will receive their conference championship rings at a ring ceremony at 1:30 p.m. at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium, and then the spring game will begin, likely around 3 p.m. Admission for both is free.

Anyone who’d like to get a bit of a glimpse of what the Kilgore College football Rangers might look like this fall can do so this afternoon at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium.

Coach Willie Gooden and the Rangers will wrap up spring football with their annual spring game, the Blue-Gray Game, a 3 p.m. start.

But there’s a little something prior to that.

The Rangers are going to have a ring ceremony for last season’s 2022 Southwest Junior College Football Conference championship team at 1:30 p.m. at the stadium, and then the game will follow.

There is a clear bag policy in place at the stadium, but there is no charge for admission – it’s free.

KC brings back 15 letterman, according to kcrangernation.com, the college’s athletics website, and 21 incoming players for the 2023 season.

At the beginning of spring practice, Gooden spoke with Longview News-Journal sports editor Jack Stallard for a spring preview.

“I think we have a solid core coming back,” Gooden told Stallard. “We don’t have a tremendous amount of experience, but we did have a bunch of kids get some playing time last year so they shouldn’t be big-eyed the first game in the fall.

“We lost Donerio Davenport, and he was obviously our main guy (1,203 yards, 18 TDs). He was the offensive MVP in the conference, but he was the only older guy we had. We have Kaden Meredith (Longview), Trae Epps (Kilgore) and Mason Courtney (Carthage) back.

They are all East Texas kids and Division I transfers, and we’re excited to see what they bring to the table.

Meredith carried 58 times for 434 yards (7.5 average) and four touchdowns in 2022. Courtney picked up 98 yards and scored twice on 26 carries, and Epps had 92 yards and a TD on 20 attempts.

Gooden said transfers Cam Peters (UTSA) and Tyler Webb (Idaho State) will battle for the quarterback spot. Peters checks in at 6-4, 210 pounds and Webb is 6-3, 210.

The defense brings back quite a bit of talent: linebackers Vincent Paige (104 tackles, 7 sacks, 7.5 TFL, 4 fumble recoveries, 2 interceptions, 1 blocked kick) and Jemari Seals (34 tackles, 2 sacks) and defensive end Derek Burns (35 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 7.5 TFL, 2 blocked kicks) from a unit that allowed 258.3 yards and 15.3 points per game and came away with 51 sacks, 46 takeaways (21 fumbles, 25 interceptions) and blocked 12 kicks.

In 2022, the Rangers finished their regular season with wins over Tyler (31-14) and Blinn (51-14) to clinch the fourth (and final) spot in the conference playoffs, and then upset top-seeded Trinity Valley (38-10) in Athens, and beat defending conference and NJCAA national champion New Mexico Military Institute (39-12) in the conference championship game.

The Rangers wrapped up the season with a loss to Butler (Kansas). 28-24), in the Heart of Texas Bowl on the campus of Texas A&M-Commerce.

KC’s 2023 season schedule was recently announced.

The Rangers will open the season at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 26 at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium in Tyler, in a non-conference game against arch-rival Tyler Junior College.

They’ll host Northeastern Oklahoma Sept. 9 at Lobo Stadium, visit New Mexico Military on Sept. 16, NMMI, host Navarro here at R.E. St. John on Sept. 23, play at Cisco on Sept. 30, host Gordon Prep on Oct. 7 for homecoming; host Trinity Valley on Oct. 21 (and that will also be the KC Athletics Hall of Fame game); host Tyler Junior College in the conference game between the rivals at Lobo Stadium on Oct. 28; and then finish the regular season Nov. 4 at Blinn.

Sports editor

Mitch Lucas is the sports editor for the Kilgore News Herald, and has been since June 1, 2002.