KC-NEO preview

Quarterback Malcolm Mays (left) hands off to Garrison Johnson during Kilgore College’s game against Blinn last Saturday. Today, the Rangers, ranked second in the nation, are in Miami, Okla., to face Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, a 2:30 p.m. kickoff.

Odd as it is playing football in spring, might as well win ‘em.

That might be the Kilgore College Rangers’ attitude this spring, as the NJCAA (except Mississippi) plays the 2020 football season about six months late. Coach Willie Gooden’s Rangers are on the road today at Miami, Okla., to face Northeastern Oklahoma A&M (NEO), a 2:30 p.m. kickoff of this Southwest Junior College Football Conference game.

See the game streamed live on Facebook on the Kilgore College Sports Network, and a story here later today on kilgorenewsherald.com.

The Rangers, who routed Blinn in the season opener last Saturday here at home, are ranked second in the nation in the NJCAA’s latest poll, behind only Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College. There’s good reasons for that: the Rangers won the conference the last two seasons that were played, and were the favorites to do so again last year before COVID-19 postponed the season.

NEO’s Golden Norsemen hosted Trinity Valley a week ago, but the home field didn’t help the Norsemen much: they dropped the game, 29-10, and had just 159 yards, in spite of having just four less plays of offense than TVCC.

Quarterback C.J. Ward went a fairly-efficient 13-of-17, but for just 89 yards, and no touchdowns. Ward was sacked three times, and finished with -24 yards rushing – the Norsemen as a team finished with just 70 rushing yards, led by Jamoni Jones, who had 56 on 13 carries.

NEO’s only touchdown came on a 56-yard kickoff return in the first quarter by Rylan McQuarters. The Norsemen scored 10 points in the first quarter, but didn’t score again.

But that’s only one game, and it’s an eight-game season. NEO did have four tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.

It was a different story here at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium in the Rangers’ home game.

Coach Gooden’s team finished with 470 rushing yards, held Blinn to 103 rushing yards, and got off to another good start in a 56-21 blasting of the Buccaneers.

KC led 21-14 at the end of the first quarter, but then blew out the guests from Brenham, holding them to just one touchdown the rest of the contest.

The Rangers did only pass for 34 yards, but with a big lead, didn’t throw the ball around much. Gooden played all three quarterbacks: Chance Amie, L’Ravien Elia and Malcolm Mays. They combined to throw just 16 passes.

Willie McCoy had a kick return for a touchdown; Amie lit it up in the running game, though, rushing for 105 yards on nine carries and a score. Brandon Webb scored twice, and ran for 81 yards on just seven carries; Garrison Johnson scored a touchdown and had 78 yards on nine carries; Elia ran for 67 yards and a score on nine carries, as well, and Mays ran for a touchdown and 18 yards on four carries. Former Kilgore High School running back Kenneith Lacy made his KC debut, running for 50 yards, and Bailee Davenport had 47 yards on seven carries. McCoy had a 13-yard carry.

Six different receivers caught the six completions: Clifton McDowell for 12 yards; Anthony Isom for 8 yards; McCoy, for 6; Marques Pearson, for 3; Davenport, for 3; and Lacy, for 2.

Kicker Kenny Pham hit two field goals, a long of 27 yards, and punted twice, for 50 total yards. He was 6-of-6 in extra-point kicks.

The Rangers’ offense had a pretty clean game: they did have one interception, to Blinn’s Jude Joseph, and allowed two tackles for loss.

KC’s defense was solid. Quinton Sharkey had an interception that he returned 73 yards; Jayce Bludau had one for 25; and Jabari James had one, as well, with no return.

Sharkey also had a sack. Tristan Driggers had two, and Fred Hill and Damien Crawford each had one. Keith Harris had a fumble recovery. Sharkey, Diggers, Maurice Westmoreland, Antonio Brooks and Jabari James each had a pass break-up, and Sharkey, Harris and Driggers each had six total tackles to lead the effort. Kylan Guidry had five; Westmoreland, Brooks, Jacob Washington and Hill each had four; Tavonn Alexander and Warren Robinson had three each; James, Crawford, Moses Alexander, Zhyon Bell, and Derrick Martin each had two, and Tiji Paul, Damauryon Holmes, Oscar Moore, Bludau, Demarcus Crosby, Chase Crumpton, Devonte Keys and Alex Smith all each had one.

KC finished with eight quarterback hurries: two by Guidry, and one each by Westmoreland, Alexander, Robinson, Martin, Keys and Charles Hill.

Next week, on Saturday, April 10, KC returns home to host New Mexico Military Institute, a 3 p.m. start that day, and then the Rangers travel to Corsicana to face Navarro on Saturday, April 17, another 3 p.m. start.

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