KC-Eduardo Jaimes

Kilgore College kicker Eduardo Jaimes (35) blasts a kickoff. The Rangers (3-2) play at Cisco (1-3) today, a 3 p.m. kickoff. KC is ranked 15th in the nation.

A bold statement: Kilgore College football is within striking distance of its goals, even with two losses.

Again, reworded and with additions: the Kilgore College Rangers, who have lost back-to-back games, are still in the mix for the goals coach Willie Gooden and his team set before the season, except, of course, not losing a game.

It’s been a while since KC (3-2 overall, 2-2 in Southwest Junior College Football Conference play) has had to scratch, fight and claw like they’re going to have to scratch, fight and claw for the next few weeks. It all starts today on the road, as the Rangers will visit Cisco, a 3 p.m. kickoff.

Check it out live on the Kilgore College YouTube channel online, and see our coverage on kilgorenewsherald.com following the game.

If ever a schedule worked in favor of a team trying to get back into the hunt, it’s this year’s Kilgore College schedule.

Before the season really got started, KC elected to fill an open date with a home game against Snow College – the same Snow College (Utah) that played Hutchinson in the NJCAA national championship game last year, the same Snow that’s currently ranked number one in the nation. KC will face Snow right here at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium on Saturday, October 23 – AFTER the Rangers’ open date next week.

After today’s game at Cisco, KC won’t play another road game in the regular season.

So, today’s game is huge. The Rangers have their eyes on winning each week, game by game. But the conference also has a playoff system in place, where the top four teams in the standings at the end of the regular season play each other to determine the SWJCFC champion.

If KC can beat Cisco, they add a conference win and will likely move up a slot or two in the national poll, although that’s not essential – yet. Gooden and his coaches and players then get to rest a week (next week is open, remember), and then host Snow Oct. 23.

Poll voters will be watching, and if KC can upset top-ranked Snow, it would surely earn them a major step up in the poll. Two regular season games remain after that: Trinity Valley, currently ranked fifth, and then the regular season finale right here against TJC, a team the Rangers have already beaten handily.

If KC wins out – a HUGE if, but if they can do it – that would give them a road win over Cisco, and home wins over the number-one-ranked team in the country (Snow), the number-five-ranked team in the country (TVCC), and their arch rival (TJC).

KC would still have to play the conference playoff, which would mean two more must-wins, possibly allowing them to face New Mexico Military again. A KC team that runs the table from this point would be awfully attractive to the NJCAA when it decides its final four teams that can play into the national championship game at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

“That’s my plan!!! #MTXE,” Gooden wrote the News Herald when discussing the season this week.

First thing’s first, and that’s Cisco today. The Rangers will have quarterback Malcolm Mays back after missing last week. Clifton McDowell did a nice job filling in for Mays against Navarro, but Mays has been off the charts: 69-of-116 for 1,285 yards, 257 yards per game average, 15 touchdowns and just three interceptions. And he’s ran for 123 yards and a touchdown, as well.

Mays has several reliable target. Cassius Allen has 22 catches for 381 yards and five touchdowns this year; Zeek Freeman has 10 for 350 yards and four scores; Marques Pearson has 21 catches for 350 yards, as well, and two touchdowns; Willie McCoy has seven for 175 yards and a touchdown; and running backs Kennieth Lacy and Bailee Davenport have gotten into the act. Lacy, from Kilgore, has seven catches for 109 yards and a touchdown, and Davenport, five catches for 132 yards and two scores.

KC is in good hands with its kicking game, by former Sabine football and soccer standout Eduardo Jaimes. Through five games, Jaimes is 23-of-25 in extra point attempts and 2-of-2 in field goals, including an impressive 47-yarder.

Sophomore linebacker Keith Harris still leads the team in tackles (61, 12 per game) and has three sacks and two tackles for loss. Jordan Moore, a defensive back, has 50 tackles and Tristan Diggers has 27, but has 8 1/2 tackles for loss and four pass break-ups.

Defensive lineman Maurice Westmoreland leads the team in sacks (four) and Kadarion Johnson has three.

One thing that’s glaringly absent from the KC defensive stat chart: turnovers, which is what the 2019 and 2020 KC defenses feasted on. So far this season, the Rangers just haven’t been creating them.

Cisco is the 2020 conference champion, but has fallen on hard times this year. The Wranglers are 1-3 overall, but it’s a bit deceiving: two of those losses came by a grand total of four points. Cisco lost its opener to Navarro, 35-14, but then lost a 27-26 heartbreaker at home to Blinn, and followed that with a 34-31 loss at Trinity Valley.

The Wranglers’ defense is allowing 24 points and 362 yards a game, and the offense is scoring 35 points a game. All good, right? Except this: Cisco just hasn’t had a passing game. The Wranglers are only passing for about 125 yards a game.

Cisco has had five players that have pass attempts this season, with the bulk of them going to Mehki Hagens, who has played in all four games. Hagens is 26-of-59 for 362 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

No one else has more than nine attempts, and as a team, the Wranglers have just 498 passing yards and four touchdowns, with two interceptions, in four games played this season.

Justin Hammond and Brenden Shipp each have seven catches this season, which leads the team. Hammond has seven for 100 yards exactly, and two touchdowns; Shipp has seven for 95 yards. Tight end Grant Lewis and receiver Kaden Ashlock have the Wrangler’s other two touchdown catches.

The by-committee approach also extends to the running game, where no player has more than 219 yards. That’s exactly the amount running back Christian Mosley has, on 24 carries, and a touchdown to go with it. Isaiah Marks leads the team in rushing touchdowns and is one of the quarterbacks (he has three). Two other running backs – Travis Dixon and Christian Lovick – have 190 yards and 149 yards, respectively. Dixon has two touchdowns, and Lovick has one.

Kaleb Cue handles placekicking chores for Cisco. He’s not bad. He’s made all 16 extra points he’s kicked this season, and 7-of-10 field goals, a long of 44. And Cue is also the punter. He’s punted 20 times in four games, and averages 41.5 yards a kick, a long of 52.

Defensively, the Wranglers are led by linebacker David Powers, who has 35 tackles and a forced fumble in four games, and by linebacker Ed Jones IV, who has 25 total tackles, a sack, and two tackles for loss. Defensive back Bobby Crosby has 28 tackles, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and leads the team with five pass break-ups.

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