The biggest football game on the junior college landscape is here Saturday afternoon, and Kilgore College hosts it.
The fifth-ranked Rangers, coached by Willie Gooden, will host the number-one-ranked and defending national champion New Mexico Military Institute Broncos (3-0) at 3 p.m. today at Longview’s Lobo Stadium.
The game is at Lobo – the Rangers’ second game there this year – because arrangements had been pre-set due to renovations to KC’s home, R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium.
The Rangers are asking their fans to wear blue for a Blue-Out – to make the stadium as blue as possible in support of the team, similar to Penn State’s White-Out.
Lobo Stadium is a cashless facility, so tickets can be purchased at the gate, but not with cash. And if purchased in advance, all ticket proceeds go to KC athletics.
To purchase advance tickets, go online to www.kilgore.edu/ranger-athletics/football/tickets.
See the game live, streaming online, if you can’t make it out to Lobo on www.njcaa.org/network for a fee.
It’s a game with national championship implications, because the top four teams in the NJCAA poll at the end of the regular season get to continue their year, with a shot of playing for the crown at War Memorial Stadium, and also, more immediately, a huge game in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference standings.
The winner of this contest has the inside track to the regular season championship, which means home field throughout the conference playoffs.
KC is in almost a must-win situation today. Yes, they get the defending champs at home. But they visit Navarro College in Corsicana (next week, Sept. 24, in Corsicana), go to Trinity Valley (Oct. 22), and then go to Tyler (Oct. 29), arguably their three most difficult conference opponents of the season other than New Mexico Military.
The Broncos’ schedule isn’t much better. They’ve already dealt with Navarro at home (a 40-35 win) and they’ll also host Blinn. But they have to travel to Tyler (Oct. 8) and Cisco (Oct. 15), and Trinity Valley (Oct. 29).
So Saturday’s game is of huge importance.
Both teams come in unbeaten, and NMMI has played one more game. The Broncos do have a very impressive non-conference win over normally-strong Snow College (Utah), a 38-7 rout of Snow back on Sept. 3. Last week, they held off Navarro, as mentioned, but not without some problems.
The game was tied in the second quarter, until William Testa gave the Broncos the lead with a 33-yard field goal. He added another, putting them up by six (27-21) at the half.
Terrance Moore caught a 25-yard pass from quarterback Koby Muasau to help the Broncos pull away a bit, a 33-21 lead after the extra point with less than a minute in the third quarter. Navarro midway through the fourth quarter to get within five, but NMMI put things away with an 8-yard run by Jeiel Stark with 39 seconds left, a 12-point lead.
Navarro scored on a Hail Mary pass from Dane Jentsch to Brandon Hawkins, a 49-yarder as time expired, that made the final score look a bit closer than the actual game finished.
Through three games, the Broncos have averaged 411 yards and 40 points a game. They’re giving up on average just over 18 points and 280 yards a game.
Muasau, the freshman quarterback, is 48-of-72 for 702 yards, nine touchdowns and just one interception through three games, competing 66 percent of his passes. Moore has 14 catches for 275 yards and three scores, and Treyvion Beamon has 14 catches for 254 yards and four scores.
Stark leads the team in rushing with 245 yards and two touchdowns on 49 carries; as a team, NMMI has ran for 439 yards and five touchdowns, and averages 4.1 yards a carry.
Robert Cole is a good punter. He’s averaging 43 yards a kick, and has a long of 53 yards to his credit this year.
As a defensive unit, the Broncos already have 12 sacks this season. But they have only four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and two interceptions.
Now, as for Kilgore College – it’s been two games and total domination.
Coach Willie Gooden’s Rangers whipped Tyler Junior College, 41-10, the last time they played at Lobo Stadium in the season opener, a game that didn’t count in the SWJCFC standings. Then last week, KC journeyed to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in Miami, Okla., and completely demolished NEO, 41-0, a second-straight game of scoring 41 points.
So far, then, this year, the Rangers have obviously averaged 41 points a game. They’re averaging 440 yards of total offense a game, allowing just 139 yards a game, and only five points a game.
Quarterback L’Ravien Elia is 10-of-20 for 292 yards, but the Rangers haven’t had to throw it all that much. He’s thrown two touchdowns.
Donerio Davenport leads the team in rushing with 214 yards, and has four scores. He’s averaging 5.9 yards a carry. Kaden Meredith has 135 yards and a score. As a team, KC has 478 rushing yards.
Willie McCoy came back for his sophomore season and has six catches for 160 yards so far this season.
Linebacker Vincent Page leads the defense in tackles (13) and already has two fumble recoveries, both of them for touchdowns. The Rangers have four interceptions as a defense, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. They have 11 sacks and 13 tackles for loss.