The 2012 football season for the KC Rangers put the team back on the radar. Shocking, crazy, wild, memorable and destined only begin to touch on the adjectives that have been used to describe it.
The Rangers’ game has evolved into many passes being thrown, a spread offense and a game with multiple receivers. They have also shown that “playing some D” is still relevant.
This defense, also known as “Blue Steel,” is determined to use any means to stop anyone who gets in its way.
“You may bend us, but guarantee you won’tbreak us,” said James Jones, defensive captain and cornerback.
This defenses has caused 12 interceptions, 15 fumble recoveries, 17 sacks and three defensive scores in the regular season.
From the beginning, the Rangers’ defense wanted to make a statement and let everyone know they are not the team they were last season, and Blue Steel has proved just that.
“I think we are more mature,” said Willie Gooden, co-defensive coordinator. “Last season made them hungrier and it was a big letdown; they’ve been playing with a chip on their shoulder and all credit goes to them.”
These players shed blood, sweat and tears with each appearance on the turf. They gave a 100 percent effort and delivered on every play. When one was feeling down and defeated, there was always a teammate coming to the rescue.
“There has been a time when my teammate was down and I went to him to make sure he knew that play was in the past,” said Ethan Perkins, Nacogdoches sophomore. “You just have to make up for it the next chance you get.”
To many of these men, this team is more than just fellow football players. They are more than just teammates and someone to practice with. These young men are there for one another; they are each other’s support system away from home. They are family.
“My teammates are my brothers,” Perkins said. “We are always together cracking jokes or talking about football.”
Leaving home can be difficult for some. There are many sacrifices made and decisions determined, and each player’s commitment to this team has required full focus.
“Every kid has his story,” Gooden said. “They’ve all made some type of sacrifice or been through some type of struggle. We as coaches take on another role as a role model and help teach these guys some morals and values.”
When things get too intense on the field, some tend to take the fun out, but what they fail to realize is that the fun is just as important as the seriousness.
“I think I lighten up the mood because even though it gets intense on the field, you got to be able to enjoy the game and have some fun,” Perkins said.
Blue Steel may not be considered the best of the best in the rankings, but it is full of players who strive to make their abilities and chemistry worth watching.
“These sophomores had no example but stepped up. It was kind of like a baptism of fire. They were thrown into it,” Gooden said. “Being able to scheme-wise and understand the scheme to play fast to create turnovers; that’s what makes this defense so special.”
The Rangers’ defense awakened and made plays under pressure. Earlier in the season against Navarro, the KC defense forced a fumble on a punt return, recovered it on the 4-yard line and gained a field goal. On Navarro’s next drive, Jones intercepted a pass, which resulted in a 49-yard touchdown.
“Overall, I think we match up with any offense in the conference,” Gooden said. “We understand the burden we carry and our guys are willing to carry it out by any means.”
This season has had both its nerve-racking and memorable moments, but the game against Blinn happens to be a combination of both. For many players, playing on the road heightens their nervousness. Dealing with a crowd of fans cheering for the opposing team and not having home-field advantage can be discomforting. The Rangers went into Brenham with hopes of remaining undefeated. They went onto the field with a positive mentality of doing their best.
Heading into the fourth quarter, it wasn’t looking good for the Rangers. They were down 27-7 and needed to come up with something quick.
“Standing on the sideline I just kept thinking, don’t give up,” Jones said. “We have to go out and play our game, not theirs.”
That is exactly what this defense did. They once again awakened and made plays when they were most important.
“I felt very confident,” said DeAngelo Brooks, Shreveport sophomore. “We knew we had to do something and make something happen in order to win.”
The Rangers managed to create momentum as linebacker Charles Woods grabbed an interception and ran it back for a touchdown. They went on to win 28-27 in the final seconds.
The brotherhood and will to win puts Blue Steel ahead of many.
“We’re family and we all believe in each other no matter what,” Jones said.
The memories created throughout this season, from the dance battles at practice to the plays on game days, will forever be cherished.
“I wouldn’t change anything about this season,” Jones said. “We wrote our own destiny and the adversity that we faced made us believe in each other even more.”
The relationships these players have with one another and their coaches will continue to live on.
“I love each and every one of them for all of the devoted time they gave us,” Jones said. “Wherever I go, I will take with me the wise words and coaching that was passed along.”
The Rangers are making their first bowl appearance since 2007. KC will face Northwest Mississippi Community College Rangers noon Dec. 1 at Texas A&M University’s Kyle Field in College Station.
Although the season is coming to an end, the coaches continue to encourage their players to be the best they can be. They push them to live up to their motto and do what it takes to be 1-0 each week.
“No matter what happens I want them to know that I’m proud of them,” Gooden said.