Long-time rivals meet on gridiron for 115th match

MILES MARABLE III
Staff Position

In collegiate and professional sports there are famous rivalries.

In Major League Baseball, there exists the storied rivalry between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees; in the NBA the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers battle for supremacy; and in the NFL the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears are longtime enemies.

In Texas, fans flock to the Red River Shootout between the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners.

Closer to home, in the National Junior College Athletic Association, the grudge match is between the KC Rangers and the Tyler Junior College Apaches.

Saturday’s season finale between KC and TJC marks the 115th time these archrivals have met.

The overall record between the two schools stands at 62-50 with TJC on top, and a pair of ties.

The rivals’ first game was played in 1947 and won by TJC, 7-6. The two teams have played every year since, except for the 1957 season, when TJC withdrew from what was then the Longhorn Conference.

The most points TJC has scored on KC was 63 points, in 1996. The most points ever put up by KC is 49 — just three seasons ago.

The largest margin of victory between the schools was a 62-point shutout by TJC in 1969.

For KC the largest margin of victory was a 31-point shutout in 2008.

Head Coach J.J. Eckert will be coaching in his 27th KC vs. TJC game as both an assistant and a head coach on Saturday. He says that he remembers those games more than any others.

“I think it’s probably the biggest rivalry in junior college football,” he said. “I might not remember a lot of the scores of other opponents that we play, but I remember the Tyler vs. Kilgore scores. I remember the plays that made the difference whether we won or we lost.”

Charles Woods , All-American linebacker and 2012 National Defensive player of the year for KC, described the rivalry game as the most intense atmosphere in which he has ever played.

One KC vs. TJC game that stuck out the most to Eckert was their first playoff match-up in the Red River Bowl, which KC won 14-7, capturing its 22nd conference championship in 2001 and completing a perfect season at 12-0.

“I remember that one probably the most,” Eckert said. “Just because when you beat someone two times in a season that’s hard. When you beat someone three times in a season that’s even harder.”

KC and TJC have met twice in the SWJCF conference championship game. Both times KC came out on top.

The first-ever overtime game between the two schools occurred in 2000, and it took three overtime periods to decide a winner.  KC won, 34-28.

The two schools have tied twice — once in 1970, 27-27, and in KC’s undefeated 1978 national championship season, 28-28.

“It’s such a unique game because there are not many other places in America that get 45-to-50 minute halftimes like this game gets,” Eckert said. “You don’t ever argue; it’s just how it’s been for as long as the two teams have played. From the bands to the Rangerettes to the Apache Belles to the football game itself. It’s just got such a unique circumstances to it that I think it makes it such a great game to actually be a part of.”