Road trip awaits Rangers

Head Coach teaching wide receivers. FLARE PHOTO by MICHAEL BROWN
Head Coach teaching wide receivers. FLARE PHOTO by MICHAEL BROWN

The Kilgore College Rangers will begin the 2014 football season unranked in the national polls but are expected to battle for one of the Southwest Junior College Football Conference’s four playoff spots.

The Rangers, coming off a 4-5 season a year ago (3-3 in the SWJCFC), open the season with back-to-back road games outside the state – visiting Arkansas Baptist College on Aug. 30 and then trekking to Milledgeville, Ga. to take on No. 5 ranked Georgia Military.

Kilgore’s first home game is set for 7 p.m. on Sept. 13 against Southeast Prep at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium.

The Rangers opened the 2013 season with back-to-back losses before defeating eventual SWJCFC champion Trinity Valley on the road (24-19). KC then went 1-2 over the next three games before closing out the season by winning two of its final three contests – defeating Northeastern Oklahoma on the road (35-21) and Southeast Prep at home (58-13).

Kilgore ended the season with a 42-12 loss to arch-rival Tyler.

Coaches at SWJCFC Media Day back in July picked Trinity Valley as the preseason favorite. The Cardinals finished the 2013 season with a 10-2 record, defeating Blinn and Navarro in the SWJCFC playoffs before earning a 72-23 win over Mesa in the Heart of Texas Bowl.

Navarro was picked second by the coaches, followed by Tyler, Kilgore, Blinn, Northeastern Oklahoma and Cisco.

Trinity Valley (No. 4), Navarro (No. 8) and Tyler (No. 13) are all ranked in the preseason NJCAA poll.

Kilgore head coach J.J. Eckert will be starting his eighth season as head coach of the Rangers. He has compiled a 37-34 record, leading the team to a pair of eight-win seasons during his tenure. KC finished 8-3 under Eckert in 2012, earning a berth in the first Brazos Valley Bowl played at Kyle Field in College Station.

As a program, Kilgore has a 471-276-14 record, winning national championships in 1966 and 1978. KC has played in 19 bowl games, carving out an 11-8 record.