The Rangers mauled the Northeast Oklahoma A&M Golden Norsemen 43-13 in their Homecoming contest to move into a tie with Tyler Junior College for second place overall in the conference.
Defense was the best policy early in the game for both teams; neither of the offenses was able to score for more than half of the first quarter. The first score of the game was courtesy of defensive end Ricci Simmons. Simmons intercepted NEO’s quarterback Dezmond Stegall and ran it back 85 yards for the touchdown. Simmons almost lost his footing midfield, but his teammates were there to keep him balanced and he made his way into the end zone. This gave KC a 7-0 lead with 5:22 left in the opening quarter.
Later in the second quarter KC’s offense got on the board when quarterback Javelle Allen found receiver Dequann Ruffin for a 12-yard touchdown pass. KC’s lead increased to 14-0 with 7:45 left in the first half. Just before the half ended Gladewater sophomore Corey Davis punched in a two yard run following a two-point conversion play trick play that had quarterback Averion Hurts pass to kicker Luis Sanchez for the score. That gave KC a 22-0 lead going into the half. KC scored three more times in the second half including two touchdown passes from Hurts to receivers Garrett Barton and Joe Lewis, plus a three-yard touchdown run by Davis. NEO got on the board once in the third quarter and once in the fourth with two touchdown passes from backup quarterback Devin White.
Allen went 8-16 with 110 yards and one touchdown while Hurts went 11-19 with 113 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Davis had 15 carries for 74 yards and to touchdowns while Eddie Smith had six rushes for 56 yards. Barton had 2 catches for 39 yards and one touchdown. KC’s defensive unit gave the entire team a spark just when they needed it. They held one of the conferences’ top rushers, Cameron Booty, to 59 yards on the ground on 18 carries. Booty is. Cornerback J’Marcus Rhodes had one pick while safety Jordan Burton had one fumble recovery after a big hit by the KC defensive line. Cliff Butler, Sherodric Russell, Demontrai Lewis, and Simmons all recorded one sack.
This week the Blinn Community College Buccaneers come to R.E St John Memorial Stadium for the Rangers Hall Of Fame game. Blinn is coming off a heart-breaking 42-41 loss to the Trinity Valley Community Cardinals last week. As for the Rangers, they are coming off a 48-14 win over the Cisco Wranglers.
The Blinn offense so far this season is the key to most of their victories. Blinn is second in the nation in points per game (60) and in yards per game (635). The offense is also fourth in the nation in total offense with a total of 3,810 yards. Most of the yards gained for Blinn were through the air.
Jake Hubenak is one of the top rated quarterbacks in the nation. Hubenak is first in the nation across three categories. He is first in yards thrown with 2,890; first in passing yards per game with 480; and first in the nation with 36 passing touchdowns.
Another name for Blinn is sophomore receiver Dede Westbrook. Westbrook has 58 receptions for 1,131 yards and 10 touchdowns, which is around 10 receptions and 190 yards per game.
The Rangers are coming into this game averaging 41 points per game while gaining 428 yards per game. The Rangers offense is sitting at 2,999 yards for the season, nearly eclipsing 3,000 for the year.
The Ranger offense gets a huge boost this week as they get back their top quarterback in Javelle Allen. Allen did not play last week in Cisco due to injury. Allen, who has played in six games this season, has thrown for 1,002 yards and 11 touchdowns. In Allen’s absence last week, Averion Hurts took charge.
Hurts has played in all seven games this season and has thrown for 884 yards and 12 touchdowns. Both of these quarterbacks have given the opposing defenses trouble with not only their arm, but also their legs.
The Rangers passing game couldn’t be complete without their trio of tailbacks. Corey Davis leads the way with 77 rushing attempts for 453 yards and seven touchdowns. Eddie Smith is next with 53 rushing attempts for 391 yards and four touchdowns. The last is Keevon Aldridge who has 34 carries for 170 yards.
The KC Rangers look to redeem themselves from last Saturdays 52-35 loss to Trinity Valley Community College. The Ranger will be hosting Navarro Community College at home this Saturday.
Both of these teams have an overall record of 3-1 and are looking to add a win to their conference record. Navarro is coming off a 62-14 win against Southeastern Prep, who Kilgore recently beat 52-14.
Through its first four games the Navarro offense averaged 47.5 points and 588 yards per game. Most of the offense for the Bulldogs was covered on the ground.
The majority of the yardage gained came from running back Keaun Kinner, who is averaging around 160 yards a game this season. Other notable names for Navarro are Bivins Caraway, sophomore quarterback, and Austin Collins, sophomore wide receiver, who has snagged six touchdowns for the Bulldogs.
The Navarro defense this year has surrendered an average of 24 points a game. Key names for the Bulldog defense are: Jayd Kirby, sophomore linebacker; Ben Jones, sophomore linebacker; Quincy Vasser, sophomore defensive tackle, Kendrick Johnson, sophomore defensive end.
The Rangers, on the other hand ,are still having a great offensive and defensive season despite their recent loss. Through their first four games the Ranger offense is averaging 40 points per game while averaging nearly 300 yards per game.
The Rangers look really strong on the ground and in the air this season. They have a pretty well balanced run game and passing game and are ranked 14th in the NCCJA poll.
Key players for the Ranger offense this season include the QB duo of Averion Hurts and Javelle Allen. So far both Allen and Hurts have thrown five touchdowns a piece.
The running game features a trio of backs including Keevon Aldridge, Corey Davis and Eddie Smith, who lead the way with 213 total yards on the ground.
The Ranger defense is looking to bounce back from last week’s breakdown versus the No.3 ranked Cardinals. The defense is led by Jordan Burton, sophomore safety; Joe Lynch, sophomore linebacker; and DQ Osborne, freshman defensive lineman.
Come out and watch the two teams go head-to-head at 7 p.m Saturday in R.E St. John Memorial Stadium in Kilgore.
A new football season always requires changes. R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium is shared by the Kilgore High School and KC, and now both teams will be able to enjoy the brand new state-of-the-art jumbotron scoreboard.
The scoreboard was installed during the summer and it’s almost impossible to miss. Its measurements are 32’W x 24’H x 8”. The digits on the scoreboard will be presented in red and the custom striping will be cardinal red. The biggest feature on this scoreboard is the Custom Video Display.
Its measurements are 13.01’ H x 22.02’ W 20mm. (192 x 336 pixel matrix).
The video display will replay game action and will also display names and pictures of the players throughout the game.
Other features include a non-illuminated sign, Decorative Truss, Decorative Truss Backlit Logo, and a Custom XSB-10 Sound System.
All the features that go along with the scoreboard itself, except for the sound system, was provided by NEVCO, which is the Integrated Display and Scoring Solutions Company.
The jumbotron scoreboard cost an estimated $300,000. It was paid for by supporters from the Kilgore community.
According to athletic director Jimmy Rieves, eight businesses bought advertisement for static signage that will always remain on the scoreboard to help pay for it.
Opportunities exist for video commercial advertisements to generate revenue every year.
“It brings a new way to bring the experience closer to the fans,” Rieves said.
Both teams will get to try their hand at the new scoreboard this Friday and Saturday when they take the field for the first time at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium.
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.
When Emanuel Black was growing up in Houston, all he wanted to do was play football. But what he terms “personal issues” forced him off the field. Now Black, Crosby freshman, has a chance to make a comeback and join the KC Rangers.
Black is currently in his second semester at KC. The KC community, along with friends and family, know him as Manny, for short.
He loved playing football at a young age, but somewhere along his childhood journey he was forced to stop playing the game. His parents wanted him to get his life straight off the field before he could play again.
“I got into some trouble that I didn’t want to re-live again so I had to stop playing the game of football for a while to get my life back on track,” Black said.
While he was absent from football, he took up track and participated in band during junior high.
He played numerous instruments such as the drums, flute and many others. To this day he still plays these instruments for fun.
The sole purpose of engaging in track was to keep his body in shape so when the time came to return to football, he would be ready to jump back in full stride.
Black returned to the field his freshman year of high school and felt as though he was in another world. He was ecstatic to be back.
“I was just glad to be back out there on the field; it was great putting those pads on again,” Black said.
Black was a defensive tackle for the Crosby Cougars and though he was not the biggest player on the field, he gave it all he had. He used his smarts to outwit the offensive lineman.
“There were players that were bigger than me on the field, but I relied on my quickness and speed off the ball to outwork them each and every play,” Black said.
Black weighs a solid 285 pounds, stands at 6-feet tall and runs a five-second, 40-yard dash.
In high school, his coaches and the Associated Press frequently named him Player of the Week. He says he did not care about recognition; he just wanted to give 110 percent every game.
As his life was getting back on track, misfortune struck again.
On August 29, 2009 his mother, who had essentially raised Black by herself, died of a massive and unexpected heart attack.
Black, obviously devastated, did not know how to react. His mother was gone.
“I was very depressed for a long time, and I didn’t know what to do with myself,” Black said. “I wanted to drop out of school, but I decided not to because I knew that my mother would want me to stay in school.”
As Black continued life without his mother through his high school years, he encountered yet another setback.
In November 2012, his junior year, he was involved in a car wreck with his brother and a friend. The car rammed the back of another vehicle head on with full force. Luckily, nobody was killed, just injured.
Black broke his wrist during the accident, which hindered his football career from there.
“It was nobody but God that got us through that,” Black said. ‘We could have easily died, but God managed to get all of us out of there safely. Even though I messed up my wrist, I’m still grateful because it could have been a lot worse.”
Once Black was back on the field, because of his injured wrist his playing time was limited.
The coaches and his parent guardians were very cautious about it, because he could not perform the way he once did before the injury.
He had a verbal commitment to the University of Houston, but he was not able to go because the coaches thought he was damaged goods.
He enrolled at KC to try and resurrect his football career. He played defensive lineman in high school, and he hopes to play that position again for KC; if not he’ll just do what the coaches say. He is waiting for the fall tryout dates and will be there to give it his best.
“The coaches told me I would be a good addition to the team; they might switch my position around, but at this point I am up for anything,” Black said. “I just want to be back out there on the field with the big lights and the big crowds. That is what I live for.”
Black’s close friend, Joshua Young, knows how good a person he is.
“He is a real nice guy. He is always there for me, and he is always up to giving people advice and helping people out with their problems. He’s very outspoken and a huge hit with the ladies. He’s just an all-around great guy,” Young said.
Black’s major is nursing, and he is working toward a bachelor’s degree in the nursing field. Then he will try to switch to anesthesiology.
He loves to help people, and he is the fascinated with the human body.
Black’s objective is to be involved in people’s lives and help them achieve their goals, while succeeding in his life and making his mother proud.
He hopes to be back on the football field in KC’s blue- and- white colors in the fall.
Three KC standouts were named to the All-Conference first team of the Southwestern Junior College Football Conference for the 2013 season.
SWJCFCF first team
Gerron Anthony, sophomore offensive lineman; Cliff Butler, freshman defensive lineman; and Joe Lynch, freshman linebacker.
All-Conference second team
Eddie Smith, freshman offensive back; Damond King, sophomore defensive lineman; Daniel Lopez, sophomore defensive back; and Luis Sanchez, kicker.
Colin Jeter, freshman tight end; Lawrence Willis, sophomore offensive lineman; Wesley Williams, sophomore center; Tanner Tausch sophomore quarterback; Paul Hall, Xavier Davis and Micheal Igwe, sophomore defense linemen; Michael Mathis and Sam Williams, sophomore defensive backs; Roy Patti, freshman punter; and Jessie Harris, freshman deep snapper.
KC’s season came to an end sooner than expected after the Rangers’ 30-point loss to Tyler Junior College.
KC finished 4-5 for the season and 3-3 in conference.
Head Coach J.J. Eckert believed this season was a disappointment and said the expectations his team had just did not materialize this year.
“I think we fought back to get ourselves in a situation to where we had a chance to make the playoffs,” Eckert said. “With us not finishing the job Saturday, it’s really heartbreaking for the football team.”
The Rangers finished fifth in the Southwest Junior College Conference behind Blinn for the last playoff spot, who beat KC in week six, 22-17.
KC had to finish its match-up with Cisco College on a Monday due to weather delay. That gave KC just four days to prepare for Blinn.
“I’d like to think if we had got a full week of practice before Blinn, I think it would have been a different game,” Eckert said. “But that whole ‘could of, should of, would of,’ doesn’t get it done on Saturdays.”
Eckert is now focused on getting his sophomores prepared to move on to four-year schools.
“As of now we have got to get these sophomores the opportunity to be able to continue their education and have a chance to continue to play football at a four-year school,” Eckert said. “That’s priority number one and we have to make sure that happens.”
While the 2013 season is over, Eckert knows what his team needs to improve on.
“I think the message to me, that I see coming out of 2013 is that we have got to do a better job of dealing with adversity,” Eckert said. “A huge focal point for us is not so much looking at the score at halftime and saying, ‘Oh well, we’re beat,’ but more importantly how are we going to find a way to win it. I think that is something that we were not good at this past season.”
The second matchup between the KC Rangers and the Tyler Junior College Apaches ended on a sour note for KC, which fell to TJC, 42-12, in the regular season finale.
KC needed to beat TJC, or they needed Blinn Community College to lose, to make the playoffs. Neither scenario worked out for KC, and their season is over.
TJC scored first with a 69-yard touchdown pass early in the first quarter. Quarterback Tanner Tausch was active for this game, but his shoulder injury hindered him. After a KC three-and-out, TJC running back Terrence Taylor ran in an eight-yard touchdown putting TJC up 14-0.
In the second quarter, KC failed to convert on third down and settled for three points. Kicker Luis Sanchez made the 31-yard field goal to make the score 14-3.
On the second play of KC’s next drive, Tausch ran a QB keeper and got hit on his injured shoulder and fumbled. The officials confirmed that Tausch was down by contact and it was no fumble, but Tausch was taken out of the game due to his injury.
Averion Hurts replaced Tausch. Hurts broke off three long runs to put KC in scoring position. Tausch came back into the game for one play and threw an incomplete pass on a third down. Sanchez missed a 29-yard field goal to keep the score at 14-3.
TJC scored again when quarterback Lamar Carraway rushed for a 9-yard touchdown to make the score 21-3. Tausch would lead his team down the field to setup a 34-yard field goal for Sanchez. He made the field goal with just eight seconds left in the first half. TJC led KC 21-9 at halftime.
KC struck first in the third quarter when Sanchez connected on a 38-yard field goal to make the score 21-12.
After defensive end Damon King intercepted a pass on the 47-yard line, Tausch led his offense down the field to set up a 49-yard field goal attempt for Sanchez. Sanchez missed, leaving the score at 21-12.
On the second play of TJC’s drive, Carraway hooked up with Reynolds for a 67- yard touchdown, making the score 28-12 with 2:08 left in the third quarter. TJC would score two more times in the fourth quarter.
Tausch was 11-19 for 157 yards, with one interception, and was sacked five times. Lynch had two fumble recoveries and an interception. Sanchez was responsible for all of KC points. He went 4-6 for field goals making then from 36, 31, 34 and 38 yards out, and missing from 49 and 29 yards out.
KC was eliminated from playoff contention and their season is over.
The Southeastern Conference is considered the most dominant in Division I NCAA football. Teams from the SEC have won the last seven national championships. They produced 63 picks in the 2013 NFL draft.
Now a KC football player is headed to the SEC.
Sophomore cornerback Michael Mathis, 6-foot-2 inches, 210 pounds, has verbally committed to the University of Kentucky out of the SEC.
“Their coaching staff showed me love, and they believe in me, in what I have accomplished and what more I can accomplish up there than anywhere else,” Mathis said. “They have produced DBs that have gone to the NFL, so why not go to a school that I know can make my dream happen?”
The game against Northeastern Oklahoma A&M this season stuck out the most to him, because it was his best game statistically. Mathis forced three turnovers: a forced fumble and two interceptions — running one back for a touchdown.
“The coaches on defense were telling us we needed to make some plays to win the game for the offense,” Mathis said. “So I just kept in my mind that somebody has to make a play, and it ended up being me.”
Mathis graduated from Crosby High School in 2010 and signed with KC.
Head football coach J.J. Eckert saw the potential in Mathis and knew the sky was the limit.
“He was a guy that if you looked at him you knew he had an unbelievable upside,” Eckert said. “I remember when he first got here he was playing linebacker, and then you look at him today he’s committed to an SEC school to go play corner.”
Mathis did not play organized football until his senior year at Crosby. He was playing varsity basketball when the head football coach asked him to play football. After playing wide receiver for two games, Mathis switched to cornerback for the remainder of his senior year. At the end of the season Mathis was voted Second Team All-District.
Mathis will officially sign with UK Feb 5., and hopes to have even greater success at UK then he had at KC.
“I hope to do better than I did my two years here at Kilgore, and make sure my expectations are higher,” Mathis said.
Eckert has high expectations for Mathis as he enters Division I football.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for him, and I’m really excited to see him have the chance to do what he can to do,” Eckert said. “He’s grown up a bunch since he has gotten here. He’s got to really focus on getting an education, working hard on his academics, which I know he will do.
The Rangers broke the scoreboard wide open by easily defeating the Southeast Prep Spartans 58-13 in the Hall of Fame game last Saturday. It was their highest scoring output of the season.
SEP received the ball first on their 30-yard line, went three plays and punted the ball off to KC. Two possessions later running back Eddie Smith capped off a five-play, 54-yard drive as he rushed for a 4-yard touchdown with 7:31 remaining in the first quarter. KC failed to convert on the two-point play, leaving the score at 6-0.
After a very short possession from SEP, KC found the end zone again. Quarterback Averion Hurts connected with receiver Morris Williams on a short dump-off pass. Williams attacked the wide hole and dodged defenders for a 69-yard touchdown. The point-after attempt made the score 13-0 with 6:19 left in the first quarter.
KC scored again to begin the second quarter, courtesy of kicker Luis Sanchez, who connected with a 30-yard field goal to bump KC’s lead to 16-0.
Halfway through the second quarter KC received the ball after SEP punter Abram Garcia punted the ball out of bounds on the 39 yard line.
Two plays later, Hurts found Williams again on a short pass and Williams ran away from the SEP defense to score the 62-yard touchdown. The extra point was good and KC lead SEP, 23-0. KC would add three more points to their lead as Sanchez made a 34-yard field goal with 1:06 left in the first half.
KC led SEP 26-0 at halftime.
Smith started the second half by scoring two touchdowns in the third quarter. He rushed for a 7-yard touchdown run. On the next KC possession Williams ran 55 yards for a TD to make the score 41-0.
SEP finally got on the board when quarterback Ben Holmes connected with receiver Alex Pina-Rhoden for a 54-yard touchdown with 5:44 left in the third quarter.
KC scored on the next possession as Hurts found tight end Chris Chumley for a 17-yard touchdown, making the score 48-7.
SEP scored on its next possession as Holmes found Rhoden again for a 33-yard touchdown. KC led SEP 48-13 with 2:52 left in the third quarter.
Sanchez connected on a 34-yard field goal and receiver Jeremiah Baines broke off a 58- yard touchdown run to make the final score 58-13.
KC faces off with longtime rival Tyler Junior College at 3 p.m. Saturday in Tyler in its regular-season finale.
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.”
The Rangers look to win back-to-back games for the first time this season, as they take on Southeast Prep out of Houston in the Hall of Fame game 3 p.m. Saturday at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium.
While Head Coach J.J. Eckert said it was a great win he still believes his team needs to be a lot more disciplined if they hope to keep winning.
“I think there was a lot of positives that came out of the game,” Eckert said. “But one thing that I thought was a glaring problem we’ve got to get fixed were the penalties”
KC and NEO combined for 27 penalties including 10 unsportsmanlike conduct penalties between the two teams.
While this week’s game against the Spartans does not count toward their conference record or playoff hopes, Eckert has his team treating it like it is.
“We have not had back-to-back wins in the 2013 season yet,” Eckert said. “ That’s the focal point. Let’s do whatever we have to do to get back-to-back wins so we have something to continue to build upon.”
The Rangers are 3-4 with a 3-2 conference record and are in third place in the Southwest Junior College Conference standings. The Spartans come into this game with a 0-7 record and are coming off an 80-0 loss to No. 14 Navarro College.
KC will play Tyler Junior College in the last game of the season at 3 p.m. Oct. 26 at Tyler Rose Stadium.
KC prevailed over the Northeastern Oklahoma Golden Norsemen, 35-21, Saturday in a must-win match-up.
The game, originally scheduled for 3 p.m. was delayed more than an hour due to thunderstorms.
NEO received the ball first to start the game. On third down, cornerback Michael Mathis intercepted NEO quarterback Anthony Kiefer’s pass and returned it for 22 yards, giving KC some early momentum.
After a KC three-and-out, Kiefer found receiver Austin White for a 22-yard touchdown pass with 8:40 left in the first quarter, putting NEO up 7-0.
KC’s offense would respond as running back Eddie Smith rushed for a 12-yard touchdown as time expired for the first quarter. The score was deadlocked at 7-7.
On the ensuing kickoff, Mathis forced a fumble with a hit on NEO’s running back Kendall Holmes. The Rangers recovered the ball on the 34-yard line.
Two possessions later, Mathis intercepted Kiefer’s pass, and he ran it 60 yards in for the touchdown.
KC would take the lead 14-7 with 9:27 left in the first half.
KC’s offense stayed hot as running back Keevon Aldridge punched in a 1-yard touchdown with 5:19 left in the second quarter. KC increased its lead 21-7.
KC’s offense hoped to increase the lead going into halftime, until cornerback Devron Moore intercepted quarterback Averion Hurts’ pass and ran 74 yards for an NEO touchdown with 38 seconds left, trimming the lead to 21-14 going into halftime.
Deep into the third quarter, KC’s offense was on the move. After a couple of smooth runs by Smith, Hurts handed the ball off the receiver Morris Williams on a motion play, who ran 51 yards for a touchdown. KC led NEO 28-14 with 1:19 left in the third quarter.
At the beginning of the final quarter, KC’s offense practically walked down the field as NEO gave up 37 yards worth of penalties on a single play.
Multiple unsportsmanlike conduct penalties resulted in a NEO player getting ejected.
KC would take this advantage as Aldridge rushed for another 1-yard touchdown with 13:21 left in the game, bumping the lead to 35-14.
NEO would score on its next possession as running back Sheldon Wilson rushed for a touchdown, closing the score to 35-21. KC then would run the clock out to end the game.
Hurts went 13-18 for 127 yards. Mathis led the KC defense with two interceptions, one touchdown, and one forced fumble.
The KC defense forced four turnovers on the game; Mathis was responsible for three of them.
KC next will host its Hall of Fame Game as the Rangers battle the Southeast Prep Spartans in a non-conference match. The game starts at 3 p.m. Saturday at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium.