Upset of No. 8 Navarro could be big

JEREMY GARZA
Staff Writer

The KC Rangers are 3-0 and sit at the No. 10 spot in the new NJCAA National Poll.

KC puts its unbeaten record on the line 7 p.m. Saturday hosting Navarro at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium. The game will be aired on KXAL 105.3 FM and be streamed online at www.kxal.org.

The three wins by the Rangers, including back-to-back road wins over nationally-ranked teams, already match last year’s win total when KC finished 3-6.

A  lot of new things have happened in three weeks of football. It is the Rangers’ first time to win the season opener under head coach J.J. Eckert, the first time the Rangers have gone 3-0 under Eckert and the first time KC has been in the top 20 spot in the national poll since 2008.

Teams in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference have earned three national championships in six years, with Trinity Valley, Blinn and Navarro all winning titles in that span. All three of these teams have spent time this season  ranked in the top 10 nationally, but Blinn and TVCC have already played their way out of the poll.

Unbeaten Navarro this week has earned its share of wins, landing the No. 8 spot.

The biggest surprise has been KC.

The Rangers started the season by getting no love, even in their own conference, when the Rangers were picked to finish sixth (out of seven teams) in the league during SWJCFC media day.

“We realize what lies ahead, and in this conference it’s almost like a horse race,” Eckert said. “It’s not one of those races that is a 100- meter race. This a long duration and we’re just now hitting a turn.”

It seems like the Rangers can’t catch a breather as they host Navarro this Saturday. Like other teams in the conference, Navarro has put up big scoring numbers,winning 40-0, 54-34 and 56-14.

Navarro’s rushing game has been dominant, averaging  368  yards per game and finding the end zone 13 times.

Last year Navarro earned a 22-17 win over KC.

It should be a great battle for KC’s defense, which is allowing just 39.7 rushing yards per game this season. Linebacker James Jones and defensive end Cooper Washington have had huge games for the Rangers, and both have received SWJCFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

If KC can get another upset this week, the Rangers will be setting themselves up to win the conference and also set a path to contend for a national title.

Cards Clipped: Third time proves to be charm for the Rangers as they top TVCC, 34-16

JEREMY GARZA
Staff Writer

Kim Hill / THE FLARE || QB Tanner Tausch rushes for yardage against the TVCC Cardinals Saturday in Athens.

ATHENS- KC opened Southwest Junior College Football Conference play on the road Saturday, upsetting Trinity Valley Community College 34-16 to remain unbeaten (3-0) in the young season.

Both teams were ranked heading into the contest – Kilgore at No. 19 and Trinity Valley at No. 11. Following the Rangers’ win, TVCC dropped out of the latest poll and the Rangers moved up to No. 10.

“It’s obviously a great win,” KC head coach J.J. Eckert said. “I mean, we knew we were coming over here and running into a very talented football team. We came out and made some plays on both sides of the football in the first half.”

A punt return by cornerback James Jones and a penalty on TVCC was the foundation for KC’s first scoring drive, one that started on the 12-yard line.

KC’s quarterback duo kept the TVCC defense on its toes most of the night.

Freshman Tanner Tausch was the starter, but it was sophomore Emory Miller who got things going when he scored on a 1-yard run for a 6-0 Kilgore lead after the extra point failed.

Miller orchestrated a 63-yard drive in the second quarter. He set himself up for another rushing touchdown from the 2-yard line to make the count 12-0. KC attempted the two-point conversion, but was denied.

The KC defense allowed 32 yards in the first half as the Rangers took a 12-0 lead at intermission.

TVCC got its offense moving in the third quarter, driving 78 yards before stalling and using a field goal to cut the deficit to 12-3.

KC’s first drive of the third quarter was handled by Tausch, who connected two times with wide receiver Ed’Marques Batties. The first catch went for 40-yards, and the second covered 21 yards for a touchdown. Batties ended the night with five catches for 89 yards.

TVCC answered with a drive that began from the 33-yard line, and quarterback Javia Hall hit Gary Owens for a 21-yard touchdown to cut the KC lead to 19-10.

KC defensive end Cooper Washington, who was named the SWJCFC’s defensive player of the week, recovered a fumble to set up Kilgore’s final touchdown. It was Miller again doing the scoring honors with a 12-yard run, and Kilgore enjoyed a 27-10 lead in the fourth quarter.

Hall threw another 15-yard touchdown pass to Owens with 3:40 remaining in the game, and after recovering an onside kick attempt by the Cardinals the Rangers put the game out of reach with a 15-yard touchdown run by Courtland Smith.

The Rangers will host No. 8 Navarro (3-0) in a 7 p.m. contest on Saturday at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium.

Rangers start season with wins against Dodge City (Kan.), Tyler Junior College

Kim Hill / THE FLARE Ranger wide receiver Ed’Marques Batties dives into the end zone in the season opener against Dodge City Community College (Kansas), on Sept. 1. It was the Rangers’ first win in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference, Southwest Junior College Conference series, since it began in 2006. KC defeated DCCC 26-15.

JEREMY GARZA
Staff Writer

The KC Rangers, one year after opening the season with four straight losses, have jumped out to a 2-0 record in 2012 with wins over Dodge City (Kan.) Community College and nationally-ranked, arch-rival Tyler.

KC 38, TJC 30

KC traveled to Tyler Sept. 8 to take on No. 13 TJC in their first of two meetings this season, and the 112th meeting between the two teams became an instant rivalry classic.

Getting his first start of the season was freshman quarterback Tanner Tausch, who was named Southwest Junior College Football Conference Offensive Player of the Week, completing 19 of 29 passes for 293 yards.

Tausch got going with a 55-yard pass to wide receiver Ed’Marques Batties, who took it in for the score. Tausch later hooked up with tight-end Steven Borden for a 20-yard scoring strike and Darrin Brown for a 68-yard touchdown. KC had a 21-0 advantage in the first quarter.

The three extra points came from kicker Dylan Nowak who later booted a 39-yard field goal.

Momentum switched to TJC in the second quarter, where the Apaches scored a pair of touchdowns to make the score 24-14 at halftime.

Starting the second half at quarterback was sophomore Emory Miller, who got into the scoring act quickly with a short touchdown run to put the Rangers on top 31-14.

Early in the fourth quarter, TJC cut the deficit to a touchdown (31-24), but with less than a minute remaining, a fumbled snap by the Apaches and a recovery and touchdown by KC’s Daniel Lopez extended Kilgore’s lead.

TJC responded with another touchdown from star quarterback Tyrik Rollison which cut the lead to eight points after the extra point failed.

To add to the drama, TJC recovered an onside kick, but the Apaches threw incomplete with eight seconds remaining (the receiver caught the ball but was unable to keep a foot inbounds.)

“A lot of mistakes, but by keeping and continuing to fight we found a way to ultimately win the football game,” said KC head coach J.J. Eckert.

KC 26, DODGE CITY 15

The Rangers started their winning streak by defeating Dodge City, 26-15 – the first KC win in the SWJCFC vs. Kansas Jayhawk Conference series since it began in 2006.

The KC defense played a major role in the win by letting Dodge City score only one offensive touchdown. Lopez also came up big for the Rangers, returning an interception for a score and recovering a fumble.

Also recovering fumbles were sophomore cornerback James Jones and defensive lineman DeAngelo Brooks.

On the offensive side of the ball, Miller threw for 136 yards and a touchdown, connecting with Batties five times, one for the score.

Tailback Karrion Morrisey gained 46 yards and contributed two rushing touchdowns.

Rangers gunning for three in a row

JEREMY GARZA
Staff Writer

Trinity Valley Community College has scored 134 points in three weeks of football. That’s the test unbeaten (2-0) and 19th ranked Kilgore will face on Saturday when the Rangers travel to Athens to take on the No. 11 ranked Cardinals.

Kickoff for the Southwest Junior College Football Conference opener is set for 7 p.m. at Bruce Field in Athens.
In week one against Dodge City Community College (Kan.), KC linebacker Charles Woods was named SWJCFC Defensive Player of the Week after recording eight tackles, breaking up three passes, forcing three fumbles and recovering a fumble. He followed that up in week two against arch-rival Tyler Junior College by racking 16 tackles and causing a fumble.

His partner in crime was defensive end Cooper Washington, who had nine tackles of his own against Tyler. In last week’s action against TJC, KC had one defensive score, but its secondary let TJC get back in the game. KC seemed to show a glimpse of vulnerability by allowing TJC to air out 305 passing yards.

Offensively, KC has been strong at the quarterback position. Head Coach J.J. Eckert has started two quarterbacks so far this season. In week one, sophomore Emory Miller had the start and threw for 136 yards and one TD. In week two Eckert went with his freshman Tanner Tausch who also helped the Rangers come out with a win throwing 19 of 29 for 293-yards and three TDs.

Both quarterbacks seem comfortable finding KC wide receiver Ed’Marques Batties, who has put up great fantasy football stats with 12 catches for 235 yards and two TDs.

The ground game was a different story against TJC with KC only getting 42 yards on 21 attempts.

“We have got to have a better job establishing the run game,” Eckert said. “We need to make sure to get those second and six, third and three first downs.”

NOTES: In 2011, TVCC defeated the Rangers 38-20 … TVCC suffered a 44-20 loss to No. 7 Iowa Western last week … Saturday’s game will be aired on KXAL 105.3 FM and will also be streamed online at www.kxal.org.

Sensational start spurs inaugural softball team

Kim Hill / THE FLARE Lady Ranger Softball pitcher Kari Courtney, Beckville freshman, throws a pitch in the weekend home scrimmage opener at Stream-Flo Field. The team travels to Denton this weekend to compete in the Texas Woman’s University Tournament in Denton.

ASHLEY MORALES
Staff Writer

The Lady Ranger softball team has yet to lose a game in its fall scrimmage season and hopes to keep it that way in the Texas Woman’s University Tournament against Ranger College, Weatherford College and Vernon College this weekend in Denton.

The fall season for the Lady Ranger softball team is a scrimmage season to test the players’ skills for the upcoming spring. Statistics during the fall will not affect the team’s conference record.

The fall competition includes 18-and-under fastball travel teams, four-year schools and junior colleges which KC will play in the spring.

Competing against teams categorized at different playing levels helps the team see kinks in their game they can improve.

“We have seen improvement every week and continue to see improvement,” head coach Leslie Messina said. “We are working hard, and we are seeing good things turn out.”

Messina was pleased with the outcome of the first weekend of games.

“We still have some things that we need to work on. We could have done a little better, but with practice and repetition we will get it done,” Messina said.

The team opened with a double-header Sept. 1 against the Dallas-Fort Worth Firecrackers and the Lady Texans.

“Our offense really exploded in the first half of the first two games. We need to work on a few things with our defense, but our communication was great,” Messina said. “We came from behind in the third game which is a really strong quality to have as a team.”

Messina’s players from Texarkana College received their conference rings during halftime of KC’s first home football game.

“There were a couple of players that didn’t get rings, and want their own ring, so they want to make sure that we work hard and are able to achieve a greater success this year,” Messina said.

Athletic department brings back reserved seating

ASHTON JOHNSON
Co-Executive Editor

Reserved seating is available for all home football games on the home side of R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium

“Historically, KC has always had reserved seating, but we got away from it and are now going back to it,” said Athletic Director Jimmy Rieves.

Reserved season tickets for all four games are $10 for KC employees and students and $25 for the general public.

Sections B and C will be reserved and all other seats in the stadium will be general admission. General admission is free for all students and employees with a KC-issued identification card.

Reserved and general admission tickets are available in the KC Student Support Building, Room 119.
The Back Porch is the official tailgate sponsor for this season and will offer food and drink specials to season ticket holders before each home game.

“We want everybody to come out, not just the people who bought season tickets,” said Ronda Callaway, administrative assistant.

For more information, contact Callaway at 903-988-7491.

Rangers open season against Dodge City Saturday on home turf

Kris Dobbins / THE FLARE
Kris Dobbins / THE FLARE
Head Coach J.J. Eckert motions his instruction to the team for a drill during a two-a-day practice. Eighteen players are returning for the season.

KHANDICE HORN
Staff Writer

Practicing in 100-degree heat, the Ranger football team knows each sprint, kick and pass will help them in the coming season. The Rangers will open their season by hosting Dodge City (Kan.) 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 1, at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium.

“It is a great advantage having our first game at home,” said head coach J.J. Eckert. “We do not have to travel, and having a crowd here is a huge plus.”

The team started practice Aug. 13. The Rangers have 18 returning players, eight defensive, eight offensive and two specialties, but the spot for quarterback is open.

“We have many quarterbacks that came out to practice and we haven’t picked one yet,” Eckert said. “We have a scrimmage that will give us a better idea.”

Offensive coordinator Josh Pruitt and other coaches spent nine months recruiting the players.

“We have offensive players returning from last season. However, the majority of them will all be new to their starting roles,” Pruitt said. “Key players to keep an eye on would be Darrin Brown and Ed’Marquis Batties as our only returning wide receivers. We also have sophomore running back Jameel Woodard that will be leading our running back core and should see significant time carrying the ball.”

The coaches of the Southwest Junior College Football Conference ranked KC sixth in their annual pre-season poll.

The coaches picked Trinity Valley Community College and Blinn College as tied for first place pre-season. Navarro came in third, Northeastern Oklahoma placed fourth and Cisco was ranked last behind KC.

“We are in a very tough conference this year and can’t single out any team,” Eckert said. “We just have to be the best team we can be.”

Pruitt said the team is excited.

“We are looking forward to having a great season. Go Rangers,” Pruitt said.

Play Ball! KC gains Texarkana College, Lon Morris softball players

O. Rufus Lovett / SPECIAL TO THE FLARE
Holly Von Ehrenfried (right) of Frisco and Jalla Johnson (left) of Grapeland engage in batting practice

ASHLEY MORALES
Staff Writer

The next sport up to bat at KC is women’s fast-pitch softball with Leslie Messina as the head coach.

Messina comes from Texarkana College where she was the head softball coach for eight years. TC announced in May that all sports, including men’s and women’s golf, baseball and softball, were being cut due to financial issues.

Messina soon had offers from Tyler Junior College, Arkansas Tech and KC.

Messina decided KC was the best fit.

“The people at Kilgore College have demonstrated their commitment to the program. Their commitment level has far exceeded the other schools I looked at, and I knew they were excited for it and they would give us the support we needed and they wanted to do it right, and I liked that,” Messina said.

Sophomore Capria Howell, injured at the time of the announcement, was at ease that she would not have to transfer anywhere without softball.

“When we were talking (Messina) asked us if she went, if we would go with her and basically all of us agreed,” Howell said.

Messina discussed her choices with the team and in May she told the team that KC was the best place for them.

“She said the whole time her mind was set on Kilgore. She always said how everyone was so nice, and they were so ready to have softball,” Howell said.

KC will take Texarkana College’s place in the Region XIV East Conference. As for being KC’s first-ever softball team, the women are excited to start a tradition. The first game for the fall season is 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 1, at the Stream-Flo Park against DFW Firecrackers. The entrance is free to students with their KC ID. Stream-Flo Park is next to Driller Park, located at 1800 S. Commerce St. in Kilgore.

“We want to start a legacy. And also win to show how thankful we are for them to take us as quick as they did. Most schools take a year to recruit and they took us right away,” Howell said.

Sophomores Kathryn Lambert and Jessie Long were recruited from Lon Morris College which also had sport cuts.

“We’re really thankful, because we all came out of bad situations and we ended up with a really great opportunity. If we start as champions, Kilgore’s always going to be the place to go for softball,” Lambert said.
With big aspirations for the fall season, the team has been working hard in two-a-days.

“Our goal for the immediate year is to win a conference title. We have a good core of people who came with us from Texarkana and we have some good sophomore transfers from other schools in our region,” Messina said. “We were able to get some of our original commitments for Texarkana to come and some of the area kids we got at tryouts.”

The fall schedule is non-conference, but the team is not treating it as an easy pre-season. Messina believes the talent is there, but the team just needs to get in better shape.

“In our first year, we don’t just want to compete. We want to win a conference title and we want to be one of the best teams in Region XIV that is competing for the title year end and year out,” Messina said.

The acquisition of the softball program satisfies the federal Title IX mandate, making an equal number of sports available to men and women.