No. 13 Northeastern Oklahoma A&M plays a key Southwest Junior College Football Conference clash Saturday night at 6 as it plays host to Tyler.
The Golden Norsemen (4-2, 2-2 SWJCFC), currently fourth in the conference standings with three games left in the regular season, have to remain in the top four to advance to the league playoffs in November.
Coming off of a 56-28 road loss to No. 9 Blinn (5-1, 3-1), the Norse are tasked with righting the ship against another current playoff team in Tyler (4-2, 3-1), which has won its last four contests and sits at No. 2 in the conference standings.
"This game will determine a lot," NEO coach Zach Allen said. "There's a really good team coming to (Red Robertson Field) this weekend, and they're coming off a bye week, so they'll be fresh and ready to go."
The Apaches have beaten their last four opponents — Trinity Valley, Navarro, Texas A&T and New Mexico Military Institute — by 13 points or more since they opened the season with losses to Kilgore and Blinn.
Ranking fifth in the NJCAA in points per game (40.8), Tyler averages 479 yards with 276 coming on the ground and 203 through the air.
"It might be the most complete team we've faced," Allen said. "They're balanced, have good football players all around and don't have very many weaknesses."
And depth isn't an issue for Tyler either, at least not in the offensive backfield.
NEO, which gave up a season-high point total to Blinn last week, could face multiple Apache quarterbacks who have received significant playing time this season.
August Debiase has been the most-used, appearing in all six games and throwing for 734 yards and four touchdowns. Jeremiah Crawford and Andrew Fernandez have both thrown for 160-plus yards and four touchdowns in four games.
K'Vonte Jackson leads the Tyler rushing attack, amassing 427 yards and seven touchdowns on 44 carries.
"It'll be important for our defense to get some of that swagger back that we had earlier in the season," Allen said. "But I think last weekend caught their attention. They don't want to be out-performed like that again. And their improvements at practice this week, as far as intensity and focus, it's been noticeable.
"It's one of those things where they're going to do what they do and we're going to do what we do. Whoever does the best at what they feel comfortable doing is going to come out on top."
NEO is seeking its first win over Tyler since 2015. The Apaches have won five of the last seven meetings in the series dating back to 2012.