The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

October 13, 2012

No. 15 NEO entertains No. 5 Kilgore

Kilgore will enter today’s game at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M with an obvious goal.

Beat the Golden Norsemen — dampening homecoming festivities in the process — and the Rangers (6-0, 3-0) can sew up the Southwest Junior College Football Conference regular-season title and home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs.

But the Golden Norsemen (5-1, 2-1) also have title aspirations on their minds.

Kickoff between the Rangers, ranked fifth by the NJCAA, and No 15 NEO is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Robertson Field.

Kilgore rallied to win 28-27 at Blinn last week to remain perfect. NEO, meanwhile, won 24-10 at Trinity Valley in rebounding from a double-overtime loss at Tyler and slipped two rungs in the NJCAA ratings.

Said NEO coach Dale Patterson: “Kilgore (coached by J.J. Eckert) doesn’t have a flashy offense that relies on the talents of one player. They have a very balanced approach and try to use deception to create their offensive success.”

The Rangers defensively feature the leading tackler in the SWJCFC in veteran linebacker Charles Woods. He has 75 total stops and has made eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

Sophomore quarterback Clayton Mitchem is directing an offense that’s averaging 453 yards a game. It ranks third in the league with a 41-point average.

Mitchem, second in the league in passing, has completed 82 of 122 for 1,174 yards and 12 touchdowns with only one interception. He also has rushed for 365 yards and seven TDs on 76 carries.

Veteran NEO tailback Gerald Howse is the No. 2 rusher in the SWJCFC with 584 yards and nine scores on 120 carries.

Three veterans are pacing NEO receivers. Kameroon Doolittle has 23 receptions for 297 yards and four TDs. Garrett Powell, who leads the league in punting with a 42.8-yard average, has corresponding receiving numbers of 20-272-2 and Michael Thompson has 14-341-3.

Thompson also leads the SWJCFC with eight kickoff returns for 345 yards and two TDs.

An indication of the national significance of the game is that it has been designated “Game of the Week” by the NJCAA. The audio can be heard on the neoathletics.com website.

“This thing probably will boil down to who makes the plays in the fourth quarter and that’s exciting to me,” Patterson said. “If we can beat Kilgore, we’ll be right in the running for a top spot in the postseason playoffs.”

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