By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer
Clayton Mitchem, sophomore quarterback for the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M football team, is more than ready to return to the field for a meaningful game.
Mitchem on Sunday gets that opportunity as the Golden Norsemen of Miami tackle College of DuPage (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) in the fourth annual Citizens Bank Bowl at Pittsburg State University.
Kickoff between NEO (9-2), ranked ninth by the NJCAA, and the No. 15 Chaparrals (8-2) is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Brandenburg Field at Carnie Smith Stadium.
“We want to erase the memories of the Navarro (Texas) game,” Mitchem said. “It’s my first bowl game. It will be exciting.”
NEO, which won the regular-season championship in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference, finished second to Navarro in the postseason playoffs.
Mitchem, a 6-foot-2, 180-pounder from Spiro (Okla.), was selected the most valuable player of the SWJCFC.
But Navarro, which lost 26-24 at NEO during the regular season, prevailed 62-24 on the Bulldogs’ return trip to Robertson Field.
“Navarro was very talented,” Mitchem said. “Their defensive linemen were very strong. They (the Bulldogs) also defended the pass — my passing — very well.
“I’m not underestimating any team,” he said of the Citizens Bank Bowl test. “They (the Chaparrals) will give us a run. They play aggressively on defense. It will be a challenge for me.
“I believe we’ll be OK if we’re able to execute,” Mitchem said. “That’s the thing. We have to execute. We have to go out mentally prepared to play the game.”
Doug Buckmaster, offensive coordinator for the Golden Norsemen, said a strong wind played havoc with the passing of Mitchem in the first half.
“Obviously, the Navarro defense had something to do with our performance,” Buckmaster said.
“I like everything about Clayton Mitchem,” Buckmaster said.
“His No. 1 asset is that he’s so coachable,” Buckmaster said. “He wants to learn and improve his skills. He’s willing to listen.
“No. 2, he’s a great competitor,” Buckmaster said. “He wants to win. He’ll play hard and he’ll play hard when he’s hurt.
“No. 3, he’s a tremendous athlete,” Buckmaster said. “He can throw the ball and run with it.”
Mitchem has completed 152 of 258 passes for 2,201 yards and 25 touchdowns. He’s been intercepted seven times. The yardage and touchdowns are season records at NEO.
Mitchem has three receivers with more than 500 yards. Michael Thompson is at 716 (34 receptions), Garrett Powell 557 (37) and Kameron Doolittle 537 (41). Doolittle and Thompson have grabbed eight scoring passes apiece and Powell has six.
Mitchem also has rushed for 634 yards and 12 touchdowns on 155 carries.
Those 12 TDs places him second on the team in scoring with 72 behind kicker Kevin King (52 of 56 extra points and 11 of 18 field goals for 85 points).