By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer
MIAMI, Okla. —
Northeastern Oklahoma A&M’s Devron Moore, strong safety from Carthage, laid a “hat trick” on Kilgore (Texas) at Robertson Field on Saturday.
The Golden Norsemen turned two of those interceptions into third-quarter touchdowns as they knocked off the fifth-ranked Rangers 42-24 in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference.
NEO, expanding a 21-14 halftime lead, outscored Kilgore 21-0 in the third period in shaking up the SWJCFC standings before an estimated 2,100 fans on homecoming.
An occasional rain and overcast skies finally yielded to sunshine as Dale Patterson’s Golden Norsemen, ranked 15th by the NJCAA, improved to 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the conference. The Rangers fell to 6-1, 4-1, to cling onto first place over deadlocked NEO and Navarro.
Said Patterson: “Maybe we started a little tight or nervous. However, we played very well once we relaxed.
“I’m proud of our defense (coordinated by James Cheatham). It did a tremendous job,” Patterson said. “The offense (coordinated by Doug Buckmaster) came to the top after we got going.”
Patterson also said he was pleased with the turnout considering the chance of inclement weather.
Moore, who was surrounded by some 20 relatives after the game, naturally was the center of attention from his teammates after the third pick with about 4 1/2 minutes left in the game.
“It was great to help the team,” the 6-foot, 180-pound Moore said. “It felt great, too, when all my teammates came to congratulate me.
“We all came out fired up,” Moore said of NEO. “We were confident we had a chance to win.”
Moore, with a grin, insisted he weighs a few pounds less than when he starred under Jon Guidie at Carthage High School.
“I’m in way better shape, though,” he quickly added.
Said Kilgore coach J.J. Eckert: “I thought it was a heck of a game. Turnovers ultimately were the difference. NEO did a good job of capitalizing. Those two interceptions (leading to TDs) changed the complexion of the game.”
The first pick and a 33-yard return by Moore set up quarterback Clayton Mitchem’s 59-yard scoring pass to Michael Thompson on first down at 12:42. Kevin King added the extra point to make it 28-17.
The second theft by Moore gave the Norsemen possession of the ball on their 29. They moved the 71 yards in seven plays with Mitchem and Thompson hooking up for the final 23 yards at 9:11 on second-and-8.
Mitchem’s 10-yard scoring run at 4:22 made it 42-17 entering the fourth quarter. Mitchem’s 37-yard pass to Kameron Doolittle keyed the drive.
NEO scored in the first period on Mitchem’s 2-yard run that caught the Rangers. Kilgore, which had scored in the first period on Courtland Smith’s 7-yard run, moved ahead in the second quarter on quarterback Tanner Tausch’s 1-yard plunge for a TD and Yovany Arizu’s 34-yard field goal.
But Doolittle’s 11-yard run on an end-around and Mitchem’s scoring pass of 28 yards to Garrett Powell provided NEO with its halftime lead.
Emory Miller threw 21 yards to Ed Marques in the fourth quarter for the only Kilgore points in the second half.
Mitchem threw for 278 yards on 18 of 26. Thompson had six receptions for 101 yards, Powell five for 63 and Doolittle four for 80.
Each of the three Kilgore quarterbacks were picked by Moore. Tausch completed 18 of 31 passes for 187 yards and Marques caught six passes for 106.
NEO continues in the league next Saturday with a 2 p.m. game at Cisco.