By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer
James Cheatham, who’s in his fourth season as defensive coordinator at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, considers College of DuPage a strong adversary for the Golden Norsemen in Sunday’s 1 p.m. Citizens Bank Bowl at Pittsburg State University.
“Definitely, College of DuPage is a good team,” Cheatham said Friday. “You don’t go 8-2 without being a good team.
“First, it’s obvious they have a lot of good athletes,” Cheatham said of the 15th ranked Chaparrals from Glen Ellyn, Ill. “They have speed at running back (powered by 200-pound freshman Tyreis Thomas). They have two rotating quality quarterbacks (veterans Byron Dawklins and Patrick Ivy). They have a deep threat at wide receiver (veteran Johnny Holton). They spread you out and run the football.
“Our philosophy is to first stop the run,” Cheatham said. “We’d like to force them to throw the ball a little more than they want.
“We also have been stressing an obvious goal. We don’t want to give up the big play. We don’t want to give up an eight-yard run, of course, but for sure we don’t want to give up one for 38 yards.”
Dale Patterson has guided NEO to a 9-2 record, the regular-season title in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference and No. 9 ranking by the NJCAA.
Cheatham said the Golden Norsemen landed sophomores Jon Bullock, Deonte Cruse and Garrett Powell on the first all-league defensive unit.
Bullock, a 6-foot-2, 214-pound middle linebacker from Broken Arrow, leads the defense with 56 solo tackles, 42 assists, three sacks for minus 23 yards, seven tackles behind the line of scrimmage for minus 21 yards, six pass deflections and one interception.
Cruse, a 6-2, 295 nose guard from Murfreesboro, Tenn., has 48 unassisted tackles, 44 assists, one quarterback sack and one stop behind the line.
Punter Powell (6-0, 195, Bartlesville) has punted 56 times for a 39.7-yard average.
Members of the second defensive unit from NEO are veteran linebacker De’angelo Jennings and freshman safety Devron Moore.
Jennings (6-2, 216, Bixby) has 36 solo stops, 32 assists and four quarterback sacks for minus 25 yards. Moore (6-1, 180, Carthage) leads the conference with seven interceptions for 248 yards and a touchdown, 52 solo tackles, 32 assists and eight pass deflections.
“Devron proved himself in the spring,” Cheatham said.
NEO defenders earning honorable mention were freshman ends Alex Villarreal (6-4, 290, Hidalgo, Texas) and Morris Willis (6-3, 210, Owasso) and freshman strong safety Rashaud Foreman (6-0, 170, Lawton MacArthur).