NEO moves to 8-1 with win over Navarro
October 27, 2012
There are not enough adjectives in the English language to describe the amount of intestinal fortitude displayed by the eighth ranked Northeastern A&M Golden Norsemen during Saturday's 26-24 upset over seventh-rated Navarro College in the regular season finale before a large crowd at Robertson Field.
Proving that 'it wasn't that far from the outhouse to the penthouse', second-year head coach Dale Patterson and his staff guided the Golden Norse to their first outright Southwest Junior College Football Conference regular season championship since 2002. NEO tied Tyler Junior College for the 2003 title before defeating the Apaches 37-34 in Tyler for the post-season crown.
NEO (8-1 and 5-1) earned home field advantage for Saturday, Nov. 3, SWJCFC semifinal game. Kickoff has tentatively been set for 2 p.m. An opponent will be determined during Sunday's annual coaches meeting at Tyler.
"Our kids never quit," Patterson said. "We had four turnovers and nine penalties, but we didn't let them deter us from accomplishing what we've set out to do."
Midway through the first quarter, the Golden Norse grabbed the lead as sophomore tailback Gerald Howse scored on a three-yard touchdown run. Kevin King's extra point attempt was blocked to create a 6-0 NEO lead with 6:27 showing on the clock.
During the 32-yard, four-play scoring drive, Norse quarterback Clayton Mitchem hit veteran wide receiver Kameron Doolittle on an 11-yard pass play before Howse had runs of 9, 8 and 4 yards to end the drive.
Sophomore middle linebacker DJ Simon picked off a Mitchem pass that bounced off the mid-section of Howse to give Navarro the ball at the NEO 29-yard line on the next possession by the Norsemen.
After the Golden Norse defense stiffened, the Bulldogs (7-2 and 4-2) received a 33-yard field goal by Patrick Sohrt with 2:12 left in the first quarter for a 6-3 deficit.
Neither team put points on the scoreboard in the second quarter although Navarro missed a chance with 7:58 left halftime.
Sohrt had a 36-yard field goal attempt sail wide right despite having a 15 mph northeasterly breeze at his back. The Bulldogs had the ball at NEO's 13-yard line after a fumble by Mitchem was recovered by sophomore outside linebacker Steve Orisakwe.
Taking the second-half kickoff, freshman Casey Curtis returned the kick 48 yards to the Navarro 47-yard line.
Seven plays later, Mitchem found Doolittle open on a 13-yard fly pattern for a TD with 12:14 left in the third quarter. King added the PAT for a 13-3 Golden Norse lead.
Navarro responded on their first possession of the second half by driving 65 yards in six plays before quarterback Stump Godfrey scored on a 15-yard run. Sohrt's extra point at the 10:27 juncture created a 13-10 deficit for the Bulldogs.
Consuming almost four minutes, the Golden Norsemen moved 75 yards on eight plays to widen the lead. The Mitchem-to-Doolittle combo clicked for a 14-yard TD pass and King's point-after generated a 20-10 Norse cushion with 6:57 left in the third quarter.
Not to be outdone, the Bulldogs took the ensuing kickoff and covered 60 yards on 10 plays before tailback Traylon Shead scored on a five-yard run at the 3:22 mark in the third quarter. The extra point by Sohrt rallied Navarro to a 20-17 deficit.
Pinning the Bulldogs deep in their own territory in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, the Golden Norse defense appeared to have thwarted a Bulldog rally as freshman strong safety Devron Moore intercepted his second pass of the game at Navarro's 43-yard line.
But, a roughing the passer call on NEO's linebacking corps against Godfrey, negated the interception and gave Navarro a first down at their own 20-yard line.
Sophomore free safety Keishawn Richardson recovered a Godfrey fumble at the Navarro 35-yard line with eight minutes left in the game.
Unable to generate a first down, King kicked a 42-yard field goal to increase NEO's lead to a 23-17 margin at the 6:47 juncture.
The Bulldogs used a 36-yard pass play from Godfrey to Jordan Jolly to move the ball 75 yards in seven plays to earn their first lead of the game.
Shead (6-2, 255) bulled over from four-yards out and Sohrt added the extra point with 3:35 left in the game to give the Bulldogs a precarious 24-23 lead.
NEO responded on their next possession to march 60 yards in seven plays before King entered the game and kicked a 34-yard field goal dead center with 1:51 showing on the clock.
Moving into the wind, the Bulldogs received runs of 12, 3 and 4 yards from Shead and an eight-yard pass to James Washington to move down to the NEO 29-yard line as time dwindled down.
Sohrt attempted a 46-yard field goal with 17 ticks left on the clock. The wind held the kick up and it fluttered short in front of the goal post.