CORSICANA — The Tyler Junior College Apaches have a wonderful opportunity to test themselves against the No. 1 team in the nation.
In the Southwest Junior College Football Conference, those opportunities come around quite often.
“We get to do it about every year,” TJC coach Danny Palmer said. “Somebody in our conference is playing the No. 1 team every week. It happens to be our week. We get the first shot at them.”
The Apaches (2-0) get their shot against defending national champion Navarro (2-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Tiger Stadium in both teams’ conference opener.
TJC has lost five straight to Navarro, including 61-28 (2009) and 63-28 (2007) in the last two meetings in Corsicana.
“We can’t just give up a big easy play like we have in the past when we’ve had the game close,” Palmer said. “We’re going to try to make them run the ball and at times we’re going to mix it up. We’re going to come after the quarterback and hit the quarterback.
“I’m sure they will come after us, too. That’s the way you play football. You hope you get them in third-and-long situations so you can cover them. What’s hard to cover is when they run it up your throat and it’s second-and-4.”
Both teams were off last week.
The Apaches have trailed for only 65 seconds in beating then-No. 15 Coffeyville (16-14 at home) and Kilgore (34-31 on the road).
The Bulldogs, who are 34-3 under coach Nick Bobeck, opened with a 23-16 overtime win against Butler (Kan.) in a rematch of last year’s national championship game. Navarro then won at preseason No. 10 Georgia Military, 29-18.
After playing 42 freshmen already, the Apaches will have virtually their entire team intact against Navarro. A handful of starters missed TJC’s first two games for either suspensions or injuries.
That means redshirt freshman quarterback Tyrik Rollison will make his collegiate debut. Rollison signed with Auburn and redshirted in 2009 after leading Sulphur Springs to the Class 4A Division II state title. He transferred to Sam Houston State and suffered a season-ending injury before the 2010 campaign kicked off.
“He’s probably going to be a little rusty,” Palmer said. “I don’t think he’s as quick as he used to be, because he missed the offseason program.
“He’s really strong and sees the field well. He knows how to throw everything. He’s really good at the flat routes, verticals, and he can throw it 78 yards on the money.”
However, Palmer said the starting QB will be freshman Randy Price (Waco University) but that Rollison will get in the game early.
Price performed well in the win over Kilgore, completing 16 of 24 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 51 more and a TD.
Palmer said the additions this week give the Apaches more depth in the offensive line and on defense — at linebacker and secondary.
“We ought to be able to play fresh people on defense,” Palmer said.
Directions: To get to Tiger Stadium from Tyler, take Highway 31 West to Corsicana. In Corsicana turn right onto South 24th St. and then left onto W. 2ndAve./Texas Highway 22. Continue on Highway 22 for two miles and the stadium is at 3701 W. Highway 22.
SMOKE SIGNALS: Navarro will be without four players who saw significant time against Butler, according to the Corsicana Daily Sun. All four have left the program, including former Carthage star running back Dwight Smith. Smith had transferred to Navarro from TCU. Also gone is redshirt sophomore Darrell Lea, leaving the Bulldogs thin at running back. … Navarro QB Adrian Nelson, a left-hander, passed a career-high 42 times against Butler and completed 24 of 29 passes for 316 yards and two touchdowns against Georgia Military.