TJC, Kilgore meet on Saturday

CHUCK SMITH/TJC TYLER JUNIOR COLLEGE opens its 2017 on Saturday at Kilgore College. Here are the uniform combinations the Apaches have planned for this season. Modeling the uniforms are (from left) freshman linebacker Cody Fletcher (Henrietta), sophomore defensive lineman Timothy Paogofie (Arlington), sophomore running back Logan Fuller (Athens), sophomore defensive back Brandon Johnson (Dallas), sophomore running back Shannon Vaughns (Houston), sophomore defensive back Seth Glenn (Klein), freshman quarterback Nicholas Gerber (Levelland), freshman quarterback Brennen Wooten (San Angelo), sophomore outside linebacker Daquaylyn Thomas (Arlington), sophomore running back JT Smith (Klein), sophomore offensive lineman Jack Berry (Burleson) and sophomore offensive lineman Jerrod Johnson (Lufkin).

KILGORE - Division I football has its Texas-OU, Army-Navy, Notre Dame-USC, Ohio State-Michigan and Alabama-Auburn, among others.

In junior college football, it's TJC vs. Kilgore, perhaps the NJCAA's premier rivalry.

Not only do you have the Apaches and Rangers, but also the Apache Belles and Rangerettes, not to mention the bands.

The pageantry is unmatched in JUCO sports.

The fans can witness it for the 120th time on Saturday as Tyler Junior College and Kilgore College meet on the gridiron. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the 10,000-seat R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium.

The contest is a non-conference affair, but the intensity is always there when the two clubs meet.

TJC holds a 62-55-2 lead in the rivalry. They have met every year since 1947 with the exception of 1957.

Also, it is the beginning of the 11th season at the helm of their programs - Danny Palmer at TJC and J.J. Eckert at KC.

The teams have met 18 times during the tenure of Palmer and Eckert with the matchup at nine wins apiece. However, Eckert's Rangers have won the last three contests.

Palmer expects another tussle.

"Be sure and grab yourself a cup of coffee, it will probably come down to the last play as always," Palmer said.

In the 18 meetings between the two, the Rangers have averaged 34.7 points, while the Apaches have averaged 33.

Last year's TJC starting quarterback McLane Carter, the former Gilmer star, transferred to Texas Tech so there will be a new gunslinger under center.

Brennen Wooten, a transfer from TCU, will get the starting nod. The 6-1, 188-pounder is a former standout from San Angelo Central. Palmer also said fellow freshman Nicholas Gerber, a record-setting QB from Levelland, will also see action.

Other projected starters include: running back JT Smith (soph., Klein), wide receivers Joseph Ward (soph., Waco), Jamal Bell (fr., Brownsboro) and Trent Williams (fr., Whitehouse); tight end Bryce Wempa (soph., Royse City); and on the offensive line, tackles Jack Berry (soph., Burleson) and Randon Hayes (soph., Waxahachie), guards Tanner Elliott (fr., Carthage) and Willie Allen (fr. New Orleans) and center Jerrod Johnson (soph., Lufkin).

Up front defensively, the Apaches are led by Timothy Paogofie (soph., Arlington), Marcel Southall (fr., Duncanville), Darien Wilson (soph., Missouri City) and Devontay Wheatley (soph., Dallas).

Linebackers include Robert Williams (fr., Monroe, Louisiana) and Cody Fletcher (fr., Henrietta), along with defensive backs Ethan Rose (soph., Lafayette, Louisiana), Jorren Pollard (soph., Houston), Seth Glenn (soph., Klein), Brandon Johnson (soph., Dallas) and Daquaylyn Thomas (soph., Dallas).

The placekicker and punter is Tyler Dunlop (soph., Hurst).

After winning the Southwest Junior College Football Conference championship in 2015, the Rangers finished runner-up last year. They played in the Mississippi Bowl, falling to East Mississippi 27-17.

KC is led by returning All-America linebacker Troy Burnett, a 6-0, 225-pounder from Missouri City. Last season, he had 167 tackles (99 solo, 68 assists) to lead the nation in tackles per game, 15.2. He also had two interception returns for touchdowns.

Defensive back Kerenzo Credit (5-10, 170, Wylie) is back. He had five interceptions a year ago.

The bulk of the KC receivers are returning, the four combined for 618 receiving yards last season. Zach Newbell (5-9, 175, Spring) led the way with 14 receptions for 301 yards. Anthony Thomas (5-9, 170, Montgomery) compiled 196 yards receiving with 20 catches. Other receivers back are Zecharius Nash-Kelly (6-2, 195, Round Rock) and former West Rusk standout D.J. Hicks (5-10, 175, New London).

SMOKE SIGNALS: The No. 1-ranked and defending national champion TJC soccer team opens its season on Saturday as well. The Apaches meet Mississippi Gulf Coast at 7 p.m. at Pat Hartley Field on the TJC campus. … After Saturday's grid game, the Apaches return to play on Thursday, playing host to Texas A&T at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium. Kickoff on Earl Campbell Field is scheduled for 7 p.m. … KC's next game is Saturday, Sept. 9 against Arkansas Baptist College in Kilgore.





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Sports Editor

I am a native Tylerite and I grew up reading the Tyler Morning Telegraph and The Tyler Courier-Times. My parents took both the morning and afternoon papers. I came to work here 35 years ago at the age of 23, right after college.