It was the perfect birthday celebration for both Tyler Junior College and Apaches football coach Danny Palmer.
Along with fireworks, a spectacular halftime performance from the Apache Bells and band, Palmer’s football team treated alums to quite a show as the No. 7 Apaches scored a 65-14 win over Northeastern Oklahoma A&M on Saturday at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
Along with Palmer’s birthday, TJC was celebrating the 90th anniversary of its first classes. The homecoming brought out an overflow home side crowd of more than 6,000.
The Apaches improve to 2-0 overall and 1-0 in Southwest Junior College Football Conference play, while NEO falls to 1-2 overall and 1-2 in league play.
As usual the TJC offense was running smoothly with QB McLane Carter throwing for 302 yards and two touchdown passes. The ground attack gained 323 yards, while Elijah Staley tossed for 12 yards and WR Carvontez Gates another 40 for a team total of 677 yards.
The defense shined bright with five turnovers caused, including four interceptions. Seth Glenn had two picks, while Nate Jones and Jorren Pollard had one each. Brandon Johnson recovered a fumble while Anthony Fa’amu had 3.5 sacks and Kullen Pono Davis had .5 sacks as the Apaches kept the pressure on the Golden Norsemen.
TJC’s defense held NEO to 96 yards rushing and a total of 272 yards.
Carter, the former Gilmer High School standout, threw TD passes of 48 and 30 yards to Savon Rollison. Carter also ran in a TD from the 6.
Kee Kee Johnson had two TD runs of 2 and 3 yards, while Fua Sapoi (28), Cobe Carraway (29) and Staley (7) added TD dashes.
Gates threw a 40-yard reverse pass to John Murray for a TD to round out the TJC scoring.
JT Smith led Tyler in rushing with 94 yards on nine carries, while Athens freshman Logan Fuller added 83 yards on 10 carries. A total of 10 Apaches carried the ball.
Rollin, the Apaches lightning-quick receiver, had seven catches for 132 yards and two TDs. Gates had four receptions for 75 yards and Joseph Ward had three receptions for 58 yards.
NEO scored in the third quarter when Antwan Woods hauled in a 32 yard TD pass from Nicholas Johns. In the fourth quarter, Cordale Grundy ran into the end zone from 15 yards and then hit Lonell Burris for the two-point conversion.
TJC leads the series with NEO 26-24-1. The series began in 1954.
The Apaches have their first road game next Saturday, traveling to Cisco for a 7 p.m. encounter in West Texas.
SMOKE SIGNALS: In pregame, Tyler’s Meg Jones, representing the Apache Belles, was named Homecoming Queen, and Cesar Meza, also representing the Apache Belles, was named Homecoming King.
The Black Student Union won the Warrior Spirit Award for showing spirit during the week leading up to the football game. It is the fifth time the Black Student Union has won the award.