KC, Pima square off Saturday in Waco

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The last time the Kilgore College Rangers won a bowl game, George W. Bush was President, the original “Cars” was a top box office hit and “Desperate Housewives” was still must-see TV.

It’s been a while.

The Rangers, 9-2 on the season and on a seven-game winning streak, hope to change that this Saturday, when they’ll venture to Waco to take on Pima (Ariz.) Community College in the annual TIPS-CHAMPS Heart of Texas Bowl, to be played this year at Waco ISD Stadium. Kickoff will be at 11 a.m., and the Rangerettes and the KC band will perform at the game.

The Heart of Texas Bowl also includes an game, an NCAA Division II matchup with Angelo State facing Central Oklahoma, a 4 p.m. kickoff.

Tickets are on sale at the KC athletic department for $20 – if purchased here, those proceeds go to KC athletics. That ticket is good for both games.

This will be the 18th annual HOT Bowl; Coffeyville (Kan.) beat Navarro, 49-14, in the first one, and KC appeared in back-to-back HOT Bowls in 2006 (beating Fort Scott, Kan., 19-7) and 2007 (falling to Mississippi Gulf Coast, 62-28). The win over Fort Scott was the Rangers’ last bowl win; they also played in the game in 2015, losing to East Central (Miss.) Community College.

KC has an all-time bowl record of 11-10, but the Rangers are also the winningest junior college football program in Texas.

KC kept that going this year: the Rangers put together a fantastic season, winning the Southwest Junior College Football Conference regular-season championship, then winning two playoff games to claim the conference’s playoff title. They also beat archrival Tyler twice, and beat defending conference champ Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in the championship game.

That was back on Nov. 10; KC hasn’t played an actual game since. The Rangers are ranked fourth in the nation.

Pima Community College represents the Western States Football League, has a 6-3 record, and is ranked 20th in the nation.

The Aztecs lost their final two games of the regular season, the last one a 24-20 loss to Arizona Western. Pima led 21-10 at the start of the fourth quarter, but committed four turnovers in the game.

The Aztecs are led by a very good quarterback, Brooks Ringer. Ringer was 28-of-53 for 328 yards and a touchdown against Arizona Western, but also was picked off three times. His leading receiver in the game was Larry Rembert, who had 10 catches for 166 yards.

Pima’s defense racked up three sacks and two interceptions in the game, one of them a 43-yard touchdown by Garius Thompson.

On the season, Pima averaged 25 points and 328 yards a game, leaning toward the pass: the Aztecs had only 737 rushing yards this season, by far the last-place team in their conference in that department. They are good in takeaways defensively, though, with 33 total turnovers: 21 interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries.

Ringer completed 132-of-233 passes this year for 1,955 yards, 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, ranked second in his league in passing. Nick Brahler was the Aztecs’ top rusher; finishing with 332 yards and a touchdown. He averaged 4.1 yards a carry.

Rembert was the leading receiver; he finished with 37 catches for 775 yards and three scores. Teammate Jon Cole had 29 catches for 409 yards and six touchdowns.

On special teams, Jaime Avila made 25-of-27 extra points, and hit 7-of-11 field goals, a long of 37 yards. Punter Andres Rangel averaged 36.2 yards a punt, and punted 51 times. He landed 10 of them inside the opponents’ 20-yard-line, and had two touchbacks.

Derik Hall, a defensive back, was Pima’s top tackler on defense; he finished with 83 stops in their nine games. He had three tackles for loss and one interception, to go with 12 pass break-ups.

The Aztecs also haven’t played a game since Nov. 10.

Conversely, Pima faces a Rangers team that averaged 39 points a game, held opponents in check, and only allowed 19 points a game.

The Rangers scored at least 45 points in all of the games in the seven-game winning streak, and only gave up more than 20 once (they beat Blinn, 28-21, back on Oct. 20).

KC played several guys at quarterback over the course of the year, due to injuries, but all managed to be successful. The most recent, and likely to get the start Saturday, is Quez Allen, who quarterbacked the Rangers through the playoffs. Allen is 40-of-57 for 488 yards, six touchdowns and just one interception, but also has 534 yards rushing, eight scores and just one fumble on the year.

The Rangers passed for 2,100 yards, even, this season, their quarterbacks completing 65 percent of their passes and a 22-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

One of the biggest difference-makers for KC this season has been running back De’Montre Tuggle, who leads the team with 11 touchdowns. Tuggle rushed for 731 yards and six scores, but also caught 16 passes for 320 yards and five more touchdowns.

Lots of Rangers are likely to get carries and touches in the bowl game. Carlos Frank had 341 yards and two touchdowns on 69 carries in 2018, and Scooter Adams had 351 yards and six scores on 58 carries.

Allen will have a host of receivers, including Rod Ford, J.T. Mackey, Omar Manning, Kevin Jones, Luke Stillwell and others.

The Rangers use two kickers: Jose Goite typically handles the extra points and kickoffs, and Kilgore’s own Benjie Peralez handles kickoffs. Goite is 4-of-4 in field goal attempts (a long of 40 yards) and is 40-of-40 in extra point attempts. Fernando Serrano is the punter, and averages 34.3 yards a kick. He’s landed nine inside the 20.

Defensively, the Rangers have 28 sacks (led by Shaakr Smith’s four and Sedrick Williams’ 3 ½) and 15 interceptions (led by Kaleb Ford-Dement’s five).

Linebacker Adrion Robertson leads the team in tackles (93, about 8 ½ per game).

KC coach J.J. Eckert is in his 12th season. Eckert was the offensive coordinator the last time the Rangers faced Pima – that was in the Pilgrim’s Pride Bowl in December, 2004, and Pima won that contest, 10-7.

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