MIAMI — Freshman defensive back Natarion Dickey stepped in front of an errant Wyatt Steigerwald pass and returned it 21 yards with 0:05 seconds left on the clock to preserve a 34-28 victory Saturday night by No. 7 rated Tyler Junior College over the No. 15 ranked Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College Golden Norsemen at Red Robertson Field.
Steigerwald, a redshirt sophomore from Nowata, had entered the game in place of NEO starting quarterback Cordell Grundy to start the fourth quarter with the Golden Norse trailing by a 31-16 margin.
Two minutes into the final quarter, Steigerwald lobbed a 16-yard touchdown pass to wide out Jarel Rowe. The Apaches blocked the point-after by Tommy Heatherly as NEO trailed 31-22 at the 13:10 juncture.
Tyler (3-0 and 2-0 in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference) used a powerful ground game to cover 70 yards in nine plays for a score.
Placekicker Tyler Dunlop concluded the drive with a 21-yard field goal with 8:03 showing on the clock.
Once again, Steigerwald took to the air as the Golden Norse drove 68 yards in six plays for a touchdown.
Redshirt freshman wide out Kobe Bryer got behind the Apache secondary for an 18-yard TD pass. The extra point failed due to a bad snap with 5:59 remaining in the game.
After holding Tyler at midfield on the Apaches next possession, Steigerwald mounted a 78-yard drive down to the Tyler 48 yard line with under a minute left on the clock.
A 14-yard pass from Steigerwald to sophomore wide out Antwan Woods and an 11-yard pass to Bryer allowed NEO to set up shop at the Apaches 24 yard line with 0:28 seconds and no timeouts.
Steigerwald over threw Bryer on an out pattern that allowed Dickey to pilfer the pass to effectively end NEO’s comeback.
The Apaches built a 10-3 lead in the first 15 minutes on a 24-yard field goal by Dunlop and a 33-yard pass from Brennan Wooten to Trent Williams.
With 3:30 showing on the clock, Heatherly booted a 40-yard field goal to put NEO on the scoreboard.
The Apaches received a 27-yard TD run from JT Smith and the PAT by Dunlop to construct a 17-3 lead with 12:29 before halftime.
Sophomore running back Darwin Thompson rallied the Norsemen and a 24-yard touchdown pass from Grundy with just 0:05 seconds left until intermission. Heatherly missed the extra point for a 17-9 deficit at half.
Wooten took the second half kickoff and drove the Apaches 67 yards in four plays before finding Jeremy Wilson open on a crossing route for a 17-yard TD pass. Dunlop’s kick created a 24-9 Tyler lead with 6:53 left in the third quarter.
NEO responded with a 73-yard; 10-play drive as Thompson scored on a 3-yard burst with 2:30 on the clock. Heatherly kicked the point-after for a 24-16 deficit.
Smith shredded the Golden Norse defense with a 48-yard touchdown run on Tyler’s next possession. The PAT by Dunlop with 1:36 left produced a 31-16 Apache lead.
Thompson led the NEO ground game with 111 yards on 17 carries while Darran Williams contributed 108 yards on 10 attempts.
The Golden Norse rushed for 303 yards on 50 carries compared to 321 yards on 48 carries by the Apaches.
Smith led all ball carriers with 143 yards on 13 carries for Tyler while Wilson contributed 85 yards on 20 carries.
Before leaving the game, Grundy connected on 14 of 28 passes for 173 yards. Steigerwald hit 14 of 21 passes for 121 yards.
Wooten connected on 8 of 17 passes for 138 yards with no interceptions and two TDs.
NEO (1-2 both on the season and in the conference) travels to Corsicanna, Texas, for a 6 p.m. SWJCFC game next Saturday against Navarro College.