BRENHAM, Texas — Three touchdown passes by redshirt sophomore quarterback Wyatt Steigerwald carried No. 17 ranked Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College to
A 35-26 upset over No. 4 rated Blinn College Saturday before a large homecoming crowd at Brenham’s ISD Cub Stadium.
With NEO’s victory and a 31-21 win by Trinity Valley College over Cisco, Texas, three teams finish tied for first place in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference with 5-2 records. NEO and Trinity Valley finish 7-2 on the regular season while the Blinn Buccaneers are 6-2 overall.
Coaches and administrators meet Sunday at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas to finalize the top four playoff pairings.
Because Trinity Valley owns a 27-14 victory over the Golden Norsemen on Sept. 9 in Athens, Texas, the Cardinals will be the No. 1 seed. Trinity Valley will host the No. 4 seeded team yet to be determined between, Tyler, Navarro or Kilgore. All three teams were 3-3 in the conference entering Saturday’s regular season finale.
NEO will be the No. 2 seed and host No. 3 seed Blinn, Nov. 4 at either 3 p.m. or 2 p.m. on Red Robertson Field.
“Our conference has set 3 p.m. as the starting time for the semifinals and final,” NEO athletic director Dale Patterson said. “But, I intend to ask if we could play at 2 p.m. since it’s such a long drive from Brenham to Miami.”
After an exchange of punts to start the game, the Golden Norsemen drew first blood on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Steigerwald to redshirt freshman wide out Kobe Bryer. Riley Hawthorn kicked the extra point at the 1-minute mark for a 7-0 NEO lead.
Blinn’s offense bogged down at their own 46-yard line on their next possession. A fake punt by Ryan Buckley was stopped by NEO’s defense with 12:03 left in the second quarter.
The Golden Norse drove down inside the red zone, but the Buccaneers shut down NEO on a 4th-and-2 attempt with 8:25 until halftime.
Mounting an 88-yard, 9-play drive the Bucs tied the score with 3:35 showing on the clock as quarterback Devin Williams crossed the goal line from 3-yards out. Buckley’s PAT created a 7-7 tie.
Following a fumble recovery by NEO freshman defensive tackle Devon Bajek at the Trinity Valley 21-yard line, NEO needed only three plays to regain the lead.
Steigerwald scored from 2-yards out on a quarterback sneak and Hawthorn’s point-after gave NEO a 14-7 cushion with 0:20 remaining before intermission.
Starting the third quarter, Blinn defensive back Vonte Davis not only recovered the opening kickoff, but five minutes later Davis forced a fumble that was recovered by Issiah Moore at the NEO 32-yard line.
Over a four-minute period the Bucs used eight plays before running back Carlos Grace scored on a 2-yard plunge with 2:49 left in the third quarter. NEO defensive end Dimeon Dunlap blocked Buckley’s extra point for a 14-13 deficit for Blinn.
Consuming 2:17 on the clock, the Golden Norsemen received a 23-yard touchdown run by Cortez Williams. Hawthorn’s PAT gave the Norse a 21-13 margin heading into the fourth quarter.
Steigerwald found tight end Jace Sternberger open on a crossing route for a 12-yard TD pass with 12:38 remaining in the game. The PAT by Hawthorn increased NEO’s lead to a 28-13 margin.
Less than two minutes later, Blinn retaliated with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Williams to wide out Sicory Smith. Buckley’s point-after rallied the Bucs to a 28-20 deficit.
A 36-yard run by Grace set up the touchdown pass from Williams.
NEO wasted no time as Steigerwald needed only 0:53 seconds to drive the Norse 57 yards to pay dirt.
Sophomore wide out KJ Wells got behind the Blinn secondary for a 26-yard TD pass from Steigerwald with 9:17 left in the game. Hawthorn tacked on the extra point for a 35-20 NEO cushion.
Blinn received a 3-yard touchdown run by Grace with 6:32 remaining on the clock to trim the deficit to a 35-26 score. The extra point by Buckley was blocked to conclude the scoring.
This marks the first time in five years that the Golden Norsemen appear in the SWJCFC post season playoffs. Current NEO athletic director Dale Patterson guided the 2012 Golden Norsemen to the conference championship. Navarro haded NEO a 62-24 loss at Corsicana, but the Norsemen played College of DuPage, Illinois in the Citizen’s Bank Bowl at Pittsburg, Kansas. DuPage earned a 42-29 win as NEO finished 9-3 overall.