Coming off a successful season ending with a bowl berth, the Kilgore College Rangers are looking to expand on last year's momentum with a bevy of talented signees and 19 returning lettermen.
Under 11th-year head coach J.J. Eckert, KC returns three offensive and three defensive starters this season. KC will host Tyler Junior College in the season-opener 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26, at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium in Kilgore.
Last season, KC defeated TJC twice, once in the regular season finale, and the next week in the first round of the Southwest Junior College Football Conference playoffs.
The Rangers lost in overtime to Trinity Valley Community College the following week in the conference championship game, but KC's 6-4 record paired with a top-20 national ranking earned the team a trip to play East Mississippi Community College in the Mississippi Bowl.
The Rangers lost to EMCC, 27-17, but finished the 2016 season ranked 11th in the nation with a 6-5 overall record.
The 2017 Season:
This season, the Rangers will look defensively to the leadership of returning linebacker Troy Burnett.
Burnett, from Missouri City (TX), racked up 167 tackles last season (99 solo and 68 assists) and was ranked first in the nation in tackles per game, averaging 15.2.
He was selected last season as an honorable mention NJCAA All American as a freshman and had the most returned interceptions for touchdowns in the nation with two.
Also returning on defense is Kerenzo Credit (Wylie, TX) who had five interceptions, 27 tackles and 13 assists last season for KC.
Defensive end Matthew McClellan (Ferguson, MO) and defensive back Edward Hayes (Coldsprings, TX) also return for KC. As a freshman, McClellan recorded 24 tackles and 11 assists. Hayes had 23 tackles and 16 assists last season.
Quanterius Turner (6'2", 305 from Gladewater, TX) returns this season for KC after recording 22 tackles and 13 assists last season.
Other returning lettermen on defense for KC include linebacker Ty Hayter (Garrison, TX), defensive back Byron Robinson (McKinney, TX), defensive lineman Ken Fagens (Kilgore, TX), defensive end Quinton Edney (Pittsburg, TX) and deep snapper Dillon Hall (Diana, TX). Last season, Hayter recorded one tackle and four assists, Robinson recorded six tackles and two assists and Edney had three tackles and eight assists.
At receiver, KC returns four receivers who compiled a combined 618 receiving yards last season. Zach Newbell (Spring, TX) led the way with 14 receptions for 301 yards. Anthony Thomas (Montgomery, TX) compiled 196 yards receiving with 20 catches.
Thomas was also a return-specialist for KC with 22 kickoff returns last season for 583 yards, averaging 26.5 yards per return.
Other receivers returning include Zecharius Nash-Kelly (Round Rock, TX) and D.J. Hicks (New London, TX).
On the offensive side of the ball, returning lettermen include linemen Israel Allen (6'3", 350 from Baytown, TX), Jaime Davis (6'2", 340 from Montgomery, TX), Anthonie Thomas (6'7", 325 from Montgomery, TX) and Justin Torres (6'3", 330 from Castroville, TX). Quarterback Dontre' Thomas (Silsbee, TX), who played in one game last season, also returns.
At SWJCFC Media Day July 28, TVCC received six first-place votes in the coaches’ poll. The Cardinals garnered 62 points, followed by Kilgore (43 points), Navarro (one first-place vote, 42), Tyler (41), NEO (one first place-place vote, 39), Blinn (29), New Mexico Military Institute (24) and Cisco (8).
TVCC was also voted as the number one spot by the media with nine first-place votes and 90 points. The Cards were followed by TJC (two firsts, 73 points), Kilgore (69), Navarro (one first, 62), NEO (60), Blinn (40), NMMI (26) and Cisco (12).
PHOTO ABOVE: Troy Burnett celebrates after returning an interception for a touchdown against Trinity Valley Community College Nov. 12, 2016, in Athens. Photo by Jamie Maldonado/KC