Turnovers spelled doom for the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M Golden Norsemen and victory for the College of DuPage (Ill.) Chaparrals in the fourth edition of the Citizens Bank Bowl on Sunday at Brandenburg Field/Carnie Smith Stadium.
“I think it boils down to when you turn over the ball five times,” NEO head coach Dale Patterson said, “you’re not going to win many games. We played well defensively, probably played good enough on defense to win but there’s times you’ve got to move the ball. Our defense stopped them several times and we couldn’t respond with our offense.”
“Early on, I didn’t know how we matched up,” DuPage head coach Gary Thomas said. “I thought we had a chance to match up. About the middle of the second quarter, I knew that we were probably the better football team and we would have a chance to beat them. We just didn’t make plays. It wasn’t that we had the wrong plays called and they were better than us, we just weren’t making plays. Their 14 points had more to do with stuff we were doing wrong, not stuff they were doing right.”
DuPage scored 28 unanswered points and the first 21 after halftime en route to a 42-29 win, making a nearly 1,200-mile round trip worth every mile for the school from Glen Elynn, Ill.
DuPage freshman running back Tyreis Thomas (Boylan Catholic, Ill.) earned Offensive MVP honors with 102 yards on 22 carries, plus four receptions for 30 yards. Sophomore lineman Jeff Brown (Evanston, Ill.) won Defensive MVP and recorded five tackles, 2.0 quarterback sacks and one leaping interception.
After a scoreless first quarter, NEO sophomore quarterback Clayton Mitchem (Spiro, Okla.) gave the Golden Norsemen the first points of the game on a 18-yard touchdown run.
Mitchem rushed for 94 yards and one TD on 22 carries and passed for 234 yards and two scores, both to Tre Stearns (44, 38 yards). However, Chaparral defenders sacked Mitchem five times and returned two interceptions for touchdowns, 22 yards by Ikeem Higgs (Miami, Fla.) and 56 yards by Jaylan Bailey (Crete Monee, Ill). These plays changed the momentum of the game.
Coach Thomas, a former collegiate starting quarterback himself, praised Mitchem.
“I tell you what,” Thomas said. “That guy on film is scary to watch. He’s equally scary to play. No. 12, I’m not sure of his name but he is a pretty good football player. . . . The thing that kinda jumped out a little bit on tape is that some of the teams looked physically superior to NEO and they were winning those games. Obviously, that was a concern for us. . . . They’re just a good football team.”
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DuPage pressured Mitchem on a regular basis and registered five quarterback sacks. In addition to the blitzing efforts of the Defensive MVP Brown, freshman linebacker Logan Orso (Citronelle, Ala.) came free on a pair of occasions from the outside and Dakarai Curry added a sack. Bailey led with 12 tackles, Curry had 10 and Orso made it three double-digit tacklers with 10 even.
“Credit to them,” Patterson said. “They played good on defense. We had a hard time blocking their defensive front. That big No. 76 (Brown) smashed us several times and it just seemed like we were out of sync on both sides of the ball.”
DuPage scored three TDs via its defense and special teams — after NEO scored the first points of the game, DuPage sophomore receiver-return specialist Johnny Holton (Coral Gables, Fla.) mishandled the ensuing kickoff at his own 12-yard line. Holton recovered, made the first couple NEO defenders miss, found wide open spaces and put on the rocket burners to score a 88-yard touchdown.
NEO finished its season 9-3 and Sunday was the last game for veteran head coach Patterson. Patterson will retain his duties as NEO athletic director.
“It’s been tremendous,” Patterson said of the past two seasons as NEO head coach. “To see some of these sophomores buy in to what we’re doing and to come to the top and make plays for us all year long. . . . I’m really proud of the sophomores. We went to work back in November and really had a tough offseason, tough spring ball and a tough summer. I’m down a little bit. I wanted to win this one for them, not for me. It’s not about me at all, it’s about these guys and I want them to win and get that first 10-win season since 2003.”
Patterson began coaching in 1969, an assistant coach position at Saydel High School in Des Moines, Iowa. His path led him to NEO in 1981, where he became defensive coordinator and he also served as the Dean of Records and Admissions and Director of Recruitment for five years.
Patterson’s first tenure as NEO head coach was eight years in the 1990s and 2000s and during that span, he led the Golden Norsemen to a 41-17 record and league titles in 1998, 2002 and 2003. The NJCAA Hall of Fame coach worked seven years as assistant director of football operations at Oklahoma State.
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No. 15 CHAPARRALS 42, No. 9 GOLDEN NORSEMEN 29
DuP 0 14 14 14 — 42
NEO 0 14 0 15 — 29
NEO — Clayton Mitchem 18 run (Kevin King kick) 6:43
DuP — Johnny Holton 88 kick return (Christian Lainez kick) 6:28
NEO — Tre Stearns 44 pass from Mitchem (King kick) 4:58
DuP — Ikeem Higgs 22 interception return (Lainez kick) 3:23
DuP — Patrick Ivy 3 run (Lainez kick) 3:31
DuP — Jaylan Bailey 56 interception return (Lainez kick) 2:24
DuP — Andre Taylor 16 pass from Byron Dawkins (Lainez kick) 10:35
NEO — Stearns 38 pass from Mitchem (King kick) 4:10
DuP — Randall Wells 5 run (Lainez kick) 1:48
NEO — Gerald Howse 2 run (pass good) :05
First Downs 18 20
Rushing yds. 191 203
Passing 9-21-0 13-25-3
Passing yds. 134 234
Total offense 325 437
Penalties-yds. 6-50 8-93
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Fumbles-lost 3-1 2-2
Punts-avg. 5-40.0 6-40.3
TOP 33:31 26:29
Third down conv. 4-16 5-15
Fourth down conv. 3-5 1-2
Red Zone 3-4 2-2
RUSHING — DuP, Tyreis Thomas 22-102, Houston Cassita 12-42, Patrick Ivy 6-35, Johnny Holton 1-9, Randall Wells 1-5, Byron Dawkins 2-3, Lexus Jackson 2-0, TEAM 1-(-5). NEO, Clayton Mitchem 22-94, Gerald Howse 15-53, Casey Curtis 7-40, Kameron Doolittle 3-16.
PASSING — DuP, Byron Dawkins 9-21-1-0-134. NEO, Clayton Mitchem 13-25-2-3-234.
RECEIVING — DuP, Tyreis Thomas 4-30, Johnny Holton 2-68, Andre Taylor 2-24, DeVante Miller 1-12. NEO, Tre Stearns 5-122, Alverey Braxton 3-22, Garrett Powell 1-48, Michael Thompson 1-19, Gerald Howse 1-16, Casey Curtis 1-7, Kameron Doolittle 1-0.