NEO shuts down Navarro, wrestles away 10-9 win

MIAMI, Ok. — Tenth-ranked Northeastern Oklahoma A&M stopped high-powered Navarro on three field goals Saturday, and used Tommy Heatherly’s 39-yard field goal with 7:56 left as a difference as the Golden Norsemen edged the Bulldogs, 10-9.

NEO (4-1/2-1) scored the game’s only touchdown after its opening drive as Tariq Bitson caught a 25-yard Clayton Sims pass to end a nine-play, 52 yard march with 10:51 left in the first period. The Golden Norsemen were held scoreless on nine consecutive drives until Heatherly was called upon in the fourth quarter to hit his second field goal of the season.

Coach Jim Gush’s Bulldogs (3-3/2-3) battled through some missed opportunities, but kept chipping away at NEO’s lead as freshman Jace Ingram nailed field goals in each of the final three periods of play.

Ingram, who missed a 41-yard, first-quarter attempt, connected on 37, 38, and 38-yard attempts.

Ingram’s 37-yarder in the second period occurred at the end of a 14-play, 63-yard drive of 6:05.  He added a 39-yarder with 2:14 left in the third quarter that pulled NC within 7-6.

Following a shanked punt that gave NEO position near midfield, Heatherly countered with a 39-yard field goal at the end of a 10-play, 4:32 possession and lifted NEO to a 10-6 lead.

Navarro uncoiled its own 10-play drive of 4:12 before Ingram booted the 38-yarder with 3:41 left in the game.

Sims, who guided NEO through three fourth-down conversions during the evening, attempted to drain the game clock, but faced a fourth-and-three from the Navarro 28-yard line with 1:30 left.  The bold decision: NEO elected to go for the conversion and ice the win.

On the pivotal play, Sims found tight end Lonell Burris in open space against the Navarro secondary.  Burris leaped for Sims’ lob pass and snagged the football for a 12-yard gain.

The Bulldogs, who entered the game averaging 498 yards and almost 40 points per game behind NJCAA passing yardage leader Parker McNeil, were disallowed end-zone access by the Golden Norse defense.

Navarro totaled 312 yards offense — a season-low 161 of that coming through the air on 16-of-31 efficiency.

Keaton Dudik led Navarro rushers with 70 yards on 16 carries, while Travell Lumpkin, returning from injury, added 48 on 13 attempts.

The Bulldogs didn’t score a touchdown in a game for the first time since a 9-3 win over Blinn on October 2, 2010 — Navarro’s second national championship season.

Navarro has only three regular-season games remaining on its schedule and just two SWJCFC games (NMMI and TVCC).  The Bulldogs sustained road losses to SWJCFC leaders Tyler, Blinn and NEO.

SWJCFC FINAL
NEO 10, Navarro 9
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Navarro            0 3 3 3 – 9
NEO A&M      7 0 0 3 – 10
NEO — 10:15, 1Q: Tariq Bitson, 25-pass from Clayton Sims. (David Heatherly kick).

NC — 7:37, 2Q: Jace Ingram, 37-FG.

NC — 2:14, 3Q: Ingram, 39-FG.

NEO — 7:56, 4Q: Heatherly, 39-FG.

NC — 3:41, 4Q: Ingram, 38-FG.