Home Sports Local Sports Broncos look to buck Buccaneers at homecoming

Broncos look to buck Buccaneers at homecoming

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NMMI sophomore linebacker Jaren Banks with a fumble recovery and TD run after a bad snap on a punt attempt Oct. 19 at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in Miami, Oklahoma. Banks’ ‘scoop-six’ gave NMMI a 24-21 lead with just under eight minutes left in the fourth quarter. (NMMI Sports Press Photo)

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Last week, the New Mexico Military Institute Bronco football team evened up their overall record to 4-4 with an impressive comeback win on the road against Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, 35-21.

Down 21-7 after the first half, NMMI rowed the Golden Norseman in the second, scoring 28 unanswered points, including a pair of “scoop sixes” by the Bronco defense.

The first fumble-recovery-return-for-touchdown put the Broncos up 24-21 with 7:55 left in the fourth. Sophomore linebacker Jaren Banks picked up a fumble after a bad snap on a NEO punt attempt, rushing 18-yards ahead of a pack of Bronco blockers for the score.

Freshman defensive lineman Junior Aho got the next scoop-and-score three minutes later, going 24 yards to paydirt down the right sideline after a short completed pass into the flats, giving NMMI their final points of the game.

NMMI’s other scores came off two Roland Tyson field goals, one from 41 yards to put the first points on the board in the second half, another from 44 yards to make it a 27-21 Bronco lead with 5:05 remaining, and a two-yard rushing TD by Fred Jackson, which capped a four-play 50-yard drive that cut the NEO lead to four, 21-17, with 2:58 left in the third.

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This week, head coach Joe Forchtner and his Broncos hope to force a five-way tie for third place in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference by besting Blinn College in their final regular-season conference match of the 2019 campaign.

The Broncs and Bucs both currently sit at the bottom of the conference standings with 2-4 records, but with the parity in the league this season, a win on Saturday could mean a chance to compete in the conference playoffs.

The top four teams in the SWJCFC, based on conference record, make the postseason. Kilgore College sits alone atop the standings with a 5-1 record, followed by Trinity Valley Community College at 4-2. With one game left to play, the Rangers and Cards have guaranteed themselves a slot, and likely the No. 1 and 2 seeds. But after that, the playoff picture gets extremely complicated, with three teams tied at 3-3 (Navarro College, Cisco College and Tyler Junior College), and three more just one game back at 2-4 (NMMI, Blinn and NEO).

And with the game schedule for this final week, it is quite possible that we’ll see a four or even five-way tie for those last two playoff slots: TVCC travels to play Navarro; Tyler at home vs. Kilgore; Cisco on the road at NEO; and, of course, NMMI’s homecoming hosting of Blinn at the Wool Bowl.

NMMI’s best shot to make the playoffs would be a five-team tie where Tyler loses to Kilgore, Navarro loses to TVCC, Cisco loses to NEO and the Broncos take care of business vs. Blinn.

That already requires a lot of help for any Bronco postseason bid.

But even then, such a scenario still doesn’t guarantee NMMI a top-four slot. The next tie-breaker is ‘Points For’ and ‘Points Against’ for all games against teams involved in the tie, where a maximum of 17 points, plus or minus, can be recorded. As an example, if NEO were one of the teams tied with NMMI at 3-4, the Institute would pick up 14 points for last week’s win against the Norsemen, having won that contest 35-21.

And that’s where things get messy, especially with one game left to play and not knowing which teams will be involved in that multi-team tie-breaker, nor which games will count for points.

As such, coach Forchtner wants to just focus on what his team can control, by bucking the Bucs this Saturday.

“This league is so good and the teams are so evenly matched, that week-to-week, it’s all about who prepares the best, who is mentally ready and who shows up,” said Forchtner. “Look at the records,” emphasized the coach. “Three teams at 3-3 and three teams at 2-4? This is the best junior college league in the nation. Anyone can beat anyone. We can beat anyone. We can also lose to anyone.”

Kickoff for Saturday’s Oct. 26 game vs. Blinn is slated for 4 p.m. at the Wool Bowl, and the public is encouraged to come watch the game and homecoming festivities.

NMMI will have one final non-conference home game on Saturday, Nov. 2 vs. Resolution Prep to close out the regular season – opening kickoff at the Wool Bowl is set for 2 p.m.