The road doesn’t get any easier for the Georgia Military College football team (1-1) following last week’s 21-17 loss to Nassau.
The Bulldogs fell out of the most recent NJCAA poll, but are still receiving votes while this week’s opponent Northeastern Oklahoma A&M (NEO) stands at 11th. GMC and the Golden Norsemen (1-0) will duke it out on Davenport Field Saturday at 6 p.m.
NEO’s long journey to Milledgeville will be the team’s longest of 2019 as all of its away games are set in Oklahoma’s neighboring state of Texas. The reverse is true for head coach Bert Williams’ GMC squad who is playing its last home game for a timespan of over a month. The ‘Dogs have a return trip to New York slated for next week, a game in Miami the last weekend in September and one in Ohio all before they return to the friendly confines of Davenport Field. Not only that, but each of GMC’s first six opponents are either ranked or have received votes in the NJCAA Top 20 poll.
“It is what it is,” Williams said of his team’s tough schedule. “That’s more or less standard for us.”
But that’s looking ahead. What lies before GMC this week is what appears to be the team’s third straight tough test to open the 2019 season. The Norsemen manhandled Arkansas Baptist College 69-13 in their season opener, which moved them up two spots in the NJCAA rankings. The Bulldogs traveled to Arkansas late last season to face the ABC Buffaloes and won 28-26. The 2018 meeting between GMC and NEO went 14-10 in the Norsemen’s favor, and was part of a stretch that saw the ‘Dogs lose their first three games by a combined nine points. Coach Williams knows his guys are in for a challenge this week.
“There are several games you circle going into the year that you kind of feel like will be your toughest challenges, and NEO would be one of those three or four,” the GMC head coach said. “Navarro was one, and ASA-New York and Lackawanna will be too. You think that way just based on the history and knowing what these programs have.”
GMC coordinator Rob Manchester’s defense can expect to see a balanced offense that showed just how explosive it can be last week when it scored 69 points. Offensively for the ‘Dogs, coach Ross Robinson’s offense, especially the front, will need to be on its P’s and Q’s against an active NEO defensive line.
“They move the front a lot,” Williams said. “They don’t wholesale blitz a lot, but they bring a fifth and sometimes a sixth man. They do not sit still, which adds a level of difficulty to what you’re trying to do.”
Williams called NEO probably the toughest challenge his offensive line has seen yet, but praised that group and his quarterback Damekus Taylor for how well they’ve played in the early-going of 2019. The GMC head coach pointed out that the freshman from Thomson is making some of the mistakes you’d expect from a first-year player, but overall he’s pleased by Taylor’s production thus far. The starting QB has completed better than 60 percent of his passes while having thrown one touchdown, but probably the most important number is his interception total, which currently stands at zero through two games.
Asked what he needs to see from his team in order to come away with a win against the nation’s No. 11 JUCO program, Williams responded, “We need to finish the game. We didn’t finish the game the way we needed to up in Nassau to get the win there. We did against Navarro, so we need to get back to finishing the game the way we need to to get the W. If we’ve got to stop them on defense, we gotta stop them on defense. If we need to go down and score late, then by golly we’ve got to go down and score.”
GMC will also be celebrating First Responders Night at Saturday’s game against NEO. Members of at least five different area first responder agencies will be recognized on the field, and those who show up to the gate with a first responder badge or work ID will be given free admission. Kickoff between the Bulldogs and Norsemen is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Davenport Field.