Gearing Up: Juco teams get ready for new football season

Published on Friday, 28 July 2017 22:52 - Written by PHIL HICKS,

LINDALE - Danny Palmer could easily be called the Darrell Royal of junior college football.

His folksy charm and witty responses always keep the fans, his fellow coaches and media entertained.

Friday was no different as the annual Southwest Junior College Football Conference Media Day at Garden Valley Resort & Golf Club.

“(On Aug. 15) my wife Sharon and I will be married 46 years and I wasn’t even her first choice,” said the Tyler Junior College football coach.

Palmer is beginning his 45th year in the coaching profession and his 11th year as the chief of the Apaches football program.

He thanked his understanding wife and followed with, “Bud Grant (former Minnesota Vikings coach) said back in the 1960s, ‘A good football coach needs a patient wife, a loyal dog and a great quarterback - but not necessarily in that order.”

Palmer has all three as the Apaches are among the favorites to earn playoff berths this season.

Defending champion Trinity Valley, coached by Brad Smiley who is also in his 11th season in Athens, is the favorite in both the coaches and media polls.

TJC is picked fourth in the coaches voting and second in the press polling.

TVCC received six first-place votes in the coaches’ poll. The Cardinals garnered 62 points, followed by Kilgore (43 points), Navarro (1 first-place vote, 42), Tyler (41), Northeastern Oklahoma A&M (1 first place-place vote, 39), Blinn (29), New Mexico Military Institute (24) and Cisco (8).

On the media side, Trinity Valley had nine first-place votes and 90 points. The Cards were followed by TJC (2 first-place votes, 73 points), Kilgore (69), Navarro (1 first-place vote, 62), NEO (60), Blinn (40), NMMI (26) and Cisco (12).

Kilgore College coach J.J. Eckert is also beginning his 11th season at the helm of KC.

Palmer said he hated to lose quarterback Carter McCown, the former Jacksonville High School star. McCown hurt his knee again in the spring and decided to forego his football career.

Palmer said McCown was like having another coach around. McCown is now a student assistant at Stephen F. Austin State University.

The Apaches did receive some help with TCU transfer Breenen Wooten, who hails from San Angelo. Palmer said Wooten “has character that runs a mile deep.”

Palmer has also been impressed with record-setting QB Nicholas Gerber from Levelland and Jeremiah Crawford, who led Mineola to the state championship. Palmer compared Crawford to former TJC standout Sederian Copeland.

As usual, the Apaches have a stout offensive line that includes Jack Berry (6-5, 300, Burleson), Randon Hayes (6-4, 3-1, Waxahachie), Jerrod Johnson (6-3, 300, Lufkin), Willie Allen (6-7, 215, New Orleans, transfer from LSU) and Tanner Elliott (freshman, 6-4, 280).

Also, Palmer always has standout receivers, including lightning-fast Joseph Ward of Waco.

TVCC coach Smiley said he took away three things from last season: 1, With two games remaining, seven of the eight schools were still in contention for a playoff berth; 2, With a game remaining, six of the eight schools were still in contention for the postseason; and 3, six of the eight teams finished with winning records.

The top four teams advance to the postseason.


Former Tyler offensive coordinator Ryan Mahon is in his second year as head coach at Blinn, while former Apache defensive coordinator Russell Thompson is beginning his first year as head coach at Cisco. … Former TJC offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Ryan Taylor joined Thompson in Cisco and former TJC defensive line coach Jessie Green is the defensive coordinator for Thompson.


Blinn coach Ryan Mahon and his wife Pam are the proud parents of 3 1/2 month old son Ty.


Navarro opens its season Thursday, Aug. 24, at Georgia Military. … TJC begins on Saturday, Aug. 26, at Kilgore in a non-conference contest and five days later plays host to Texas A&T on Thursday, Aug. 31, at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium. … Other first games on Aug. 26 include: Texas Sports Academy at Cisco; the Battle in the Valley sponsored by Virtual Communications – Pima (Arizona) at TVCC; New Mexico Military at Air Force Prep; and Texas A&T at Blinn.





1, Trinity Valley (9) 90

2, Tyler (2) 73

3, Kilgore 69

4, Navarro (1) 62

5, NE Oklahoma 60

6, Blinn 40

7, New Mexico Military 26

8, Cisco 12


1, Trinity Valley (6) 62

2, Kilgore 43

3, Navarro (1) 42

4, Tyler 41

5, NE Oklahoma (1) 39

6, Blinn 29

7, New Mexico Military 24

8, Cisco 8

() first place votes in parentheses