Last year at this time, the Trinity Valley Community College Cardinals were at the bottom looking up in the conference.
This week, the Cardinals have a chance to lock up a playoff spot with a win over the Blinn College Buccaneers.
“We control our own destiny right now,” seven-year head coach Brad Smiley said. “To be one of two teams controlling your own destiny with two conference games to go is right where you want to be.”
The Cardinals (4-2, 3-1) defeated NEO (2-4, 0-3) last weekend, 44-23, and are looking to build on a three-game conference win streak at Blinn.
Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 5 p.m. in Brenham.
“They (Blinn) are playing good football,” Smiley said. “The three losses that they have are against teams with a combined record of 17-1. They have come against the No. 1, No. 4 and No. 7 ranked teams in the nation. I think Blinn right now is a very confident team.”
Last year, the Cardinals snapped a five-game losing streak with a 24-9 win over Blinn on Homecoming Day at Trinity Valley.
Saturday’s contest will be the final road game of the season and a three game trip — which included wins over then No. 1-ranked Navarro College (35-7) and last week’s thumping of NEO.
With this being the final road test, Smiley knows it is a big game.
“Rather we are playing in Brenham, Athens or a parking lot in Crockett, we have got to go out and win the ball game,” Smiley said. “Right now, we are 3-1 in conference play but we are not guaranteed a playoff spot.”
On offense, the Buccaneers rely on the run as sophomore Klartel Claridy — the No. 3-ranked rusher in the conference — has 595 yards and eight touchdowns this season.
“On offense, they have a very good running back who was the conference player of the week last week,” Smiley said. “He (Claridy) had a great game against Kilgore last week.”
Another player Smiley has been paying attention to in preparation for this week is quarterback Garry Kimble.
Kimble has thrown only two touchdowns this season and has rushed for 213 yards and one score.
The play along the defensive lines for both teams could be crucial as TVCC comes in with the No. 2-ranked defense.
The Cardinals have allowed 14 points per game this season and are led by defensive back D’Nerrius Antoine with 37 tackles and defensive end Jhaustin Thomas.
Thomas has 32 tackles, 6.5 for loss and leads the conference with 8.5 sacks this season.
Blinn comes in as the No. 3-ranked team in the conference defensively allowing 26 points per game.
They are led by the linebacking core of Kell Heidman with 45 tackles and Ken Butler — who has 43 tackles with 11 of those resulting in a loss of yardage.
“Defensively, up front they are very big and physical and they remind me of Kilgore,” Smiley said. “The secondary is athletic with good speed and they remind me of Navarro.”
Smiley also praised the play of the offensive line.
“They have the best offensive line that we have seen,” Smiley said. Our offensive and defensive line has a chore this weekend. This game is definitely going to be won up front.”
Another area Smiley said the Cardinals need to improve on is the turnover battle.
Throughout the first six games of the year, the Cardinals are last in turnover ratio at a minus eight.
Blinn comes into the contest at a plus four as the second best team protecting the football.
“It will be the key of the game to me because if you make mistakes you will lose the game,” Smiley said. “We have to make good decisions this week.”
Notes: The Cardinal Pride Luncheon that was scheduled for Monday has now been moved to Tuesday, Oct. 15. It will begin at noon at Ole' West Steak House. ... The Cardinals will also be hosting Tyler next Saturday at 3 p.m. for the Hall of Fame and Homecoming Day festivities. The luncheon is scheduled Saturday, Oct. 19 at 11 a.m. in the Student Union Building ballroom. Kickoff at Bruce Field is set for 3 p.m.
Season Conf. PF PA
Tyler 6-0 3-0 265 137
TVCC 4-2 3-1 236 85
Blinn 3-3 2-1 168 159
Navarro 4-2 2-2 220 90
Kilgore 2-4 2-2 133 165
NEO 2-4 0-3 203 196
Cisco 1-4 0-3 101 183
This week’s games: Tyler at Cisco, 7 p.m.; Trinity Valley at Blinn, 5 p.m.; NE Oklahoma at Kilgore, 3 p.m.; Southeast Prep at Navarro, 3 p.m.