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August 20, 2011

Titans speed has impact

PORT NECHES — The Port Arthur Memorial Titans went on The Reservation Friday, playing Port Neches-Groves in a three-quarter scrimmage that saw Memorial prevail 13-0.

Both teams have hopes of reaching the playoffs this season and both saw positive signs that could take them to that goal. Of course, they also saw plenty of things to work on.

“I think we played hard,” PN-G head coach Brandon Faircloth. “I was impressed with our intensity and excitement. We’re not where we need to be, but there were definitely some bright spots tonight. Coach Harrison has a great program. So, for us to be out here and competing well is a great sign.”

PN-G was playing without two of its projected starters on the offensive line, including senior Kyler Nicotre. Faircloth anticipates that the line will be back at full strength for the season opener next Saturday against Gregory-Portland.

While the Indians patched-together line had problems with the quickness of Memorial’s front seven, they also will not face many teams this season as fast as their Class 5A neighbors.

“For the next 10 games, we won’t find anyone faster, I promise,” Faircloth said. “You can’t be faster than that. Coach Harrison does a good job of coaching them, too. They’re coached well and they’re fast, so they’re a great measuring stick for us.”

Memorial head coach Kenny Harrison expects speed to be his defense’s biggest strength and that showed against the Indians. The Titans were able to close off outside plays and quickly get to the ball carrier on completed passes.

The Titans flashed good speed off the edge rushing the passer, but it was hard to tell whether that was a product of actual speed or successful blitzing. Memorial only attempted one full-out blitz, prefering to send six men at a time, but it was often too much for PN-G to handle. Senior linebacker Davonte McMillian was one of the big beneficiaries of that, picking up one sack on Indians quarterback Travis Miller and making two more tackles for a loss.

“We’ve got to get some things squared away, but they didn’t give up any touchdowns, ” Harrison said. “They had a couple situations where they could have and didn’t. Our goal on defense is to make the offense make one more play. We’ve got some good kids out there (on defense). We need to get into a little better shape before we play Central next week, but I was happy with them.”

Miller had a good start to the 2011 season, completing his first six passes of the scrimmage. He also drew two pass interference calls with balls down the sideline, including one that set up PN-G for a short field goal in the first quarter. They missed the attempt, but it was possible because of Miller’s arm.

The senior showed some versatility on the ground, too, against that fast Titan defense. Miller scrambled for two big first downs to keep drives alive, including a 21-yard scamper on a long third down in the second quarter.

The senior also had some “learning” moments, getting picked off by junior safety Darius Lemora. With the Indians on Memorial’s 15-yard line, Miller had a receiver running up the hash marks and lobbed a pass to him. Unfortunately for Miller, the receiver wasn’t far enough up the field to make a play on the ball and Lemora was lurking in zone coverage to get the interception.

“He’s still working on his craft, but he does well,” Faircloth said. “He’s very accurate with his balls. He makes good decisions and scrambles when he needs to. They blew the whistle on him a couple of time a little quick, but we’re alright with that. We want to protect him. Travis has worked hard to get where he is and he deserves it. He’s a great leader for us and is going to have a great season.”

Memorial’s offense looked as explosive as ever, with Terrence Singleton and Nate Holmes both ripping off long runs. The quarterback and running back both showed an elusiveness that will serve them well during the season, sliding off tackles and never allowing a defender to square them up. The two combined to run their way to Memorial’s first touchdown, a 7-yard plunge by Holmes in the second quarter.

The biggest problem for Memorial came when Singleton was throwing the ball and lay entirely on the receivers, who dropped five passes in the game, including a couple that bounced off gloved hands.

“We’ve got a Jugs machine,” Harrison said. “Our receivers aren’t going home early any time this week. We had entirely too many drops, which is something you can’t have if you want to be a successful team. We know we can run the ball, so we came out and wanted to work on our passing game.”

Memorial will open the season at Beaumont Central at 7 p.m. Friday.

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