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October 28, 2011

Huge homecoming for PN-G

PORT NECHES — The final regular season home game at The Reservation this season should be a doozy.

A 7-1 Vidor team comes to town for a game against Port Neches-Groves with wide-ranging implications in the District 20-4A race. If PN-G wins, it locks up a berth in the Class 4A playoffs, but that’s not the only reason the Pirates have the Indians full attention.

“They just win every game,” PN-G head coach Brandon Faircloth said. “Even in their only loss, Nederland scored with 10 seconds left to beat them. They’re just a flat-out good team. They have good players who are well coached. It’s going to be a tough battle and an extreme test for our team.”

The Pirates will face an Indian team with a little momentum of its own. PN-G has won three straight games, scoring 126 points and only allowing 24 over that stretch. It’s been a team effort, but the side of the ball that will be tested the most against Vidor will be the defense.

Specifically, the Vidor running game will put a lot of pressure on the Indian defense to make sound tackles and stop any big runs on second efforts.

“Our coaches have done a great job with our tackling drills,” Faircloth said. “We didn’t tackle well early in the season, but I think that happens to every team. You can practice it, but you have to see it at game speed to see what you need to work on. That’s why we like to play fast teams like Crosby and Texas City, to get a look at what we’ll need to do down the road.”

Vidor has the third-best offense in the district and is second only to Livingston in rushing yards with 2,280. Pirate quarterback Montana Quirante is the leading rusher with 623 yards on 83 carries while fullback Brentyn Clark has 582 yards and running back David Smallwood has 534 yards.

That’s not even considering speeding taiback David Bolinger, who has 49 carries for 400 yards this season despite missing games with an injury. Still, it’s Quirante, who also starts at middle linebacker that makes the team go.

“He might be the best player in the district,” Faircloth said. “He’s at least in the top 5 and maybe in the top 3. To play middle linebacker and quarterback, he’s a special player. He’s big, fast, physical and well coached.”

The Vidor defense will also pose some problems for the Indians. Only Nederland has been better defensively than the Pirates, as Vidor has only given up 238 yards per game this season and 16.3 points per game.

“They play really good defense,” Faircloth said. “But, it’ s a defense I’ve seen. They’re not doing anything different, they just don’t let people score.”

With a more methodical rushing team like the Pirates, it’d make things a lot easier for the Indians if they can jump out to an early lead.

That puts the pressure on Vidor to come up with big plays and may take them out of their offense.

However, that’s not a new thought, as every team that has gone up against the Pirates this season attempted to do the same thing.

“That’s the game plan, but that’s been everyone’s game plan,” Faircloth said. “There’s a difference between a game plan and executing that. Teams have not been as successful executing that game plan this season. We’re hoping we can keep them contained enough for our offense to succeed.”

Despite changes in the offensive line, the PN-G rushing attack has heated up in recent weeks. Running back Chase Bertrand now has 954 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns this season. The offensive line should be a little more settled this week with both Justin Reasons and Nikolas Stasinos back, but the chemistry the line is developing has helped.

Of course, the success in the passing game has also helped, as Travis Miller leads 20-4A with 1,535 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and a 68.7 completion percentage. Receiver Jayce Nelson has 48 catches for 681 yards and six touchdowns while sophomore Logan Chipman is fourth in the district with 25 catches for 294 yards and three touchdowns.

“(Chipman) is really starting to take off,” Faircloth said. “As a sophomore, we didn’t want to ask him to do too much early on. But, the past couple of games, he’s turned it on and becoming a very good player in our passing attack.”

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