The Port Arthur News
Forget about rivalries. Forget (for a minute) about next week’s chance at a district title. For the Port Arthur Memorial Titans, Friday’s 49-17 victory over Beaumont West Brook at the Thomas Center got them one step closer to their goals.
It clinched them a playoff spot from District 21-5A for the fifth straight season.
La Porte’s 27-10 victory over North Shore Friday means that if the Titans can beat La Porte next week at Memorial Stadium, they will win a share of the district title. Memorial also won for the second straight season against West Brook and moved to 5-6 in the series against the Bruins.
“We’re in the playoffs, ” Memorial head coach Kenny Harrison said. “We’re excited about that. Now, we turn our focus to playing La Porte for the district championship. We’re excited about that and our kids are excited to have a great week of preparation and come out to play hard next week at home.”
It was the biggest margin of victory over the Titans in the crosstown rivalry with West Brook since Memorial won 56-7 in their inaugural season of 2002. This win was very much in doubt, though, at the start of the game, as the Bruins came out in a rush.
Junior running back Justin Hervey broke the opening kickoff return 92 yards for a touchdown that took 13 seconds off the clock. After a flurry of almost turnovers, actual turnovers, penalties and big plays, the teams could each boast three possessions each less than halfway through the first quarter.
Down 7-0 and 10-7 at different points at the game, the Titans knew West Brook would be playing with a lot of emotion in its final home game of the season, sporting new red uniforms with blue numbers.
“I knew they were going to come out and play hard, ” Memorial quarterback Ricky Fisk said. “It’s their last home game, so we knew what to expect from them. We just had to get past their first wave and go from there.”
Senior defensive tackle Matthew Romar capitalized on the Titans’ short yardage package with 3:27 left in the first quarter, scoring on a 1-yard run that made it 7-7. It was Romar’s 10th career rushing touchdown, tying him with Corwin Keal for eighth place in school history.
Diego Uribe’s 24-yard field goal put West Brook up 10-7 six minutes later, but that’s when the Titans finally flipped a switch, scoring 35 unanswered points and taking a commanding lead. Ricky Fisk and Roderic Rucker led the way, as Fisk found his favorite wideout three times for scores.
Fisk threw for 307 yards in the game, completing 17 of 27 passes for four touchdowns and one interception. The senior threw his first pick since the Deer Park game, over a span of 77 pass attempts.
“Ricky has gotten better each and every week,” Harrison said. “He’s a tremendous player and the leader of our team. He did a great job of executing our game plan. West Brook did some things early on off of momentum, but once our kids settled down, we were able to execute and get it done.”
The defense came up big time and again for Memorial after a few early bumps, as they tried to figure out which West Brook offense would show up. The Titans gave up just 234 yards defensively, under their season average of 244.1 and came up with some big stops.
The first happened on the drive that was capped with Uribe’s field goal. West Brook drove down from the Bruin 25 on eight plays, setting up a first-and-10 from just outside the Titan 10. That’s when the Memorial defense stepped up and stopped Hervey, who gained three yards on three carries.
Part of the reason for that success is Memorial loaded up the tackle box with nine and 10 players at times, once they figured out that West Brook was rarely going to throw the ball.
“That was big,” Harrison said. “We’re a bend but not break defense. West Brook does a tremendous job of mixing things up. They have a fast break, up-tempo offense and a two-tight set. They did a good job in the beginning of mixing that up. Once our guys were able to figure out what was going on and we were able to evaluate what they were trying to get accomplished, our defense played a lot better.”
Defensive players accounted for three scores in the game, as defensive tackle Walter Oliver added his own 1-yard TD run from the short yardage package. The other score, though, came on a blocked punt in the second quarter that senior safety Jalen Barnes scooped up for a 23-yard return touchdown. That was one of three Titan turnovers forced in the game.
It also came less than two minutes after Rucker scored his first TD on a 22-yard pass from Fisk. Rucker then scored twice more before the end of the quarter, catching a 40-yard pass down the seam on a beautiful throw from Fisk with 3:15 left in the first half.
His last score came with just 13 seconds left in the half and capped a quick three play, 58-yard drive with a 6-yard TD pass from Fisk. Memorial took over on that last drive with under a minute to play, but didn’t even use all that time up before finding the end zone again.
Rucker finished with seven catches for 133 yards and now has 40 catches for 707 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. He joins Jhajuan Seales and Kelvin Jackson as the only Memorial receivers to score double-digit touchdowns in a season. The junior is two scores away from tying Seales’ single-season TD receptions mark and four away from tying the school’s career record, held by Freddie King.
Teammate Albert Jacobs also had 100 yards receiving, catching three passes for 105 yards. The junior authored Memorial’s biggest play when he broke a screen to the right side of the field and took off down the sideline for a 76-yard gain. John Leday finished with four catches for 39 yards while Fisk led the team in rushing with eight carries for 34 yards.
West Brook (3-6, 1-4) was eliminated from the playoff race with the loss and will close its season next week at Baytown Sterling.
Port Arthur Memorial 49, Beaumont West Brook 17
Turning point: Memorial stopped West Brook on a first-and-10 situation just outside the Titan 10. Though it ended in a field goal, Memorial seemed to figure out West Brook after that stop and the Bruins couldn’t move the ball for the rest of the night.
On offense: After Ricky Fisk completed his first two passes for 9 total yards, his next eight all went for at least 13 yards or scored a touchdown. Six of his passes were explosive plays of 20 yards or more and he added another explosive play on the ground.
On defense: DT Walter Oliver led the team with seven tackles, while teammates Melbrodrick Matthews and Darius Lemora each had two sacks. In his return to the lineup, four of Matthews’ six tackles were for a loss.
Random stat: The Titanic duo of Oliver and Matthew Romar have eight rushing touchdowns on the season. That’s four less than team leader Ricky Fisk and as many rushing touchdowns as the non-Fisk offensive players have combined.
District scoring: In five district games this season, the Titans have scored 40 or more points three times with one to play. Last season, Memorial topped 40 points twice in five district games.