The Port Arthur News
NEDERLAND – One last time, the Nederland football team will go through the motions. One last time, the Bulldogs will have a dress rehearsal, complete with tackling, running, penalties and the rest. One last time, the game won’t count.
A day before both PN-G and Port Arthur Memorial scrimmage, Nederland will host Dayton in its second and final scrimmage of fall camp. On Friday, the players may have some time off to prepare for the impending school year and the impending football season.
For the coaches, Thursday marks one last time to evaluate before things go live, meaning decisions that have been shaped by the offseason, fall camp and last week’s scrimmage against West Orange-Stark will be piled together to form the beginnings of a team.
“The mental approach this week is going to try to be like it will be next week against Crosby,” Nederland head coach Larry Neumann said. “We’re trying to treat this week like we’re in school. I left things open Friday. It’s the last weekday before school starts. I know parents and students have things they need to get done.
“It’s been a positive in the past to allow them that weekday. We may not even work Friday, so that if we feel there is something we feel we have to get done, we can come back and work on it. I’m hoping it will be like last year, when we gave them a day off.”
Nederland is hoping to get another positive answer to its question at quarterback Thursday. Senior Preston White played as well as could be expected against the Mustangs, but what he really showed was a knack for leading this team.
“Preston White was a giant positive,” Neumann said. “He managed the game like a guy who had done it much longer than he has done it.”
One question mark that still looms for the Bulldogs is at linebacker. Gone are two-year starters Korbin Stampley and Jordan Wood. It appears that Christian Contreras will fill Wood’s spot, as Contreras did all that was asked of him against WO-S.
It’s Stampley’s old spot that the coaches are still evaluating. Junior Leon Mayfield is the presumed starter, but disappointed with his play against the Mustangs. That’s understandable, as Mayfield was playing his first competitive football against another team in almost two years.
Still, Nederland cannot afford to let a question linger at such an important position. So, while Mayfield will still be given the opportunity to win the starting spot himself, senior Brandon Dial will work plenty at linebacker this week.
Dial started many games down the stretch for Nederland at tight end last season and will rotate in with Mayfield on Thursday to see who gives the Bulldogs the best look. As an added benefit, Mayfield also plays tight end, so the two could swap spots in the starting lineup, with Dial moving to defense and Mayfield heading to offense.
“We’re dabbling with combinations to see where they may end up,” Neumann said. “Heading into this scrimmage, we’re more concerned with who will produce at that Sam backer position. Last week, we put all our eggs in Leon’s basket and he underachieved, in my opinion.
“We’ll try to coach him better and motivate him. We still want him to be the guy, but his production last week was unacceptable. We’re going to have to get better or try someone else there who can be better at that position.”
Nederland will also be looking to get more out of its running game this week. Senior Kendrick Hopkins is hard to bring down and Marcus Barton should add a dangerous weapon from the fullback spot to Nederland’s arsenal.
However, Nederland’s offensive line struggled a bit against the quick Mustangs. The coaching staff will be looking to improve play there against Dayton. Part of that will be the battle at left, or “quick,” tackle between sophomores Justin Carr and Seth Parker. After WO-S, the Nederland coaching staff doesn’t have a clear-cut starter at the position, but they do have hope for the future there.
“Tackle is still a little unsettled,” Neumann said. “But, we feel better about the future there, no matter who it is. We just haven’t decided who and it’s still competitive. Based on the performance the other night, there’s optimism that whoever wins it will be good enough and will continue to get better this season.”
David Coleman is a sportswriter for the Port Arthur News. He can be emailed at email@example.com and found on Twitter at @MDavidColeman.