The Port Arthur News
PORT NECHES —
If the Port Neches-Groves football team wants to erase any memories of last season, this week is a good place to start.
The Indians find themselves in a similar position to 2012, coming off a victory against Silsbee. This year, though, the Indians can feel much more comfortable with themselves than last year, when they were a two-point conversion away from losing to the Tigers.
This year, that wasn’t the case, as PN-G dominated the game from the beginning.
“I’m proud of the overall, big-picture win, but there’s still so many small things we need to get better at,” PN-G head coach Brandon Faircloth said. “Silsbee pointed them out and West Orange-Stark will certainly point them out too.
“We have to shore those up by the time we play Friday night and get better at those by district play. It was a good win for confidence. After Texas City, the kids started believing a little bit. To score 45 on Silsbee, that’s a lot of points.”
Silsbee and WO-S are not only in the same classification and district, but they’re also two of the best teams in the state. The similarities don’t stop with the basics, either. The two teams play a similar style that should test PN-G once again this week.
“It’s a huge challenge for us,” Faircloth said. “They’re almost like Silsbee. If you can stay close and play them tough, you feel good. I’m interested to see how we play against them. They offer a similar challenge to Silsbee. Scheme-wise, they’re very similar to the Tigers. They’re mirror images of each other. They both do really good things. They’re fast and good.”
Last week, the Indians rolled up 430 yards of offense, running for 147 and passing for another 283. That balance will be crucial to the Indians offense this week, as PN-G tries to deal with a WO-S defense that has been dominating year in and year out.
Leading the way defensively for the Mustangs are cornerback Chris James and safety Deionte Thompson, who made noise this spring by committing to Alabama as a sophomore. James, meanwhile, has drawn interest from a number of schools and currently has an offer from Iowa State.
“I’m excited about it,” Faircloth said. “They’re going to point out your weaknesses. Just playing at a very high speed will help us get better. We have to continue to stay healthy and play hard.”
Offensively, the Mustangs are led by James again. The speedy back will test PN-G’s defense with his ability to break a big play on any down.
James is complemented on offense by Chase Rutledge at quarterback. Rutledge threw for 112 yards and rushed for 59 more last week. The Mustang receiving corps is also deep, led by junior Tre Spencer and Maurice Morris, along with Chris Horn and Will Johnson. Thompson, too, will see time at receiver.
“They have playmakers,” Faircloth said. “They still have big play potential. Every one of them out there can go score on every play. When you’re on defense, you’re holding your breath. You have to get to the football. You have to have three guys tackling the football every time. The running back is shifty and the quarterback is a good athlete. They’re not that much different than Silsbee offensively.”
Though his effort might have been overshadowed some by how well the passing game fared, junior running back Brant Halfin had a very effective game in his first start for the varsity.
Halfin was bottled up early, gaining just 13 yards on his first five carries. But, Halfin then showed off his big-play speed, breaking a 36-yard TD and adding another 24 yard run two carries later. He constantly churned out yardage and ended the game with 127 rushing yards on 27 carries.
If PN-G wants to control the clock like it did against Silsbee, Halfin will be a big key against WO-S.
“We have to run the football,” Faircloth said. “We can do a better job of playcalling at times and getting him some better opportunities. If they’re bottling him up, we should be throwing it more. But, he played like we thought he could. He blocked really well and did a good job of protecting Ky (Walker). He did really well and we have to continue to hand him the football and see what happens.”
David Coleman is a sportswriter for the Port Arthur News. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and found on Twitter at @MDavidColeman.