The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
SHENANDOAH – In a season where he’s totaled 71 tackles, 30 of those for a loss, one thing hasn’t happened much for Nederland senior defensive end Koby Couron. He hasn’t seen many players escape his grasp.
But, that’s exactly what happened on Pflugerville Connally’s first offensive play, as senior running back LaDaedrix Payton blasted past Couron, carrying him for a six yard run. It was the first salvo in a series of running battles between the powerful Payton and the equally powerful Nederland defensive front during Nederland’s 17-10 second-round playoff victory.
“I know we’re a good tackling football team, but it didn’t look it tonight,” Nederland head coach Larry Neumann said after the game. “More of that had to do with him. He’s got powerful thighs and you just couldn’t get him. You couldn’t get a grip on him. Give him credit. He’s better live than I thought. I knew he was good on video, but live, he looked better, knowing who he was going up against and breaking tackles.”
Payton had 924 rushing yards during the regular season, averaging 6.65 yards per carry. Against Nederland, though, Payton was asked to double up and play quarterback in a Wildcat offense after starting QB Dajon Williams suffered a concussion against Montgomery.
Before the game, Neumann said his scouts heard people refer to Payton as “Little Ricky,” as in former University of Texas and NFL running back Ricky Wiliams. It’s easy to see why the two were compared, as Payton had a hard-charging running style with strong thighs that made him very hard to bring down.
“He slips tackles a lot,” Nederland defensive tackle Brock Pryor said. “He’s pretty tough. If you can’t get wrapped around him, he’s probably going to break the tackle and need a second tackle to get him down.”
Most of the Nederland defenders were victimized by Payton’s running style, including Pryor, who saw Payton run through one of his tackles in the second quarter. To counter Payton, Nederland resorted to sheer numbers.
If one Bulldog couldn’t bring him down, they sent two or three to do the job.
“We’re going to work on tackling and all that, but we’re in Week 13,” Neumann said. “I think we can tackle, we just ran into a really good runner tonight. If anything, it’ll make us concentrate on locking up a little bit better at this point in the season.”
Payton finished the game with 127 rushing yards on 22 carries, but had just one more run of 10 yards or more (5) than he did rushes for negative yardage (4). Also, the Bulldogs were able to hold him to one or fewer yards on nine carries.
If not for a 53-yard scamper on the first play of a drive in the third quarter, Payton may not have crossed the 100-yard mark for the game.
It was also another in a strong run of performances for the Nederland defense against top running backs. This season, Nederland has faced five backs who had at least 1,000 yards rushing. The Bulldogs held four of the five under their season average and all but LC-M’s Alex Sezer under 120 yards.
In their first game of the season, the Bulldogs held Crosby’s Austin Walter to just 58 yards. He would rush for an average of 178 yards per game in his next nine contests. Against District 20-4A’s leading rusher Montana Quirante, Nederland held him to just 113 yards. Quirante averaged 175 yards in his other nine games.
Beaumont Ozen’s Jakobi Jones was also held in check, gaining just 55 yards while he averaged 110 yards in his other nine games. The only back to really gash Nederland this year has been Texas A&M commit Sezer, who gained 178 yards on 27 carries. Sezer only averaged 124 yards in his other nine games.
Nederland will need all the help it can get stopping the run Friday night at Reliant Stadium against Pearland Dawson’s standout running back James White. Last season, White rushed for 145 yards on 15 carries against Nederland in the third round of the playoffs.
This year, the 6-foot, 190 pound White, who is also committed to Texas A&M, has rushed for 2,094 yards and 28 touchdowns while averaging 8 yards per carry. That included a 222-yard effort against Stratford on Friday to push the Eagles into the third round of the playoffs.
“We’ll have to be better than we were and better than we have been all year to have a chance,” Neumann said. “Our coaches know it, our kids know it and Dawson knows it too. We’re going to try and have a great effort and we’re excited about the opportunity. Hopefully, we’ll play at a level we haven’t played at all year.”