PORT ARTHUR —
As always, our sports department’s Christmas Day gift to readers will be the unveiling of the Port Arthur News schoolboy football Super Team. Photos for the 42nd annual Super Team were taken Wednesday at the Museum of the Gulf Coast. You’ll be able to get a sneak peak at the area’s top players Tuesday night on Dave Hofferth’s sports show on KBMT (Channel 12). Four schools — Nederland (7), PN-G (6), Memorial (6) and WO-Stark (5) — dominated this year’s selections. Highlight of the photo shoot for me was seeing many of the players getting their first exposure to the area’s all-time greats on display in a museum that seems more awesome every time I visit. Hats off to Gabe Pruett, who did most of the heavy lifting on the selections, Tom Halliburton for his makeup efforts and photographer Luke Mauldin . . . Best quote out of the photo shoot came from Ozen cornerback Tony Brown, who is the most highly recruited player out of Southeast Texas in years. Pruett, who bleeds Orange, noted that Brown received visits from Texas’ Mack Brown and Alabama’s Nick Saban last week and asked what Tuscaloosa, Ala., had that Austin doesn’t. Brown answered, then quickly told Pruett his response was “off the record.” Once the Ozen star announces his choice of schools at the nationally televised (NBC) U.S. Army All-American Bowl Jan 4 in San Antonio, Gabe’s going to see if he’ll agree to go on the record with a response that said a lot with two words . . . A familiar face breezed through Southeast Texas last week. Larry Kennan, whose 6-3-2 mark in 1979 was Lamar University’s last winning season, was in the area recruiting for the University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio. Kennan couldn’t comment on what players brought him to the area, but my spies say it was Nederland’s Caleb Malveaux and PN-G’s Jeremiah Rose. Kennan and UIW will be competing against Lamar in the Southland Conference starting next season.
Only downside to Kansas City’s 56-35 blowout of Oakland last week was that the Chiefs got so far ahead Jamaal Charles wasn’t on the field in the last 18 minutes of the game. That kept him from having a chance to at least tie NFL records for 6 touchdowns in a game — he had 5; for 5 first-half TDs — he had 4; and for 213 receiving yards by a running back — he had 195. It was similar to four years ago in Denver when Jamaal, who had rushed for 259 yards on only 23 carries, was taken out with six minutes to play. He needed only 38 yards to shatter Adrian Peterson’s single game rushing record of 296 yards but never got the chance . . . St. Peter shouldn’t be surprised by all the Xs and Os being scribbled on Bum Phillips’ chalkboard. When Bum took over the head coaching job at Nederland in 1951, he hired Vernon (Hoss) Ramke, a 1940s football star for Port Neches High School, Lamar JC and Tulane. A year after taking the reins at PN-G in 1963, Phillips hired another former Indian, Kenneth Almond, whose career coaching and school administration work eventually spanned 36 years. So what’s that got to do with St. Peter and chalkboards? Bum died Oct. 18. His two former aides both passed away on Dec. 14 . . . Gotta love the wording on those hoodies Aledo fans showed up wearing for the 4A powerhouse’s bid to win a fourth state championship in five years Saturday at JerryWorld. On the front was a note to a certain NFL owner who, as disgruntled Cowboys fans know, doesn’t really have a clue. The message read, “Dear Jerry: We heard you needed a winner. We will be there this weekend. Hang tight. Love, Aledo.” Priceless.
Wade Phillips would never say it, but you have to think he was relieved that an injured Case Keenum won’t be able to play quarterback for the Texans today against Denver. Wade, J.J. Watt, Andre Johnson and other prideful Texans veterans would love to end the team’s 12-game losing streak today and there were would been no chance of even being competitive with Keenum. The UH ex, in his Bob McNair-mandated tryout, has shown to be clearly in over his head. At best, he’s going to be an NFL backup. Matt Schaub’s shortcomings have been well documented, and the Texans are not likely to win with him either. But Schaub’s experience does give Houston a chance to take advantage of a vulnerable Denver defense and make the game interesting . . . Biggest question about Texans-Broncos isn’t whether Houston can pull a monumental upset, or whether Peyton Manning will get the four touchdown passes needed to set a new NFL single-season record. That biggest question, in fact, doesn’t involve anything that will happen on the field. The question is whether enough Texans’ fan show up to avoid setting an all-time low for in-house attendance. Between the 12-game losing streak, the anti-Schaub mob mentality in Houston and a game that shapes up as a blowout, there are certain to be thousands of empty seats. The Texans will announce a sellout based on tickets sold, but I’ll be surprised if Reliant Stadium is much more than half full . . . For those who missed it, and judging by an empty Montagne Center last Sunday nearly everybody but Bob Knight did, Lamar State College-Port Arthur ex Ty Allen scored 15 points to help Tennessee Tech pin a 14th consecutive home loss on Pat Knight’s Cardinals. That also made LU 4-36 when playing with Knight-recruited players, which begs this question? Could LU have defeated the Seahawks team Allen played on last year in Port Arthur? I’d say doubtful. Could they beat LSC-PA this year? It’s a game I’d love to see.
Seems like there are two clear-cut scenarios on why Nick Saban didn’t replace Mack Brown at Texas. Choice No. 1 is that Saban was never serious about UT and his agent, Jimmy Sexton, played out a big con on wealthy, victory-starved Longhorn supporters to force Alabama to come up with a huge raise. Choice No. 2 is that UT president Bill Powers and Brown, neither of whom wanted Saban in Austin, drug out Mack’s resignation so long that watching the behind-the-scenes UT politics convinced Saban he’d be better off staying at Alabama, even for significantly less money. No doubt in my mind the latter is much closer to the truth than the former . . . Thumbs down to Brown, by the way, for upstaging the Heisman Trophy presentation by announcing he was stepping down less than an hour before Heisman ceremonies began in New York. The timing of Brown’s announcement clearly took some of the media attention away from Florida State’s Jameis Winston — one of many talented QBs Brown fumbled the ball on over the years — winning the Heisman. Nearly as disturbing was hearing and reading national media types calling Brown a “great” coach. No question, he left Texas better than he found it. Yes, he won a lot of games, including a lifetime supply over non-conference cupcakes to help inflate his won-loss percentage. He did indeed ride Vince Young to a national championship. But how can you call a coach great when he wins two conference championships in 16 years? Especially when said coach had so many more resources than his opponents . . . So who will be the next coach at Texas? Las Vegas oddsmakers are leaning toward Louisville’s Charlie Strong. If I had to put money on somebody, it would be Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, although the Seminoles playing for the BCS championship on Jan. 6 creates some obvious problems. What keeps Texas from having to be in a rush is that a very high percentage of Brown’s highly-regarded recruiting class will stick with their commitment.
Apparently there are no lingering harsh feelings between San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and former PA Lincoln star Stephen Jackson, after Popovich unceremoniously cut Jackson shortly before the start of the NBA playoffs last spring. Word then was that Popovich, who’d been a key figure in Jackson’s NBA career getting off the ground, was upset with him for constantly complaining over playing time. You’d never have known there was a problem, in the aftermath of last Sunday’s game between the Spurs and Jackson’s new team, the LA Clippers. After the Clippers won handily, Jackson was exchanging pleasantries with former teammates Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan. Popovich walked by, snatched off Jackson’s signature headband, grinned and kept going . . . It was mentioned in this space recently that Bridge City’s Matt Bryant was one of the nominees for the Atlanta Falcons Walter Payton Man of the Year award. Bryant, who is enjoying another stellar season as the Falcons’ field goal kicker, was announced last week as the Payton winner for his dedication and commitment to off-the-field community service throughout 2013. That puts him in contention with honorees from 31 other NFL teams to be named the Walter Payton Man of the Year. Winner will be announced at halftime of the Super Bowl. Bryant was Tampa Bay’s Payton finalist in 2007. To be named twice, underscores the caring person this guy is. Congratulations, Matt . . . Nederland ex Zach English is making a smooth transition from one winning basketball program to another. After helping his dad, Nederland head coach Brian English, solidify the Bulldogs program, he’s been a key player off the bench as a freshman for undefeated John Brown University. Zach’s most recent contribution was a season-high 15 points in a victory that improved the NAIA school to 11-0. They were No. 7 in the latest rankings . . . And, finally, a very Merry Christmas to all who take the time to regularly read this column. And even to those who don’t.
Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org