The Port Arthur News
Nederland became the first team in district 20-4A to clinch a playoff spot after beating Beaumont Ozen 35-0 at Bulldog Stadium Friday night.
Nederland (7-1, 5-0) grabbed three interceptions, setting a school record with 15 so far this season, and extended its district winning streak to 15 games. The Bulldogs found the end zone on their first possession and never looked back, ending all but two drives with a touchdown.
Ozen (2-6, 1-4) sparked a couple of good drives, and almost tied the game early in the first quarter, but turnovers and penalties plagued the Panthers all night.
Zach Taylor picked off the first two passes, including one on the goal line, and Michael Shaw grabbed the other for a 62-yard return. After the end of the second quarter, Ozen had 90 total yards of offense and Nederland had 84 yards on interception returns alone.
For the game, the Bulldogs defense limited Ozen to a mere five first downs and 140 total yards.
“Overall it’s probably as good an outing as we’ve had all year,” Nederland head coach Larry Neumann said. “We hit on all cylinders. The kids really brought it tonight.”
Down 7-0 in the midway through the first quarter, Ozen running back JaKobi Jones snapped off a 53-yard run that was aided by a Nederland facemask penalty to put the Panthers on the four-yard line.
Three plays later, however, quarterback Jordan Ozen was pressured by Sage Seay into blindly lobbing the ball into the end zone, resulting in Nederland’s first interception by Taylor.
“On that particular play we had pressure on him,” Neumann said. “Give credit to our front on that one.”
Bulldogs’ quarterback Carson Raines connected on a 45-yard pass to Shaw a few plays later, and running back Kendrick Hopkins capped off the drive with a one-yard touchdown, his first of the night.
Ozen marched into Nederland territory on its next possession and was once again stopped on an interception by Taylor. The Bulldogs quickly extended their lead on a 36-yard pass to Shaw and went into halftime with a commanding 21-0 lead.
Shaw finished the game with five catches, one touchdown, and 165 total yards, including the interception return.
Nederland starting pulling starters after scoring to open the second half when Hopkins found the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown, his last run of the night.
Hopkins, who reached 1,000 rushing yards for the season in the second half, finished with 114 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. Neumann said Hopkins played with two bruised shoulders and commended his performance.
“I told him at halftime I was proud to coach him,” he said. “He’s matured into a fine, strong young man. Any coach would be glad to have a player like him.”
Raines was replaced by backup quarterback Preston White after the Bulldogs took a definitive 35-0 lead on fumble recovery by Jordan Wood for a touchdown. It was the second TD for the senior linebacker in two weeks.
Going with a strong wind, Ozen sailed a snap over the head of its punter and Nederland recovered the ball in the end zone for its sixth defensive score this season.
Ozen also switched quarterbacks in the second half, but to no avail.
The Panthers’ signal callers connected on six of 12 passes for 51 yards combined. Jones, who ran for 168 yards and three scores against Nederland last year, was held to 65 yards on nine carries. Take away the 53-yard scamper in the second quarter and the Bulldogs defense limited him to 12 yards on his other eight carries.
Raines finished with 147 total yards and two total touchdowns. The Bulldogs used six running backs throughout the game, gaining 220 yards on the ground.
Nederland scored on all but two possessions, a failed 4th-and-three attempt and kneel down with time expiring in the fourth quarter.
Now that the Bulldogs have secured a playoff spot, Neumann will look to keep his team on an even keel to finish the regular season.
“I backed off of them this week,” he said. “I think they know what they want to do. And if they play like they did tonight and continue to improve, they’ll have a chance to do it.”