The Port Arthur News
HOUSTON – Two situations are happening this week for the Nederland
Bulldogs that haven’t cropped up in a while. First, they’re facing a
team that beat them last year in the playoffs, trying to get a little
revenge for the loss.
The other is that the ‘Dogs find themselves underdogs for the first
time in quite a while. Pearland Dawson finished the regular season as
the top-ranked team in Class 4A, four spots ahead of No. 5 Nederland.
Was the team aware of the possibility of a rematch against Dawson?
“You have to win a lot of games to get where we are right now,”
Nederland head coach Larry Neumann said. “Getting here was what we
were looking to do this year. We have a tremendous challenge Friday.
Pearland Dawson cares not if we wanted to be here. We clearly know who
we are playing. We’re excited about the opportunity. I can envision a
hard-fought, four quarter ball game. I’d be surprised if it goes any
Last year, in the regional round of the playoffs, Dawson beat
Nederland 33-25 at Galena Park ISD Stadium. The Bulldogs contained
most of Dawson’s biggest threats and even broke some big plays their
own. On the first play of the game, now-senior Michael Shaw scored on
a 40-yard run.
However, Dawson proved just how explosive its offense could be in the
third quarter. The Eagles took the opening kickoff to score before
forcing a three-and-out on Nederland’s next possession. Receiver Tony
Upchurch caught a pass and scored from 38 yards out on the first play
of Dawson’s ensuing possession.
After another quick stop by Dawson, the Eagles scored their 19th
points of the quarter with a 9-yard TD run by James White.
“You’re never quite sure how a game might turn out, schematically,”
Neumann said. “It can backfire on you. It did not that night. We left
that game with honor and pride and disappointment for not
accomplishing what we went there to do. What we did take from it is
that the guys that were there are resolved that we can produce
something like that again.”
Though Dawson graduated 43 seniors from last year’s squad, the Eagles
do have White back. The Texas A&M commit has become a focal point in
Dawson’s spread attack, rushing for 2,094 yards and 28 TDs this
season. Last week against Stratford, White had 40 carries for 222 yard
and four TDs to lead the Eagles into this rematch.
Dawson graduated its QB Garry Kimble from last year’s squad. Josh
Sharp won a competition heading into the season and has locked down
the spot for himself. Sharp has completed 62 percent of his passes,
throwing for 1,386 yards and 21 TDs with four interceptions. Sharp has
also rushed for 498 yards and eight TDs.
“They’re as solid as any football team should be, on both sides of the
ball,” Neumann said. “(Tony) Upchurch, the running back and the
quarterback make that offense go. Their offensive line is huge and
blocks extremely well. The mindset for us is no different than it was
last year. We are going to have to play extremely spirited and be
Part of Nederland’s game plan heading into Friday’s rematch is to try
and shut down Dawson’s running attack on first and second downs. If
they can force the Eagles into third-and-long situations early, they
might be able to take advantage of Sharp and the passing game that
only attempted 10 passes per game this year.
Nederland’s offense will be trying to avoid that same thing, as
Dawson’s defense is swarming in the secondary. Neumann compared them
to West Orange-Stark, which is high praise indeed.
“They remind me of West Orange in how they run to the football,”
Neumann said. “Their second level defenders swarm to the football. We
have to stay out of third and long. It’d be very difficult if we’re
looking at long yardage on possession downs. They fly to the football.
Their front four is very strong. Their nose tackles look like twins.
They’re huge guys. The yards will come if they come. We have to be
precise and just take care of the football.”
Two things Nederland will need to improve over its victory against
Pflugerville Connally are passing efficiency and blocking up front.
Nederland quarterback Carson Raines had one of his least effective
games this season against Connally.
Raines completed just five passes on 18 attempts for a completion
percentage of 27.7 percent. Before the Connally game, Raines had
completed 53 percent of his passes on 183 attempts. Most of his
incompletions against Connally were vertical routes where he put the
ball in a spot where only his receiver could get it. The problem was
Raines only hit one all night, a 64-yard TD to Seth Barrow.
The Nederland offensive line also struggled at first against Connally,
allowing inside penetration a few times and failing to open up the
kinds of holes that they had against other teams. Still, the Nederland
offense showed a sense of timing, breaking big plays on sprint draws
to take advantage of Connally’s over-aggressiveness.
The winner of this game will play the winner of Saturday’s 2 p.m. game at Gupton Stadium in Cedar park between Angleton and Georgetown. Angleton is responsible for Nederland’s only loss this season.