The Port Arthur News
Georgetown’s Eagles are flying high right now, but they’re in for a ‘Dog fight this week as Nederland tries to earn a trip back to the state semifinals. The two opposing forces collide Saturday at the Berry Center, when the No. 5 Bulldogs will take on the Eagles in the Region III finals, with a berth in the state semifinals on the line.
Jake Hubenak leads a potent Georgetown passing offense that should test a very good Nederland defense, as the Eagles try to continue the most successful season in team history. Before this year, the Eagles had never won more than 12 games in a season and had never advanced past the third round of the playoffs.
That changed last week when the Eagles beat Angleton, and it’s largely because of Hubenak’s arm.
“I told our team in scouting reports, that I haven’t seen a better passing quarterback this year,” Nederland head coach Larry Neumann said. “He’s a tall kid with a quick trigger. He’s got a strong arm and touch on the ball. He doesn’t hold it very long. Covering the receivers well enough to keep the ball out will be a challenge.”
It’s probably just a quirk of geography that two storied football programs like Nederland and Georgetown have never met in a game. Though the two teams have never met directly, they are tied through common playoff opponents.
Nederland played Georgetown’s 17-4A district-mate, Pflugerville Connally earlier in the playoffs. The Bulldogs beat Connally 17-10 while Georgetown beat them 34-0. Georgetown advanced to the regional finals by beating Angleton 49-39. Earlier this season, Angleton dealt Nederland its only loss in a 39-31 contest in the rain in Week 2.
Georgetown’s Hubenak is the reason for much of their success. The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder started as a junior last season, but tore the ACL in his knee during the fourth game of the season and missed the rest of the season. He bounced back in spectacular fashion in 2012, going undefeated and throwing for 3,210 yards and 42 TDs while rushing for 296 yards and five TDs.
“Everyone wants to get pressure on him, but he gets the ball out so quick, it’s difficult,” Neumann said. “Our song and dance defensively will be like the other 13 people who have played him. We have to try and get some pressure on him and try to cover well enough to delay him pulling the trigger.
“That is hard enough, but he’s also a very good runner. He’s a passer first, but he’s a good runner. They have two other kids who can run the ball well and a stable of receivers.”
The senior QB has his pick of dangerous targets, as three of the Eagle receivers have caught at least 40 passes this season. Ryan Bedford leads the team in receiving yards with 56 catches for 1,000 yards and 13 TDs, while Randy Knightner leads the team in catches with 59 for 973 yards and 10 TDs. Austin Weston rounds out the group with 43 catches for 835 yards and 13 TDs.
Weston may have the best yards per catch average (19) on the team, but all three of the leading receivers have averages over 16 ypc. That’s because Georgetown not only attacks teams through the air, they do it at a quick pace.
“It’ll be a challenge for us to prepare for them,” Neumann said. “They go fast, so to simulate that in practice, it requires more reps than you might do in a game. It requires more stamina, because you’re running 15 plays in a five minute session. Most of their drives don’t last 15 plays, and they usually end in a touchdown or a field goal.”
First-year defensive coordinator David Patterson has made an impact on that side of the ball for the Eagles as well. Patterson took a unit that had given up 46.8 points per game three years ago and 29.6 points per game last season and turned it into a solid group that runs to the football and plays sound defense.
Patterson also switched from a 4-2-5 look like Nederland has to a 4-3 look that should prove stouter against the run. Georgetown also has seven starters back from last year, giving the defense experience as well as athleticism.
“We are going to face a sound, technique-oriented, hard-nosed defense,” Neumann said. “They stunt some, but they don’t do it a lot. They don’t try to create things by scheme. They create through sound, technique-oreinted, spirited play. They are a hard-nosed, go to the ball defense. The middle linebacker (Jace Lacaille) is outstanding, but the defensive line is very good too. It won’t be very hard to see what their defense is. What will be hard is moving the ball against them.”
Though Georgetown allowed just 9.8 points per game during the regular season with two shutouts, the Eagles have given up an average of 26 points per game during the playoffs. That’s still been good enough to win, since the Eagles haven’t been held under 30 points in a game since Week Zero, a 27-6 victory over Killeen Ellison.
If Nederland is going to attack the Eagles defense, it needs to pick up a flagging running attack. The closest game Georgetown played this season was the 10-point victory over Angleton, when the Wildcats rushed for over 300 yards.
For a variety of reasons, Nederland’s rushing total has plunged from 259 yards against Dayton to 82 against Dawson last week. If the Bulldogs can run the ball effectively behind a retooled offensive line, they can control the clock and force Georgetown to play Nederland’s style.