, Port Arthur, Texas


November 8, 2012

Will Titan town become title town?

PORT ARTHUR — Port Arthur Memorial’s Titans get a chance to do something tonight they didn't have a shot at last season, while accomplishing one of the goals they didn't set after a very successful 2011 campaign.

  Memorial will play La Porte with a chance to claim a share of the District 21-5A title.. The Titans played La Porte twice last season but never played them at Memorial Stadium. La Porte, meanwhile, is seeking a second consecutive unbeaten run to a district title.

  Add in the fact that the Titans beat La Porte in the 2011 Region III finals, and that it was the first time in team history Memorial beat the Bulldogs, and the two teams have something of a rivalry developing.

  “La Porte has been a team that has dominated us,” Memorial head coach Kenny Harrison said. “When I first got the job, they put us out of the playoffs and then they put them in our district and they beat us a couple of times. I don’t know about a rivalry, but I don’t think it’s going to take much to get their guys and our guys excited about playing each other.

  “Its two quality football programs meeting in Week 10 with a district title on the line. I just can’t think of a better situation or scenario.  We met last year in the regional finals and to be playing with something at stake again says a lot about both these programs. I’m looking forward to a good football game and our kids playing hard.”

  La Porte won last year’s first meeting, 21-20, then in the game with the biggest stakes the Titans rolled 34-6. Looking at the stats from both games, a pattern emerges as to how the Titans can be successful against this year's Bulldogs.

  Memorial averaged over 250 yards and 20 passing attempts in both games. The Titans rely more on the pass this year, so they will have to continue that dominance through the air.

  In last year's loss, Memorial gained just 107 rushing yards while almost doubling that total in the win. The Titans don't have any running backs as polished as Nate Holmes this year, but they will have to control the clock with the run. That shouldn't be a problem, as they're averaging over 175 yards rushing per game, but have been held under 100 yards in two of the past three weeks.

  On defense, there was a big difference in the two games last year, as the Titans held the Bulldogs to almost 200 less yards in the loss. La Porte loves running the football and averaged over 5 yards per carry in the first meeting, but that number fell to 3.7 yards a carry in La Porte's loss.

  The reason last year’s contests matter is that this year’s La Porte squad returns so many players, and is very similar to last year’s unit. The offense, in particular, is still built around bruising halfback Keith Whitely. The senior has rushed for 1,234 yards this season and nine TDs, while averaging 7.7 yards per carry.

  What’s more, junior runner Johnathan Lewis has rushed for 688 yards and scored 11 rushing TDs while averaging an almost identical 7.6 yards a carry.

  “Their quarterback this year has a little better arm, but it’s no secret that the running back is the horse of that offense,” Harrison said. “He’s a heck of a football player. He’s a hard running kid and you have to wrap him up. You can’t arm tackle him. Even if you do wrap up, you have to gang tackle him or else he’ll break out of it. It’s going to be a great challenge for our defense, and our guys are going to meet it.”

  On defense, the Bulldogs lost four key players, but gain back talented junior linebacker Hoza Scott. The highly recruited four-star outside linebacker had a slow start to the season, but has really come on of late. Against Deer Park, Scott made the play of the game, coming from behind a Deer running back and ripping the ball away from him before racing for the game-clinching TD.

  Scott is not the only talented player on that defense, as the Bulldogs have plenty of players who can apply pressure on Titans quarterback Ricky Fisk.

  “La Porte is always good on defense,” Harrison said. “They lost some kids, but they’re just a quality football team. They come to blitz. They’re trying to blitz the quarterback. It’s going to be very big for our offensive line to pick up the blitz and we’ve worked very hard on that this week.

  “Playing West Brook last week, it gives us a little advantage, because they do some of the same things. Both teams are 3-4 and blitz quite a bit. I think La Porte may blitz a little more and they’ve been doing it longer, so they’re more advanced, but we have to go up in a game situation seeing the same things we’ll see this week. Our offensive line just has to step up and play big this week.”

  Playoff matchups will also hinge on this game, as the winner will play the winner of the 22-5A contest between Pasadena Memorial and Alvin, while the loser will play Manvel. If the Titans win, it’d be their third straight season with at least nine wins and the fourth time in school history they’ve hit the mark.

  For Harrison, it’d put him three victories away from 40 for his career. Currently, he’s easily got the school record for head coaching victories — 14 more than the Titans’ inaugural coach Dean Colbert.

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