The Port Arthur News
Nederland clinched sole possession of the District 20-4A title and extended its league winning streak to 17 games after defeating Beaumont Central 45-14 at Bulldog Stadium Friday night.
The Bulldogs won the district crown last year as well, giving them back-to-back titles for the first time since 1963-65 when they won it three-straight seasons. They will open the playoffs next Saturday against Dayton. Depending on the outcome of a coin flip, the game is expected to be played at either Lamar University or Galena Park.
Nederland head coach Larry Neumann said it was an “outstanding accomplishment” to not lose a district game for more than two years.
“All the credit goes to the young men who have been a part of those two years,” he said. “It’s a special thing. I’m really pleased about accomplishing that.”
The last team to beat Nederland in a district game was Central, but the Jaguars had no such luck this time around.
Central was held to exactly zero rushing yards on 20 attempts and did not pick up a single first down on the ground. The Bulldogs, who were coming off back-to-back shutouts, recorded three sacks, one each by Koby Couron, DeShawn Washington and Sage Seay.
Nederland added to its school-record 16 interceptions when Seth Barrow picked off a pass and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown. The Bulldogs finished the regular season with 17 interceptions, returning seven for a scores.
“It’s a combination of a bunch of things,” Neumann said of the interception record. “We get pressure with our front guys and the secondary understands where the help is. When you’re comfortable in what you’re suppose to be doing, you take calculated risks.”
The Bulldogs offense rode on the shoulders of running back Kendrick Hopkins, who ran for 157 yards and four touchdowns. He finished the regular season with 1,352 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.
The biggest run of the night for Hopkins was a 74-yard scamper in the fourth quarter which set up his own three-yard score.
“He just seems to keep getting better,” Neumann said.
Nederland’s win against Central marked the fifth-straight game in which the Bulldogs scored at least 35 points and the second-consecutive match where they scored at least 45.
Central quarterback Robert Mitchell, who came into the game leading the district in passing yards, left in the first quarter after awkwardly falling down trying to escape pressure. He came back into the game the next quarter but promptly threw the interception to Barrow and did not play again, finishing 3-of-7 with 17 passing yards.
Michael Jacquet, Central’s back-up quarterback, went 16-of-23 with 158 passing yards and a touchdown.
When the Jaguars scored in the second quarter on a five-yard pass to Garrison Mitchell it snapped Nederland’s seven-quarter shutout streak dating back two weeks.
Nederland started the game by forcing a fumble on Central’s second play from scrimmage. The Bulldogs scored four minutes later on a 10-yard run by Hopkins.
After Central scored its first touchdown to pull within seven points, Nederland quarterback Carson Raines hit receiver Michael Shaw for a 58-yard pass. Hopkins ran it in from two yards out the next play.
Barrow returned his interception on Central’s next possession to give the Bulldogs a 28-7 lead. Then, with the first half coming to a close, Korbin Stampley blocked a punt that eventually led to a 28-yard field goal by Tanner Noel.
Both teams traded three-and-outs during the start of the second half until Central scored the only points in the third quarter on a 23-yard run by Trent Samuels to make it a 31-14 Nederland lead.
Nederland found itself in a third-and-long on its next drive, and Raines hit Colton Kimler for a 13 yards to reinvigorate a stalling offense. Hopkins scored on a three-yard run to seal the drive.
The Bulldogs dropped back into a cover defense the rest of the game, but Central’s offense killed itself with penalties and could not recover. The Bulldogs also drew their fair share of flags, mostly in the second quarter before Central scored its first touchdown.
Brandon Dial scored the last touchdown for Nederland on a three-yard run with time expiring in the game.