The Port Arthur News
MONT BELVIEU —
Port Neches-Groves couldn’t overcome three early turnovers and the running of Austin Walter and Crosby cruised to a 49-28 first round playoff win over the Indians Friday night at Eagle Stadium.
“I’m really proud of our senior class and what an amazing job they did to turn around our program,” said PN-G head coach Brandon Faircloth. “Last year was a tough year and those guys took the challenge and got us into the playoffs where nobody picked we would be. They gave us great leadership all year. They had great character and great integrity, and we were here because of them.”
Austin Walter led all rushers with 276 yards on 19 carries and had six touchdowns on runs of 44, 11, 18, 9, 56 and 70 yards. His twin brother Aston also turned in a very productive night with 177 yards passing and 79 yards rushing.
Crosby (10-1) amassed 556 yards of total offense, 379 rushing to go along with the 177 yards passing. PN-G was able to move the ball as well with 314 yards passing and 154 rushing for 468 yards of total offense. However, three first quarter turnovers led to 14 quick points for Crosby which put the Indians into an early hole.
“I thought the early turnovers really hurt us, but I thought we could overcome them,” said Faircloth. “We played a good team. When you make mistakes against a good team, they are going to make you pay for them. We were going to have to protect the ball and we weren’t able to at the beginning of the game.”
Adam Morse, who replaced starter Ky Walker early in the second quarter, finished the game completing 18-of-35 passes for 217 yards. Walker was 5-of-12 for 75 yards and three interceptions.
Brant Halfin gained 60 yards on 19 carries to lead the Indians and Kody Cropper added 59 yards on 16 totes. Rose finished the game with 11 receptions for 142 yards. Reece Wardlow had six grabs for 69 yards. Avery Murdock hauled in four passes for 48 yards and Kaleb Sparks had two catches for 50 yards.
“I was just trying to generate some momentum,” said Faircloth, of making the switch to Morse at quarterback. “I thought Adam came in and did a great job. I’m really proud of him. He came off the bench and did some good.”
Leading 28-7, Crosby was supposed to get the ball to start the third quarter. However, the Indians successfully attempted an onside kick, with Anthony Anniboli recovering the ball at the Crosby 49.
Morse engineered a 13-play drive that resulted in a touchdown to cut the Cougars lead to 28-14 with 7:30 remaining in the third quarter. Facing fourth-and-two, Morse hit Wardlow for four yards to the Crosby 37. Those two connected again for a 10-yard gain to the 25. Rose hauled in an 11-yard reception to the 14. On third-and-13, Rose took the handoff on a reverse and passed to Sparks for a 17-yard touchdown.
The Indians defense was able to stop Crosby on its first drive of the second half, forcing the Cougars to punt, then seeing the rolling football downe at the one. PN-G was unable to make a first down on the ensuing possession. A 25-yard punt gave the Cougars great field position.
Aston Walter hit Cullen Lee for 17-yards to the PN-G 5 on the first play. After getting tackled in the backfield for a 4-yard loss, Austin Walter followed with a 9-yard TD run to push the lead to 35-14 with 3:35 left in the third quarter.
PN-G (7-4) had a nine-play drive stall deep into Crosby territory. Morse scrambled for 10 yards on fourth-and-20 to turn the ball over on downs to the Cougars at their own 27.
Crosby wasted little time as Aston Walter hit Austin Walter on a screen pass for 17 yards to the 44. Austin Walter scored two plays later on a 56-yard TD run to push the lead to 42-14 with 11:49 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Indians rallied for a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Cropper capped a 12-play, 68-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. He carried the ball nine times for 40 yards on the drive.
PN-G used some trickery to score its final touchdown of the night when Sparks took the handoff from Morse and then passed the ball to Morse for a 5-yard touchdown. That capped a 13-play, 75-yard drive and closed out the scoring.
In between the two PN-G touchdown drives was a 1-play Crosby scoring drive on a 70-yard TD run by Austin Walter.
“We had some exciting wins this year,” Faircloth said. “I’m very proud of our kids. They played for 48 minutes every Friday night and that’s all you can ask of them. They gave their best every week for the PN-G Indians and we could not be more proud of our football team.”
PN-G received the opening kickoff to start the game, but the drive ended when Walker was intercepted by Aaron Brown. It was a forecast of things to come for the Indians.
Crosby wasted little time in scoring the game’s first points. Aston Walter rushed for 13 yards on the Cougars first play from scrimmage to put the ball at the Indian 44. Austin Walter scored on the very next play to give the Cougars a quick 7-0 lead.
The Cougars forced a three-and-out on the Indians next possession. The Crosby offense went back to work. Austin Walter capped a 13-play drive with an 11-yard touchdown run to make the score 14-0 with 5:00 left in the first quarter.
PN-G had a drive going on its third possession. Rose caught a 10-yard pass from Walker to put the ball at the Crosby 40. After a five-yard run by Halfin, Walker was intercepted for the second time. This time by Kyle Williams, who returned the ball 48 yards for a touchdown to make the score 21-0 with 2:55 left in the first quarter.
The Indians finally put together a scoring drive midway through the second quarter. PN-G took over at its own 8 after recovering a fumble by Aston Walter. The Indians converted the first of three fourth downs when Adam Morse took a direct snap on the punt and rushed for five yards to the PN-G 22.
Facing another fourth down, Halfin rushed for four yards to the Indians 47. On fourth-and-10 from the 40, Morse hit Rose for 22 yards to the Crosby 18. Halfin capped the 17-play drive with an 18-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 21-7 with 4:41 left in the second quarter.
Crosby answered with another long scoring drive. Facing a third-and-12, Aston Walter hit Vernon Allen for 31 yards to the PN-G 48. Austin Walter capped the 10-play drive with an 18-yard TD run to give the Cougars a 28-7 halftime lead.