PORT NECHES —
Long live the white helmets.
In an attempt to erase any memory of last season, the Port Neches-Groves football team moved to white helmets this season and their debut went swimmingly.
PN-G scored twice in the first quarter and went on to rout Silsbee 45-21 at The Reservation Friday in non-district play.
“Any time you play Silsbee, they make it tough on you,” PN-G head coach Brandon Faircloth said. “We knew it was going to be a battle. They’re a great team. That’s why we play these non-district games. They get us ready for district. I’m proud of our kids for being coachable and doing what we ask them to do. Our coaches had a good plan and it worked out well.”
The PN-G offense took charge, as junior quarterback Ky Walker hit his first eight passes and finished 26 of 31 for 265 yards and two TDs. He was the triggerman for a dangerous PN-G attack that adapted to the Silsbee defense all night long.
When Silsbee crowded the middle to take away Brant Halfin’s running lanes, Walker attacked the edges with Jeremiah Rose and Kaleb Sparks.
When Silsbee rolled its coverage outside, Halfin took advantage of the openings to score on a 36-yard touchdown.
When Silsbee came inside, Walker went outside. When they went close, he went long. The junior only played briefly last season before breaking his hand, but Friday he showed poise that belied his actual experience.
“They’re forcing you to throw the football,” Faircloth said. “Any time they’re forcing you to, you have to throw it. We were fortunate enough to throw and catch pretty well. Our run game is good and I think that’s probably why they did that. I feel good about what we’re doing. When they force you into something, you have to deal with it. We were lucky enough tonight to throw the football.”
The Indians were able to capitalize on a pair of Silsbee stalled drives to grab an early 14-0 lead.
PN-G held the Tigers to a three-and-out, thanks to two false starts by Silsbee, and forced a punt on the game’s first series. Then, the PN-G offense went to work, scoring five plays after taking over at the Silsbee 36.
Running back Brant Halfin scored the game’s first points on a 2-yard TD. He added that 36-yarder later in the game and had 27 carries for 137 yards in the game.
After the game’s first TD, Silsbee ran one play and fumbled the ball, and PN-G recovered on the Silsbee 35. Four plays later, the Indians executed a beautiful reverse receiver pass, as Jeremiah Rose found H-back Reece Wardlow wide open in the end zone for an 18-yard TD.
“One of our four components in our plan to win is to score in the red zone,” Faircloth said. “If you get down there, you have to score. We were very fortunate to get that trick play on them and get into the end zone. We were very fortunate tonight.”
Silsbee stormed back, though, on the shoulders of quarterback Patrick Reed. The senior signal caller rushed for 109 yards on 10 carries, breaking tackles on almost every one of his runs. After gaining three yards on his first carry, Reed went for 105 on his next five.
Still, the PN-G defense was able to make stops when they needed it. Reed threw for two more TDs, but only completed 6 of 15 passes. Both safeties, Corbin Coy and Blaine Peveto, had pass breakups on long Reed passes down the middle of the field, and the linebacking corps was able to put pressure on Reed. Leonel Arredondo, Chase Woods and Trey Rembert all had sacks.
“Silsbee has players,” Faircloth said. “They are going to have a great season. They’ve got the quarterback, the running back and receivers. Their offensive line is big. For our defense to keep playing hard, with effort and fast was huge. I thought they got stops when they needed to. We got up by 17 because they got stops, so that was big for us.”
The other factor helping PN-G contain the high octane Silsbee offense was clock control. The Indians ran 70 plays in the game, grinding out big drives in the second half to eat up the clock. Silsbee, however, only ran 34 plays in the game.
The Walker to Rose connection showed plenty of promise on Friday, as the senior receiver caught 11 passes for 133 yards and two TDs. Teammate Kaleb Sparks had eight catches for 88 yards while Halfin added four catches for 20 yards.
Both of Rose’s touchdowns were testaments to his excellent route running skills.
For instance, on his second TD, Rose ran a bit of a fade route into the end zone on third-and-7 from the Silsbee 9. Rose feinted inside with his route and then broke towards the sideline while in the end zone. That was enough to both turn his defender around and give him a two-yard cushion for an easy pitch-and-catch.
“It was all about preparation,” Rose said. “We prepared for them and took it to them tonight. We went over it all week. We practice our routes all the time. We know we aren’t the fastest guys, so we have to have perfect routes.”
PORT NECHES —
Long live the white helmets.
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