The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
If the Port Arthur Memorial football team could just focus on its defensive effort, the Titans would feel mighty good after Friday’s 14-0 victory over Beaumont Ozen at Memorial Stadium.
But, questions on the offense and more costly mistakes crept in to spoil a dominant shutout victory, as the Titans pick up their first win of 2013 and the eighth straight decision over the Panthers.
“The defense did a tremendous job of coming out and playing extremely hard,” Memorial head coach Kenny Harrison said. “Our kids had enough pride to not let them in the end zone. I was very impressed with that unit. Offensively, we have to get better. We have to get back to work tomorrow. Our goal is to get better each and every week.”
It was the first shutout for Memorial since it beat Baytown Sterling 35-0 last year and the sixth shutout in the school’s history. The Titans only gave up 199 yards in the game and held the Panthers to just 1.7 yards per carry.
That was the fewest yards Memorial allowed in a game since giving up 127 to Houston Bellaire last season.
One of the reasons for their defensive success was how they played Ozen quarterback Javaris Curl, who rushed for over 100 yards last week against West Brook. Memorial held him to 22 yards on 25 carries.
“We understood that the quarterback was elusive,” Harrison said. “We came in with a game plan to take No. 3 (Curl) and No. 16 (Ronnie Ceasar) out. We knew those were the two go-to guys for the offense. When we eliminated those two guys, we were able to minimize the big plays.”
As good as the defense performed, however, the Titans mistakes kept them from scoring time after time.
Take the first series of the game. Junior safety C.J. Levine took the game’s opening kickoff and returned it to Ozen’s 30. Two plays later, though, Memorial snapped the ball over quarterback Tayylor Labrie’s head and Ozen recovered.
That was the first of 11 combined fumbles in the game, most coming on the shotgun snap. Memorial ended up turning the ball over three times, as Labrie was intercepted twice.
The mistakes weren’t solely turnovers, either. Memorial had a potential punt return TD by Roderic Rucker called back by a pair of block in the back penalties on the play.
“Offensively, it’s a work in progress,” Harrison said. “We have some weapons, but we have to keep plugging away at the basics and get better at the simple things. We have to eliminate turnovers. If we can not turn the football over, I think we have a chance to be a pretty good football team.”
Memorial got on the board in the second quarter as Tayylor Labrie capped a 10-play drive with a 10-yard TD run. Labrie set that TD up by completing a third down pass to Albert Jacobs for 26 yards.
But, Labrie struggled to get into a rhythm for much of the night, especially after star wideout Roderic Rucker left the game with an ankle injury.
Labrie was able to find Trenton Swinton regularly on short passes in the flats, as Swinton caught six passes for 48 yards. Jacobs proved a nice complement in the passing game, catching four passes for 110 yards and gaining at least 25 yards on three of the four catches.
“Albert is a returning starter,” Harrison said. “Rucker went down and Albert understood that he would be our guy. He’s a three-year letterman and the kids were going to look to him to step up and make plays. I was very impressed with how he performed today.”
The running game, too, struggled to find consistency. Sophomore Kameron Martin led the way with 10 carries for 54 yards while junior Corey Dauphine had seven carries for 20 yards.
Martin also set up the game’s final score. On fourth-and-1 with time running out in the third quarter, Martin took the handoff at the Panthers 36 around the left side on a sweep. The speedy sophomore jetted around the corner and may have had a touchdown, but the ball was knocked out of his hands and bounced into the end zone.
That’s where Titan receiver Travon McClain was waiting to fall on it, earning himself a touchdown and giving Memorial a two-score lead.
Memorial (1-1) will travel to Houston Westside next week in non-district play.
Port Arthur Memorial 14, Beaumont Ozen 0
Play of the game: Junior safety C.J. Levine made a highlight reel-worthy catch on his interception in the second quarter. With Ozen driving for the end zone at the end of the half, Levine went up for a ball at the goal line, tipped it as he, the receiver and cornerback Torian Lott all went to the ground. Levine stayed with the ball, holding on for his first interception of the season. Levine had two last season, when he was named honorable mention all-state.
On defense: Brandon Lumpkin was one of a number of players who made an impact in this game. The former safety turned outside linebacker had eight tackles, including five for a loss, and two sacks. Defensive end Terry Olliver also had two sacks in the game.
Random stat: Cornerback JaCorie Jones got credit for two pass breakups in slightly unconventional ways. Most of the time, PBUs come off a DB getting a hand on the ball. Jones, however, hit his receiver so hard on two different plays that he jarred the ball loose for an incompletion.
Special teams: Ricardo Estupinan had a nice night punting the football. Four of his seven punts went for at least 40 yards and his last pinned Ozen at their own 8.