PORT NECHES —
PORT NECHES – Give Dillard Youngblood credit for his determination. The Port Neches-Groves senior linebacker is an avid outdoorsman, so much so that he woke up early on the first day of teal season to go hunting before school.
It just so happened that was also the day after PN-G played Summer Creek.
“It opened the night when we played Summer Creek,” Youngblood said. “I hunted that morning. That was tough. I got like three hours of sleep. I will never do that again. It was crazy.”
That determination extends to the football field as much to his hunting and fishing life. Youngblood moved into the starting lineup last season against Lumberton, making this year’s rematch special for him.
“I did kickoff and kickoff return last year, but Lumberton is where I came in and got to play quite a bit,” Youngblood said. “It’s awesome (playing them this week). I’m excited. I think we’ll do good. Coming into that Lumberton game, everything was so much faster than on JV. It was unbelievable. But, that’s to be expected.”
Youngblood admits he wasn’t the biggest or the fastest guy on last year’s defense, but has dedicated himself to the weight room over the summer and has turned both into a solid starter on the defense and was voted a captain by his teammates.
“He ended up playing a bunch last year,” PN-G head coach Brandon Faircloth said. “He was thrown in there and did a good job. He’s one of those guys that has come a really long way. He was a really good player on our JV, then was a backup last year on our varsity and ended up having to play whole lot because of injuries.
“Hard work has paid off for him. He’s not only become a better player, but he’s turned into a leader. He’s been voted one of our captains by his teammates. The kids really respect him. He’s one that you want your son to be like. He’s a steady, steady guy for us.”
The senior leads the Indian defense with 31 tackles. He’s recorded double-digit tackles in two of the three games this season, only falling short of that mark against West Orange-Stark, when he had eight.
That’s partly because he fits the scheme PN-G runs well and partly because he’s turned into such a sure tackler for the Indians.
“He’s a great tackler,” Faircloth said. “It’s hard to find guys that tackle well, especially in these days when everyone is playing out in space. He’s great tackling in the open field and is great in pass coverage. He does a really good job at linebacker.”
Being thrown into the fire last season helped Youngblood’s development, but it was more about developing his confidence that he can play well. He’s built on that this season and it’s helped him become one of the better players on the Indian defense.
“The experience of coming in last year versus some really good teams has helped,” Faircloth said. “That built his confidence up and he had a really good offseason. We want to be consistent, and he always is. He knows where to line up and knows his gap all the time.”
The biggest difference Youngblood has noticed between this year and last has been the speed of the game. Youngblood said it hasn’t exactly slowed down, he’s just caught up to it.
“It’s slowed down a little bit, because you’re confident in what you’re doing,” Youngblood said. “Last year, as a junior, I was just small compared to everyone else and a little bit slower. But, I’ve gotten bigger and faster, so it’s better.
“I had a good spring and good summer workouts. It took off from there. I’ve been stronger in reacting to the play a lot quicker. It’s not an easy job. It definitely feels great at the end of a game and you know you’ve given it your all, when you’re dead tired and sweat is running out of your shoes. It drains your energy.”
Since he was about 13, Youngblood has been hunting and fishing with his dad. His favorite is duck hunting, but he also does some saltwater fishing in the summer, along with a little hog hunting when he can.
“We went when we were younger,” Youngblood said. “My dad set an age when we could go, when he thought we were mature enough to hold a gun. He’s taken us hunting every day since. Duck hunting is by far my favorite. I fish in the summer, over here in the river. I’ve got my little boat, so we can go out there. We do a little bit of everything.”
INDIAN INKLINGS: The son of Rodney and Karla, Youngblood is considering a career as a machinist, since he’s already picked up a knack for welding. … PN-G’s 54-14 loss to Summer Creek was the first 40-point loss the program has suffered since 2004, when the Indians lost 41-0 to Kilgore in the area round of the Class 4A playoffs. ... Last season, PN-G beat Lumberton 57-10 to pick up its first district victory after dropping games to Livingston and Nederland. … A player has recorded double-digit tackles only seven times this season for PN-G. Youngblood has two of those games. The only other player with two is fellow linebacker Logan Warlick, who has 25 tackles on the season.
Five Questions with Dillard Youngblood
Favorite food: Spaghetti
Favorite movie: Saving Private Ryan
Favorite NFL team: Dallas Cowboys
Favorite color: Lime green
Do you have any pets? Yes, a yellow lab
PORT NECHES —
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