The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
There’s an easy way for varsity coaches to notice a freshman, and it’s all about doing the opposite of what they say. That’s what happened to Darius Lemora four years ago, when he heard Port Arthur Memorial head coach Kenny Harrison tell him not to hit the quarterback or receivers.
“Once I’m in the zone, it’s a done deal,” the senior defensive back said. “I’m hitting anyone that comes my way. My freshman year, he told me not to hit the quarterback, and I hit him anyway. He told me not to hit the receiver, and I hit him anyway. Coach was like, ‘Shoot, kid, you can play.’ He told me I was a fast guy and I was a hitter. That’s how it started.”
Hit he has. Lemora has been dealing out punishment on the defensive side of the ball since his sophomore season, when he moved into the starting lineup.
“I was waiting to hit people since I’ve been out,” Lemora said. “I was seeing people have some weak hits, some love taps. Football is a man’s sport. It’s not for boys. You have to go in there and get a first hit. My mind is hit first, and they’ll back down. Coach Harrison always told me, ‘If you lay the hat, they won’t want any of you.’”
There are vocal leaders, there are leaders by example and then there are players like Lemora, who set a tone by their play on the field but also can talk to the players around him and pass on technique to younger guys.
“Darius brings instant confidence to the entire team,” Harrison said. “He’s a leader by example. He’s both a vocal leader and a guy that leads by example. He goes full speed every single day. He’s a big-time asset to our program. He sets high standards and goals for himself and he goes out and tries to accomplish them. He’s hardworking. He’s a self-motivated kid. He knows what he wants out of life and has set his goals up to get there.”
Lemora was forced into a teaching role last year during the playoffs, when he broke his leg against Houston Memorial and was forced to miss spring workouts and the first two games of this season. But, he is quick to point out that he never missed a practice and he was constantly involved with his teammates.
“It was really hard,” Lemora said. “I was always at practice and trying to learn. I was still learning, watching film and helping my teammates play. I was telling the backup Bandits what they have to do, jam No. 2 and back up into the seam on a pass play. If it’s a run play, shuffle in and look for a cutback. I was just a coach when I was out.“
His 2012 debut was delayed two weeks as the Titans took the cautious approach with his leg. He then made his presence felt in his first game back against Houston Westside, totaling eight tackles, including two for a loss, and breaking up a pass in the victory.
It’s not far-fetched to see Lemora filling a coaching role sometime in the future, as he explains his new position this year about as concisely as possible. Last year, Lemora started at the safety spot in Memorial’s Cover 3 look, but he’s moving into the newly created “Bandit” position this year.
What exactly is a Bandit?
“The Bandit is a safety/linebacker, but it’s more of a linebacker role,” Lemora said. “I’m a run-first guy now, but I can still cover. I can step up, make a hit or if the line or tackle steps back, I can drop back, collision No. 2 and put my eyes straight to No. 1. All I’m doing is covering, curl to flat or being a seam player. It’s not hard.”
Playing since his freshman season has given Lemora perspective on what it means to play varsity football, and he’s trying to pass that along, too, to the guys he’s playing with now.
“It’s exciting,” Lemora said. “Coming up from a freshman, and now four years later, it’s almost over. I can see what to do and what not to do because of the past teams I’ve played for. This team this year is more disciplined. We’re faster. We may not be more physical, but we have that mentality that we want to win. Being around 21-5A for four years on varsity, it’s been a blessing.”
The consummate team player, Lemora seems to have the perfect mentality to play defense: hit first, ask questions later. But, that didn’t stop the coaching staff from approaching him last season with a switch to running back after starter Nate Holmes hurt his ankle.
In his first game action at the position, Lemora gained 151 yards and scored a TD against South Houston in the bidistrict playoffs last season.
“That was my first time playing running back,” Lemora said. “My dad played running back, though, so it was natural. I just followed my first path and then cut. Being a running back for the first time, 150 yards in a quarter and a half? That shocked me. I’m just there for my team.”
The broken leg may have set back his college recruiting, Lemora isn’t dwelling on that. He’s focused on getting through this season and trying to bring his school a state championship.
“Right now, I’m not worried about it,” Lemora said. “I’m just trying to play football. (The broken leg) didn’t stop my drive for winning a state championship. It didn’t block my way from getting back with my brothers. My brothers are my life, football is my life. I’m not worried about my leg. Honestly, I forgot it got broke. It’s completely out of my mind.
“If they want me, they’ll come find me. I’ve had my ups and downs with it, thinking no college would want me because I broke my leg. But, deep inside, I know that if I can keep playing, they’ll come. I’ll play with my team, play assignment football and go full speed on every play.”
TITAN TIDBITS: The son of Sidney and Felicia, Lemora has received offers from North Texas and Texas State. ... Both Friday Night Football and 247 Sports rated Lemora as one of the top seniors in the state of Texas coming into the season. … Lemora is one of five Memorial players with offers from North Texas, including Matthew Romar, Jalen Barnes, James Jenkins and John Leday. … Both quarterback Ricky Fisk and receiver Roderic Rucker jumped up in the district stat lists this week. Fisk is 21-5A’s leading passer with 778 passing yards while Rucker is the leader in catches (21), receiving TDS (4) and receiving yards (302). Freshman Kameron Martin made his first appearance on the list and currently is the district’s No. 11 rusher with 216 yards on 31 carries. Only four players in the top 15 have better per carry averages than his 6.97.
FIVE QUESTIONS with Darius Lemora
What’s your favorite video game? NCAA Football ‘13
What’s your favorite college? Oregon
What’s your favorite color? Red
Do you have a secret talent? Flipping
If you could play another sport, what would it be? Track & field