PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

May 24, 2013

Defense, big plays headline Port Arthur Memorial's spring game

David Coleman
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Three plays may not have made a huge difference in the coaching evaluations, but they certainly gave fans something to talk about this summer.

New quarterback Tayylor Labrie hit Albert Jacobs, Roderic Rucker and Damon Pierce on three separate pass plays for big gains in the second half of Port Arthur Memorial’s annual spring game Friday at Memorial Stadium.

Jacobs scored the game’s only touchdown on a 65-yard pass down the left sideline from Labrie and Rucker’s 60-yard catch set up a chip-shot field goal by Ricardo Estupinan to give the Black Team a 10-0 victory over the White Team.

Of course, the reason Memorial’s offense was limited to those three plays was the outstanding showing by the Titan defense.

“Our defense did a good job of flying around and making plays,” Memorial head coach Kenny Harrison said.  “That was our key going into the spring, making sure we can be sound on defense and fly around and make plays. I was very impressed with our defense. We wanted to stay away from injuries and give everyone a chance to play.”

Of course, the Titan defense had something to say about that. The imposing front line of junior end Jaron Johnson, senior nose tackle Selah Fontenot and junior end Terry Olliver was able to get penetration and open up holes for linebackers Dante Lovilotte, Meldric Matthews, Mark Taylor and Davon Mitchell.

The transition to the 3-4 front under new defensive cooridinator Cody Haug couldn’t have gone better in this game. Even without the other Matthews twin, Melbrodrick, at outside linebacker, the Titans were able to get pressure on the quarterback and cover up a quick strike passing game.

“Our defensive line is pretty tough,” Harrison said. “They got a lot of penetration. You can do that with a young offensive line. We have to get better there so we can have some more time to throw the ball.”

Part of both offenses’ struggles was the quick whistle of the officials. With coaches not wanting players to get hurt in the last scrimmage of the spring, the referees quickly blew plays dead, even as runners like Torian Lott were juking their way out of the tackle.

During the season, those plays could have gone for 10-15 more yards. On Friday, they ended too many drives short of the first down marker. In the first half, the first team Titan offense only picked up two first downs. Both came on passes, as Albert Jacobs caught a hook route and turned it into a 15-yard gain and Roderic Rucker broke off a 25-yard gain on a bubble screen to the left.

Still, timing was an issue for quarterbacks and receivers, as Labrie struggled to find his targets early. The soon-to-be senior completed just five of nine passes. Of those five completions, only two of them were for positive yardage.

“On offense, our tempo was okay,” Harrison said. “We have to pick up the tempo a little bit, but we’ll get there.”

The Titan offensive line struggled a little, but most of that came on the left side, where a pair of backups were in for injured Port Arthur News Super Team left tackle Vernon Samuels and left guard Dekovin Antoine. On a couple of the rushes, the offensive linemen missed a protection call and let a defender run free, flushing Labrie from the pocket.

Those mistakes are not uncommon in spring games, but they are something Harrison wants to fix soon.

“We’ve found some depth on our offensive line,” Harrison said. “Without two starters there, some young guys had to step up and play.”

One bright spot for both the offense and the defense was the play of Torian Lott. The senior proved himself capable of being a lockdown cornerback for at least one scrimmage. Of the passes in the first half for positive yardage, neither went to Lott’s side. One was completed when Lott was on the sideline and the other went to the opposite side of the field.

On offense, Lott capably ran the second team, though he didn’t have much more success than the first teamers. He did show his shiftiness that he showcased last year as Ricky Fisk’s backup. His arm also led to the White Team’s only first down of the game, when he hit Kenan Washington on the right side of the field for a 15-yard gain.

C.J. Levine picked up an odd feat that not many players outside of spring games get to do. The junior threw an interception to Troy Robinson and later ended the game by picking off Labrie in the end zone. Those were the only two turnovers of the game for Memorial.