The Port Arthur News
GALENA PARK —
Port Arthur Memorial head coach Kenny Harrison knew that his Titans faced a daunting district challenge in a battle of undefeated district foes Friday night. His game Titans battled sixth-ranked North Shore to the bitter end before succumbing to their season’s first defeat.
Micah Thomas rushed for 146 yards and two touchdowns, including a one-yard run with 29.9 seconds left to lift North Shore to a hard-fought 31-24 District 21-5A battle over Memorial.
“We knew this wouldn’t be easy,” said Harrison, after his team dropped to 6-1, 2-1 in district play. “But we came in here expecting to win. We played hard, but that’s an awfully-good team we played. I told them that we have nothing to hang our heads about. We have a week off to correct some teams and get back to district play.”
North Shore took possession after Ricky Fisk was dropped for a loss on fourth-and-3 from the North Shore 44 with 2:48 left and the score tied, 24-24.
“We had a good play called,” Harrison said. “But they shut off the corner and got great pressure. They made a great play.”
On consecutive plays, North Shore’s Jared Pendleton ran for 14 and 9 yards, and Justin Green ran for 14 to put the ball at the Titans’ 16. Three plays later, Thomas scored on a 1-yard run that sealed the Titans’ first loss of the season.
Down 10-3 at halftime, Memorial didn’t waste any time getting going in the second half. John Leday took a punt at the Memorial 47 and weaved 53 yards for a touchdown, which gave Memorial a 10-7 lead just 1:13 into the third quarter.
The lead didn’t last very long.
The Mustangs’ Darius Mouton returned the kickoff 97 yards to the Memorial 3. The Titans’ defense stifled North Shore, forcing the Mustangs to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Carlos Perez that tied the game, 10-10.
Memorial then grabbed the lead again on a four-play, 66 yard drive, capped when Fisk found Leday behind North Shore’s Earnest Thomas for a 25-yard scoring strike. That gave Memorial a 17-10 lead with 6:58 left in the third.
The Titans recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and moved to the North Shore 10. But, the drive stalled and Ricardo Estupinan missed a 28-yard field goal. North Shore used their punishing ground game to tie the score again, moving 80 yards in seven plays. Thomas scored on a 36 yard run with 2:49 left in the third quarter.
After another errant Estupinan field goal, the Mustangs marched into Titans’ territory. On fourth down, CJ Levine intercepted a Thomas pass at the Memorial 1-yard line.
Memorial got a little room on a pass interference penalty, but the Titans were penalized half the distance back to the goal on a holding penalty. On second-and-16 from their own 9, Fisk found Roderic Rucker on a pass over the middle. Rucker broke a tackle by North Shore’s Chris Russell and scampered 91 yards for a touchdown with 6:38 left to give Memorial a 24-17 lead.
Kevian DeLeon raced 97 yards with the ensuing kickoff into the end zone that tied the score, 24-24 with 6:23 left in the game.
“Special teams are a part of the game just like offense and defense,” Harrison said. “And mistakes on special teams cost us. That’s something we normally do well. We will have to work on that. “
To start the game, the Titans pinned North Shore back to the Mustang 3 after punting away on their first possession. Nine plays later, Houston skirted around the right side of the Titan defense, assisted by a crushing block by Thomas, and scored from 14 yards. That capped a nine-play, 97 yard drive that gave the Mustangs a 7-0 lead with 5:24 left in the first quarter.
But the Titans defense stiffened for the rest of the first half, stifling the potent North Shore offense. Part of that was the pressure from defensive back CJ Levine, who had a pair of quarterback sacks.
“We brought in another defensive lineman,” Harrison said. “That was really the only thing we did different.”
North Shore did move into Titan territory late in the second quarter but Thomas was stopped on a fourth down run by James Jenkins and the Titans gained possession with 1:48 left in the half. Fisk passed to Rucker for 9 and 22 yards and completed a pass to Jenkins for 12. The drive stalled and Estupinan kicked a 27-yard field goal with two seconds left in the half to cut the Mustangs’ lead to 7-3.
Memorial has a bye next week before hosting Baytown Sterling on Oct. 26. North Shore will travel to Sterling next week.