The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
Port Arthur Memorial Coach Kenny Harrison was well aware who Justin Hervey was going into Friday night’s game against Beaumont West Brook.
Hervey wasted no time introducing himself to the Titans defense with 115 yards in the first quarter, including a 60-yard touchdown three plays into the game.
Memorial’s defense, however, stiffened and took control as the Titans clinched a playoff berth with a 31-14 victory. West Brook now needs a win next week against Baytown Sterling and must have Deer Park lose its home game against North Shore to reach the playoffs.
Memorial will hit the road to face La Porte with a chance to take second place in the standings.
Hervey, the District 21-5A leading rusher coming into Friday, was held to 51 yards through the remaining three quarters of the game.
“I told the kids all week what kind of player Hervey was,” Harrison said. “He is a heck of a football player and we had to try to minimize his yards tonight. Our defense did a tremendous job tonight after that first quarter. We regrouped after the long touchdown and really started to get after their run game. I could not be more proud of our guys up front.”
West Brook Coach Kevin Flanigan was also impressed with the Memorial defense on its job containing Hervey and the rest of the Bruins.
“We certainly need to do a better job run blocking next week,” Flanigan said. “I felt coming into the game we would be able to run the ball against the Titans. That simply wasn’t the case after the first quarter. We were able to bust one early and then throughout the rest of the game we could never get a big play. I really thought the Titans safeties did a great job running up to the line even when we had a guy get past the line and linebackers.”
Everything was going the Bruins way early. Hervey had scored from 60-yards out and the Bruiins forced a three-and-out on Memorial’s first possession.
West Brook’s Keith Corbin then blocked a punt and gave the Bruins a first down deep in Memorial territory.
Memorial senior Selah Fontenot came up with the first huge play for the Titans by recovering a fumble after Hervey had ran for a first down to the Titans 14.
Two plays later the game started to change.
Torian Lott soared through the air to grab a Tayylor Labrie pass and came down with the football with one hand. It was the play of the game and it changed momentum. The reception went for 33 yards and was on third down with the Titans needing 17 yards.
“I am never suprised when one of my receivers come down with a catch,” Labrie said. “I have nothing but confidence in my receivers. I know I can put the ball in the air and all those guys will go get it. So I am not surprised Torian made that catch.”
Labrie then hit Roderic Rucker for 27 yards and Corey Dauphine scored after two runs totaling 33 yards. He reached the end zone from 17 yards out.
Labrie would finish the night 18-for-25 passing for 195 yards with a touchdown throw to Albert Jacobs. Jacobs led Titans receivers with five receptions for 68 yards. Rucker had four receptions for 36 yards.
Dauphine showed his power all night long. He carried defenders on his back on several plays and ended with 71 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
JaCorie Jones and Morgan Ford each had Memorial interceptions of Bruins quarterback Justin Essex.
“This feels good right now,” Labrie said. “We have improved each week. Our defense has improved every week over the last few weeks. The whole team practices so hard each day. We work our tails off. Now we can celebrate we are back in the playoffs.”
Kicker Ricardo Estupinan of Memorial continued his stellar career with a 36-yard field goal in the second quarter to give Memorial its first lead of the night, 10-7.
The Titans would not trail again. In the third quarter, Dauphine scored on a two-yard run and Jacobs hauled in a 17-yard touchdown pass from Labrie. Dauphine’s last touchdown run came from five yards out.
Essex finished with only 16 yards on 2-for-10 passing. The biggest pass play for the Bruins came on a double pass. Essex first threw a backward pass to Demarcus Smith who then stopped and caught the Titans defense sleeping. Smith hit Charles Ward for a 45-yard touchdown.
The Bruins did not showcase a lot of Isaac Aubrey at quarterback against the Titans. Aubrey, who came in with 538 passing yards and 316 on the ground, had one carry and four pass attempts. They all came late in the fourth with the outcome of the game already decided.
Flanigan called Aubrey’s absence a personnel decision.
The Titans held back any chance of a comeback in the fourth by limiting the Bruins to 20 yards in the quarter.
“This is an unbelievable feeling,” Harrison said. “We love knowing we have clinched our playoff spot. Now we get start work on trying to beat La Porte next week. Those guys ruined our Senior Night last year so maybe we can return the favor next Friday. They have been dominating us, so I am looking forward to coming up with a game plan against them this week.”
Memorial has only one win in its history against La Porte. It came in the state quarterfinals in 2011, 34-6. La Porte holds a 6-1 record against Memorial.