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Sports

August 5, 2013

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: 5 questions about Port Neches-Groves

PORT NECHES —  Monday marked the opening of the 2013 season for the Port Neches-Groves football team. The Indian faithful will be glad of that, as they hope to put the memory of a disappointing 2013 campaign behind them.

As the Indians took the field to start two-a-day workouts, what questions did they need to answer? What storylines will dominate practice leading up to the season? Let’s check on five of the biggest ones.

1) A good, if young, group of receivers

There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the Indians this year, but start with the offense. The talent at skill positions should be improved this year as players gain experience or move up from the lower levels.

Led by senior Jeremiah Rose, the most productive receiver in District 20-4A last season, the Indians should feature a lot more depth this year at wideout. Rose will be joined by Avery Murdock, who started last season, Kaleb Sparks and a number of other players who saw limited action last season.

There’s also the chance that some younger players might step up and push their way into the starting lineup. But, the Indians should have a much more consistent group of pass catchers on the outside this season.

2) Walker walking the walk

Talking with junior quarterback Ky Walker during 7-on-7 practice this summer, the main takeaway is how he seems to have embraced his role as a leader on this offense. Walker could not have had a more disappointing start to his career as the Indians signal-caller, as he broke his hand literally plays into starting the job.

To Walker’s credit, he came back as soon as he could and contributed at cornerback last season. Now, with his hand fully healed, Walker has moved into the role as the favorite to be the starting quarterback this season. He’ll find some competition from sophomore Adam Morse, but Walker is already showing some of the poise that could make him a good leader for the Indians moving forward.

3) Finding a spot for Morse

As the Indians were struggling through the 2012 campaign, each week there was talk of the exploits of the freshman team. Led by Adam Morse, those fish made a perfect run through the district.

Now a sophomore, Morse will compete with Walker for the starting quarterback job. If he doesn’t win it (and that is a steep hill to climb), Morse is too talented not to play somewhere. The big-framed signal caller could fit anywhere in the offense, but will likely find a home at tight end or H-back, while also functioning as the backup quarterback.

4) The defensive line

In high school football, the effectiveness of a defense is very often tied to how effectively it can stop the run. Just look at the District 20-4A run defense ratings from last year.

Team    Rush Yards Allowed    Overall Def. Rank

Vidor    949    2

Nederland    1,314    1

Ozen    1,473    3

Livingston    1,739    4

Central    1,897    5

LC-M    2,301    6

PN-G    2,587    7

Lumberton    3,204    8

Injuries hurt PN-G most on its defensive line, as a few key starters never were really able to make an impact last season for the Indians along the line. If the Indians can fix that through some personnel shuffle and better luck with injuries, their defense could see a marked improvement.

To that end, the Indians are going to be shifting a few offensive linemen over to the defense to bolster the unit. That includes two-year offensive standout Chris Mangini, who will be anchoring one of the end positions this year.

5) Who’s at running back?

Only two teams in District 20-4A had less rushing yards in the regular season than Port Neches-Groves’ 1,272 yards last year. The Indians’ usual strong rushing attack never found consistency last season, causing the offense to lose a bit of its effectiveness.

That was less about the play of the offensive line, which boasted SFA signee Justin Reasons and a few other young, standout players. However, the Indians had trouble finding running backs who could exploit the holes their line opened.

That shouldn’t be an issue this year. Junior running back Brant Halfin is the favorite to be the starter at tailback, while Reece Wardlow should be in the mix at fullback, though he should have competition from Morse.

David Coleman is a sportswriter for the Port Arthur News. You can email him at dcoleman@panews.com or find him on Twitter at @MDavidColeman.

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