The Port Arthur News
WEST ORANGE —
In their first on-field action against opponents since each lost in the fourth round of last year’s playoffs Nederland and West Orange-Stark scrimmaged under near game-like conditions Friday night at Dan Hooks Stadium.
Except if it had been a real game, Nederland’s starters would have played more than three quarters and Bulldog coach Larry Neumann might have cared more about the final score.
The Mustangs scored twice in the final 6:39 to overcome a a13-point deficit and win 27-26.
“Next week, when we scrimmage at Dayton, we’ll extend the starters out to four quarters,” the coach said. “For now, we’ve got some good working video to get better with.”
The Bulldogs, 12-2 a year ago, are looking for a new quarterback. And senior Preston White looked up to the task, completing 8 of 18 passes for 134 yards and one touchdown.
“We’ll evaluate him on video but my initial impression was pretty good,” Neumann said of White. “He did some things that looked pretty nice. He slid at the end of one scramble and he extended some other plays and made good things happen.
“My impression is he took a giant step forward. I think he ought to feel pretty good about his performance.”
White and the Bulldogs took advantage of short fields and turned three of four WO-S turnovers into scores. They led 17-13 at the half and scored on two- and six-play drives in the second half for a 26-13 lead with 9:51 remaining.
Kicker Tanner Noel hit on field goals of 41 and 36 yards, but missed on his final extra point try.
Sage Seay caught three passes for 30 yards, including a seven-yard scoring pass, and he had an interception on defense.
Colton Kimler came up with the other pickoff of Mustang quarterbacks and Kimler caught a pair of passes for 44 yards.
Where the Bulldogs were noticeably lacking was in the run game.
Kendrick Hopkins was held to 11 yards and a two-yard score on 12 carries by a WO-S defense that dealt out nine shutouts in last year’s 13-1 season. Marcus Barton carried four times for 44 yards, including a 25-yard score on a quick-hitter up the middle.
“We’ll spend a lot of time on the running game next week,” Neumann said. “We’ve got to be able to create some gaps and holes. Granted, we played West Orange-Stark and they’ve got a pretty good defense.”
The Mustangs’ two fourth-quarter scores came on Chase Rutledge’s 24-yard score on a quarterback draw and Rutledge’s 65-yard pass to Will Johnson. Both plays involved a lot of zig-zagging through Bulldog defenders.
“Tackling was a big issue tonight and I don’t mean just on the big plays,” Neumann said.