The Port Arthur News
BEAUMONT — Two teams open the season from very different vantages at the Thomas Center Friday.
Beaumont Central has a fresh start with a new coach and is looking to get back into the playoffs after falling just short last season.
Port Arthur Memorial continued its successful run under Kenny Harrison last season, but fell in its final two games, ending the season with disappointment.
Add in the very close 23-20 victory at Memorial Stadium last season, where Central nearly upset the heavily favored Titans and this week’s matchup should be one of the best in the area.
“They’ve got a lot of confidence,” Memorial head coach Kenny Harrison said. “They’ve got a new coach and a little swagger about themselves. There’s a lot of excitement going on around there. You can tell by the way those kids played in the scrimmage. They’re very athletic.”
Central brought in former West Orange-Stark assistant Tobey Foreman to replace Andrew Washington as head coach. Foreman brings an intensity to the program and has tried to erase the struggles of last season by turning the page.
They’ll be doing that with a talented cast of juniors who will be playing in key roles. Harrison has been familiar with these players for quite some time now and has a great deal of respect for their athleticism.
“I got to see these kids plays as ninth graders,” Harrison said. “You could tell even back then how athletic they were back then. I can remember thinking back then that they’re going to have a pretty good football team in a few years. After we beat them that year, I don’t know if they lost another game. It was a close ball game and I knew that their time was coming.”
Last year’s game will be sort of a rallying cry for Central, as the Jaguars try to get over the hump and
The Titan offense was its usually solid self last season in that opening game, gaining 400 yards, including 161 rushing yards and 241 passing yards. The defense, too, had good numbers, as the Titans gave up just 246 yards and less than 140 rushing yards in the game.
However, the Titans had two big flaws. They gave up 19 first downs, tied for the second-most they’d allow that season. They also had 10 penalties for 105 yards, the second-most penalty yards they’d amass all season.
Fixing those mistakes will be at the top of Harrison’s priority list for Friday.
“We have to get out to a fast start,” Harrison said. “We have to execute. We didn’t do a good job of executing against Atascocita in the red zone, so we need to do those things. Defensively, we have to tackle. Against Atascocita, we didn’t tackle very well. We had kids in position, but they didn’t make the tackle. We have to do a better job of that.”
The Central offense will be keyed by two players. Quarterback Michael Jacquet takes over for three-year starter Robert Mitchell, now at Lamar. Jacquet, a junior, got limited playing time last season, but showed plenty of potential.
He’s joined by receiver Garrison Mitchell, who had 36 catches for 491 yards and four TDs last season as a junior. Mitchell also had three interceptions as a defensive back last season.
“The young man they have at QB is a quality young man,” Harrison said. “I didn’t get a chance to see him play last year, but I heard the stories of him coming in against Nederland and playing well. I know he comes from a good family and is a level-headed young man. That sped the process up. I don’t know that you can say they have a real, first-year quarterback.“
The Jaguars brought in a new defensive coordinator in addition to their defensive-minded head coach. Roy Locks will lead the defense for Foreman after starring for West Orange-Stark in the late ‘90s. Locks was the defensive coordinator at Katy Seven Lakes last season.
He’ll have plenty of talent to work with this season. In addition to Mitchell in the secondary, the Jags will be led by safety P.J. Locke and linebacker Chris Brooks. They’ll be part of a little different look in the secondary, as the Jaguars move away from the system they used under Washington into more of a shifting system of coverage.
“They’re a little more multiple,” Harrison said. “They’re doing some different things in the secondary. In the past, they were a base Cover-3 team. This year, they’re mixing it up, playing a little two-high (coverage). We’ve had a little bit of film on them from the scrimmage, so it was hard to tell for sure. But, they have athletes all over the field.”
Memorial has now beaten Central in three straight seasons. The last time Central won was in 2009, when the Jaguars beat Memorial 26-21. In the five-year history of the series, Memorial has won three of five games with Central.