PORT ARTHUR —
There was a point in the 2013 season when the Port Arthur Memorial offense was struggling throwing the football.
The problem can be directly attributed to an injury suffered by the Titans leading receiver Roderic Rucker.
Rucker was sidelined by a foot injury against Beaumont Central in the very first game of the year. Rucker would miss three games and did not return until the Titans started District 21-5A play against Deer Park.
In that time the Titans threw for only 442 yards in three games. The low point was against Houston Westside when the Titans passed for 69 yards.
Memorial would only throw for 99 yards in Rucker’s return against the Deer. Since then, the Titans passing game has been on a roll, in large part to having their leader back in full health. Memorial averaged 239.4 yards passing through the final five district contest.
Rucker had 38 receptions for 500 yards and five touchdowns through the district schedule.
Memorial Coach Kenny Harrison hated to see Rucker go down, yet through those tough games without him the coach was able to develop other receivers.
“We were able to find a guy like Torian Lott who has given us another weapon,” Harrison said. “We always knew once we got Rucker back we would be even more explosive. Without Rucker, we were able to develop a few more weapons and try some different things. Now that he is back, he is once again explosive and right back to being where he was a year ago.”
Rucker finished his junior year with 44 catches for 757 yards and 11 touchdowns. This year Rucker has 41 catches for 602 yards and six scores.
“I hated to not be on the field,” Rucker said. “Then, when I came back against Deer Park, I had a good feeling about this team and where we would be. All I am trying to do each week is stay in the groove of things and help my team out. We were young to start the season, but now our guys have matured and it feels great to be in the playoffs.”
Memorial will face Pasadena Memorial at 7 p.m. Friday at Baytown’s Stallworth Stadium.
Rucker’s play has certainly rubbed off on other Memorial receivers. Guys like Albert Jacobs, Lott and Trenton Swinton have all produced big numbers for the Titans.
Jacobs has 36 catches for 484 yards and four touchdowns. Lott has 28 receptions for 312 yards while Swinton has 22 catches for 302 yards and four touchdowns.
“When he was hurt, he was always a coach on the sideline,” Harrison said. “We have a headset our quarterback uses on the sideline to talk to our quarterbacks’ coach. Roderic always had it on when Tayylor (Labrie) was on the field so he could hear the plays being called. Then, when the offense ran off the field, he was talking to the receivers and telling them what to expect the next time out.
“He wanted the best for those guys. Roderic, Albert and Torian all played football together since they were little kids. They have accepted Trenton into that group and you can’t find a closer group of receivers.”
Rucker said he has no problem sharing the football with his teammates. His reception numbers do not matter as long as Memorial ends up with a win.
“I treat those guys like they are my brothers,” Rucker said. “I want success for them just as much as I want success for myself. We are always together and I love playing ball with those guys.”
Now Rucker and his teammates want to make sure the Titans erase the painful memory of losing in the first round to Manvel last year. Manvel defeated Memorial 49-37 in the bi-district round in 2012.
“We will not lose in the first round this year,” Rucker vows. “We are not going to allow that to happen two years in a row.”