For the past three weeks, any talk of Nederland’s success has been tempered. First, the Bulldogs were just going up the junior varsity in practice. Then, they were just playing in a scrimmage.
Eventually, the qualifiers will fall away.
After impressively outscoring Dayton 45-13 Thursday, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Nederland is once again a pretty good football team.
Against the Broncos, Nederland was able to fix most of its problems from the West Orange-Stark scrimmage.
“Without seeing the tape yet, I’m very pleased with how we played tonight,” Nederland head coach Larry Neumann said. “I’m pleased with the effort. You can’t tell me in the three days we practiced between West Orange and tonight, that the physical work was the difference. It was part of it, but our mental attitude tonight was where it needed to be. Tonight, we were sharp.”
That included the run blocking, which was much improved against the Broncos. Nederland running back Kendrick Hopkins gashed Dayton for 181 yards in the first half on 14 carries and finished the scrimmage with 268 yards and two touchdowns.
Hopkins again showed why he’s one of the best backs in the area, breaking eight different runs of 10 yards or more, including a 51-yard touchdown and a 43-yard TD.
“I don’t have to look at the video to know we blocked pretty well tonight,” Neumann said. “I credit the kids for that. We started the week wanting to run block better than we did against West Orange. Kendrick made some tremendous cuts. That was all Kendrick Hopkins. I take nothing away from his great ability and the way he played.”
The offensive line was opening holes for more than just Hopkins, though. Fullback Marcus Barton ripped off 68 yards on 11 carries, including a 21-yard TD of his own.
In fact, almost every player on offense got a moment to shine. Receiver Colton Kimler caught five passes for 61 yards and two TDs while Sage Seay caught three for 23 yards and a TD.
Senior quarterback Preston White was 13 for 20 for 130 yards with three TDs and an interception, thrown at the end of the first half as time was winding down. Neumann was especially impressed with White’s feel for running the team’s offense.
“Preston White, what can you say about him?” Neumann said. “He’s playing like a guy with two years of experience. He looks like a guy who’s been there, recognizes the crisis and gets the ball out of there. With the amount of starting experience he’s had, in these first two games, I couldn’t be more pleased with him.”
Defensively, the Bulldogs showed much of what made them special a year ago. Nederland was fast to the ball, forced turnovers and tackled well. That tackling was a big improvement over a week ago against WO-S.
The entire defensive line made solid plays, with De Shawn Washington, Caleb Malveaux, Beau Stewart, Connor Hughes, Seay and Leon Mayfield all making tackles for losses. Kimler intercepted a pass over the middle and as a unit, the Bulldogs held Dayton to 239 total yards. Mayfield was singled out, too, for his improved play after the game.
Still, the Broncos were able to break a long run in the third quarter, turning the corner on a stretch play and going up the sideline for a 64-yard TD.
“I thought we tackled better,” Neumann said. “That was one of the things we stressed. Leon Mayfield took a step up tonight. There were a lot of areas where we played well. Our perimeter defense was much better than last week. There’s a lot of correlation, both offensively and defensively, between Dayton and Crosby. We’ll try to do the things we’re doing tonight next week. When you have speed, if you lose contain, you can see what happens. That last guy can’t let the runner get past him, because it’s off to the races.”
Dayton’s only other points came in the fourth quarter, when a Bronco defender took the handoff from Nederland’s backup quarterback and raced 70 yards to the end zone for a score.
Nederland will open the season next week by hosting Crosby in Week Zero.