Last week, Port Arthur News staffer Tom Halliburton, who covered Nederland football from 1987 to 2010, volunteered that if the Bulldogs knocked off No. 1 ranked Pearland Dawson it would be the school’s most significant and prestigious victory since it won the state championship in 1957.
Sure enough, the Bulldogs delivered with a scintillating 22-16 overtime win and there was little argument that it was Nederland’s biggest win since ‘57. So, in lieu of compiling a list of games that might have been comparable, The News sports team, with the help of Russ DeVillier, who used to cover the Bulldogs for us, put together a handful of some of the most memorable wins of the past 55 years.
We don’t claim to have been able to list them all, but we think the list that has been compiled will be a fun and entertaining read for all those who bleed black and gold.
San Benito 15 (1961)
Jerry Phillips, a 15-year-old tackle turned sprinter, etched his named into Bulldog folklore on December 9, 1961.
In the state 3A semi-final thriller at San Benito, Phillips snared an errant pitchout by all-state halfback Jim Helms and romped 39 yards for a touchdown. The unlikely fourth quarter score erased a 15-14 advantage for the home team, and sent Nederland to Dallas' Cobb Field for a state title date with Dumas.
Phillips, a 204-pound redheaded junior, was on the field 48 minutes for Bowden Cook's Bulldogs. They fell short, 6-0, the following week on a muddy field. It was a setback similar to the 3-0 loss dealt to Bum Phillips' team in at rainswept Bulldog Stadium in 1956.
Nederland 32, Bridge City 14 (1966)
Gene Henderson was an assistant on Emmett McKenzie's staff when Nederland rolled to the state 3A title in 1957, Hired to rebuild The House That Bum Built in 1963, he had three straight playoff teams before finishing out of the money with what many thought his best team in 1966.
An early season clash before an overflow throng pitted Nederland against eventual 3A state champ Bridge City and the Cardinals' dynamite running back, Steve Worster.
Nederland answered with a power runner of its own, Bill Kemp, who rumbled for l32 yards. Bulldog defenders limited Worster to 104 and a better-balanced attack propelled the home team to a lopsided 34-14 victory.
Nederland had climbed to No. 5 in the 4A team rankings before falling to PN-G, 20-19 in the regular season finale before the usual standing room only crowd. The loss meant a third place finish behind the Port Arthur Yellow Jackets and PN-G. Second and third place back then signaled the start of basketball.
Nederland 39, TJ 35 (1967)
Every man, woman and child at Yellow Jacket Stadium knew the home team was getting a fifth down. Everyone except the only ones that counted, the officiating crew. So, TJ quarterback Gary Hammond, later of SMU and St. Louis Cardinals fame, dropped back and heaved a 39-yard touchdown pass to Brian Thompson, putting Nederland in a 21-14 halftime hole.
It was to get worse before first-year Bulldogs coach Pat Johnson saw his team rally from 14 down to pull out a 39-35 victory. Offensive fireworks for Nederland featured quarterback Don Howard, tailback Steve Fleming and receiver Bobby Merren.
Fleming played for the University of Texas, and later served as NHS principal.
Smitty Hill's TJ team went on to claim the 11-AAAA south zone, but fell to Hebert in the district playoff.
Smitty still resides in Port Arthur. Johnson is recovering at his Nederland home after a critical three-way stay at Methodist Hospital in Houston.
Nederland 13, PN-G 7 (1984)
By winning 15 consecutive games -- 1969 through 1983 -- the Indians established the upper hand on the Mid-County series that they have enjoyed to this day.
But first-year head coach Steve DeRouen guided an inspired defensive effort in Bulldog Stadium against Butch Troy’s heavily favored PN-G squad to snap the streak on a most memorable Friday night.
Nederland 28, PN-G 7 (1997)
A workhorse, tough little back named Troy Sumrall jabbed the Indians defense 32 times for 223 yards and three touchdowns in a game at The Reservation which was much closer to most watchers than its final score.
The teams were tied 7-all after three quarters and a 20-yard fumble return for a score by Aaron Barton helped to break it open. But even the PN-G defenders tipped their hats after this game to the workmanlike efforts of Sumrall who rushed for 1,601 yards and 24 touchdowns in that senior season.
Nederland 25, Friendswood 7 (2001)
Nederland’s third round, regional final victory over Friendswood in 2001 was eerily similar to the big one over Dawson last Friday. Friendswood entered the matchup with Nederland with a perfect 12-0 record and their best season in school history to that point. The Mustangs had only given up 14 or more points only once in the eight previous games and beat La Marque for the first time ever.
The Bulldogs also saw similar results in the game itself. Nederland shut out Friendswood in the first half, scoring 17 unanswered points in the second quarter, four more than they scored against Dawson. Friendswood scored late in the fourth quarter, but Nederland was able to hold them down and secure a state semifinal game against Smithson Valley.
Michael Boyd returned an interception for a touchdown while Chris Genuardi scored twice on 53-yard and 2-yard runs. Genuardi had 136 rushing yards, or 92 percent of the total yards Nederland gained in the game (148).
“I remember they were undefeated and highly ranked,” Neumann said. “That year, our team was coming off the 2000 year when we had a pretty good year. People though we were rebuilding, so we had a chip on our shoulder all year. The motivation was there, we didn’t need to do much about it. Our defense really stifled them early.”
Nederland 35, PN-G 28 (2005)
Any time the Bulldogs beat the Indians its memorable to Nederland fans, but this one was special for reasons that went way beyond the football. This was the Hurricane Rita Bowl played on Saturday night, Oct. 15 at Pasadena’s Memorial Stadium some three weeks after Rita wreaked havoc on Southeast Texas.
Rita’s damage destroyed homes, closed schools and businesses and wiped out high school football games scheduled for Sept. 23, Sept. 30 and Oct. 7. As a result, District 20-4A had to redraw its schedule and Mid-County Madness was the first game on the new lineup. But it couldn’t be played at Nederland or PN-G because of stadium damage.
The game itself was surprisingly well played, considering how much practice both teams had missed. PN-G scored first but trailed 7-6 at halftime. From there, the two schools delivered one of the wildest and entertaining games you could ever want to see.
Nederland stretched its lead to 21-6 with a couple of quick TDs in the third quarter, but the Indians stormed back to cut it to 21-19 entering the fourth. PN-G then regained the lead, 25-21, on a 56-yard pass from Jeremy Hemmings to Brian Domino. Nederland answered with a 69-yard Alex Moshier to Ryan Butler and a 39-yard interception return by Chris Laird and the Bulldogs have a victory unlike any other.
Nederland 29, Brenham 28 (2007)
The Bulldogs first ever win at Reliant Stadium was not as meaningful as the one last week but it was pretty special. In a Zero Week contest that was part of a doubleheader featuring PN-G and LaMarque, Brenham entered the game ranked No. 15 in the state and coming off an 11-2 state quarterfinal appearance the year before.
Brenham scored first in the game, but Nederland jumped out to a 29-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Brenham rallied in the fourth to make it 29-28 but the Cubs missed a PAT on their final touchdown. It wound up tight at the end because the Bulldogs lost QB Ryan Sampere to an injury midway through the third quarter.
Sampere and Asa Cardenas each scored two touchdowns. Sampere finished with 252 passing yards and 40 rushing yards while Cardenas had four catches for 94 yards.
“Being the first game of the year, we really dominated,” Neumann said. “If Sampere hadn’t gotten hurt, we would have done better. What I recollect from that game, it might have been a really big score to not a lot from them otherwise. It was a dominant performance for much the night.”