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Sports

November 16, 2012

Memorial looks into mirror with Manvel

CHANNELVIEW —  CHANNELVIEW — Squint your eyes enough and the Class 5A Division II matchup between Port Arthur Memorial and Manvel could be a game between mirror images.

 Both teams are relatively young. Both have been playing varsity ball under a new coach for four seasons now. Both had unprecedented success last season, beating numerous obstacle teams on the way to an appearance in the state bracket. Both also lost quarterbacks who had been stalwarts in the program for multiple years.

 Heck, the two teams even have losses to North Shore in common this season, along with a slew of college committed players on both sides of the ball. They both run 4-2-5 defenses and spread offenses with a heavy emphasis on the passing game.

 If not for Manvel competing in Class 4A the past two seasons, the two programs could be twins, so it’s almost fitting that the two schools meet for the first time in the bidistrict playoffs  today at 1 p.m. in Ray Maddry Stadium.

 “It’s going to be a great game,” Memorial head coach Kenny Harrison said. “They’ve got athletes all over the field. Our kids want to be recognized as some of the top players in the state as well. Getting a chance to play against kids who are already committed to FBS schools is a great challenge. Our kids have embraced that and are excited about it. They want to come out and compete at a high level. Our guys will be ready to go when the time comes.”

 The Mavericks are in their first season in Class 5A, after making it to the Class 5A Division II state championship game a year ago. Manvel cruised through its new district, 22-5A, on its way to the district title with a 9-1 record.

 The thing that stands out about Manvel in this first season in 5A is how potent the offense can be. The Mavericks averaged 46 points per game during the regular season and led 22-5A with 495 yards per game.

 The Maverick offense is led by senior quarterback Shane McCarley, who completed 64 percent of his passes this season while throwing for 3,381 yards and 46 touchdowns. According to head coach Kirk Martin, McCarley leads the entire state of Texas in both passing yards and passing TDs, despite not playing in the second half of five games.

 On top of that, McCarley is throwing to three different receivers who are drawing interest from colleges. The 6-foot-3, 170 pound Kyrion Parker has committed to Texas A&M, while 6-foot, 160 pound Austin Bennett has committed to Oklahoma and 5-foot-9, 160 pound slot receiver Carlos Thompson has offers from Louisiana Lafayette and Houston Baptist.

 Thompson led 22-5A in receiving with 56 catches for 1,069 yards and 15 TDs, while Parker had 36 catches for 840 yards and 11 TDs and Bennett had 32 catches for 520 yards and eight TDs.

 “They have a big-time quarterback,” Harrison said. “They’ve got some big-time wide receivers. They’ve got a good offensive line. It’s going to be a very good football game and a challenge for both teams. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”

 Defensively, the Mavericks finished second to Pearland in team defense while allowing 19.3 points per game. They also gave up 276 yards per game and just 1,144 yards through the air all season.

 Manvel is led on defense by senior defensive back and Texas A&M commit Tavares Garner, who had five interceptions this season along with 41 tackles, two blocked kicks, two fumble recoveries and 15 passes broken up.

 Senior defensive tackle and UTEP commit Dewan Edmonson leads a talented group up front, as Edmonson had 51 tackles and five sacks this season. He is joined by junior defensive end Koda Martin, who is drawing interest from schools like Oklahoma, Baylor, Arkansas and Texas A&M.

 Martin leads the Maverick defense in every category except interceptions. The junior has 71 tackles, nine sacks, four fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles this season.

 “We’ve played some teams with some strong defenses,” Harrison said. “They have some big kids. We played Bellaire with some huge kids up front and some athletes in the secondary. They’re very compatible size-wise and athletically to Belllaire. They have a bunch of strong kids over there.”

 Despite impressive pedigree on both sides of the ball, Memorial matches up well with the Mavericks in some areas. The Titans vulnerability on defense has come through the run, mostly up the middle, while Manvel prefers to throw the ball.

 When the Mavericks do take to the air, they’ll be met by a host of Titan defensive backs with just as much size as their receivers. Memorial may even decide to move big safety Jalen Barnes over to cornerback for this game to play the bigger Parker.

 Offensively, sophomore left tackle Vernon Samuels figures to face his biggest test going up against Martin, but has proven to be one of the Titans’ best offensive linemen all year. If he can keep Ricky Fisk upright, the Titans passing attack may be able to find some holes in the Maverick secondary.

 Of course, that’s all contingent on junior receiver Roderic Rucker’s availability. The senior missed the second half of last week’s game against La Porte with a deep thigh bruise but is expected to start this week against Manvel. Rucker has 42 catches this season for 734 yards and 11 TDs.

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