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Lamar’s defense stuffs Memorial

People on the east side of Port Arthur don’t need to ask a meteorologist what caused that warm wind Friday night.

It was the air coming out of the Memorial Titans’ balloon.

A week after gaining a record-breaking 356 passing yards, the Titans had two of their first three passes picked off by Houston Lamar, which held Memorial to just 23 passing yards and 59 total yards. The Redskins rode that defense to a 29-6 win over the Titans Friday night.

“I don’t know if it was us being flat or them being good,” Memorial coach Ronnie Thompson said, his team now 1-2. “Last week we were getting points and we were moving the ball. Tonight, we didn’t do either.”

Houston Lamar has most of its key people back from a 10-1 season and Memorial is trying to learn a new offense with a new coach after finishing 2-5 last year.

While Titan quarterback Davon Lewis was putting his name into the record book in last week’s 44-28 loss at Aldine Nimitz, Lamar was shutting down blue chip Brenham quarterback Jarrett Lee and a spread offense similar to Memorial’s.

“That was the same defense we went with against Brenham, a version of the 3-5-3,” Lamar coach Tom Nolen said after his team improved to 2-1. “It gives a lot of people the potential to blitz or we can double cover receivers. We executed it well.”

It didn’t hurt the Redskins that Lewis, as it turned out, was less than 100 percent.

The quarterback who missed all of last season after a knee injury and subsequent surgery, had a scare last week when he banged his elbow on a helmet, lost feeling in his arm and made a postgame trip to a Houston hospital for X-rays.

But Thompson said it was a groin pull that had Lewis off-kilter Friday and ultimately convinced the coach to pull him late in the first half.

“It was bothering him during the week, but it didn’t seem that bad,” Thompson said. “But I noticed it was bothering him on the first possession, and it was a short one. Then I noticed it again on the second one, which was also a short one.”

Lewis was picked off on the first play of the game. His pass over the middle to Rashaud Brown bounced off the receiver and into the arms of Lamar’s Eric Eiland, who ran it back to the Titan 28.

His third pass of the night caromed off receiver Freddie King and this time Redskin cornerback Ryan Clark snagged the rebound.

The Redskins took advantage for a 10-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

Lewis never did find his rhythm. Lamar put plenty of heat on him, sacking him twice, and not allowing him to throw any deep balls. He finished with just 3 yards passing, getting 4 completions in 13 attempts and the two interceptions.

One of his passes was batted by a Redskin rusher and caught by offensive tackle Jonathan Vernon for a six-yard loss.

“I felt the groin pain affected his passing,” Thompson said. “He was compensating for his groin with his strength and the ball was either high or low.

“The way it was going, I thought it was a great time to empty the bench in the second half and get some people some playing time.”

Junior Harry Brown came on to quarterback the final play of the first half, then alternated plays with sophomore Jarael Alexander in the second half.

After trailing 23-6 at the half, Memorial didn’t have many snaps in the second half, getting just one first down in the final 24 minutes. Lamar had a 30-14 edge in second-half plays and finished with 441 total yards.

Sophomore running back Kalvin Guyton led the Redskins with 159 yards and one touchdown rushing on 24 carries. Quarterback Demetrius Woods passed for 109 yards and two touchdowns for Lamar and ran for another score.

Memorial finished with just 23 yards passing as Brown went 2 for 4 with one interception for 20 yards. Alexander was 0 for 4 passing.

Running back Brent Newcost had five carries for 29 yards for a Memorial team that was held to 36 yards rushing.

Overall, Lamar ran 66 plays to 41 for Memorial and rolled up 20 first downs while holding the Titans to six.

The only highlight for Memorial was Barry Valcin’s 79-yard kickoff return midway through the second quarter.

It came after the Redskins held a 23-0 lead and set up Memorial’s only score of the night.

After Lamar’s Ronnie Alexander finally pushed Valcin out of bounds at the Redskin 10-yard line, Newcost swept right end for a score on the next play.

When Valcin picked off Woods at midfield on Lamar’s very next play, it appeared the Titans might be ready to mount a comeback.

“I was worried that was a real momentum-changer,” Nolen said. “No. 2 (Valcin) is a good player.”

But Lewis was sacked on Memorial’s next play, threw low for King on second down and scrambled for 10 yards on third down. On fourth-and-five, Thompson had Lewis quick kick.

So much for momentum.

Lamar took the second-half kickoff and covered 80 yards in six plays, helped by a 15-yard facemask penalty on what should have been a drive-stopping sack by the Titans.

Redskin receiver Jonathan Osei-Kuffour made a great catch on an underthrown pass for a 37-yard gain and Guyton ripped up the middle for a 21-yard TD run.

Lamar pierced Memorial’s defense for 332 rushing yards on 50 plays a week after Nimitz rushed for 401 yards. It used the running game to make for a zippy second half.

No one on the Titan side seemed to mind.

After these two teams played three classic games in a row in 2002-2004, this one looked like anything but almost from the start. The Redskins only had to go 44 yards for a 10-0 lead, starting each of their first two drives on the Titan 26 after interception runbacks.

Woods capped his team’s first drive with a 3-yard TD toss to a wide-open Scott Erzinger.

The Titans had escaped with a missed field goal on Lamar’s second possessions, but they were called for running into the kicker and Lamar’s Michael Brock booted a 25-yarder on his second try.

After those two cheap scores, Lamar went 63 and 72 yards for second-quarter scores. Woods passed 20 yards to Ricky Sanders to make it 16-0 and then scored on a one-yard sneak to make it 23-0 with 6:04 left in the first half.