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Cegielski’s catch bails out Indians, 19-14

MONT BELVIEU — Barbers Hill’s Eagles had a lot of fortune in Friday night’s season opening football game.

Some of it was good fortune. Some not so much.

But the Eagles couldn’t make their own breaks — or first downs — when they most needed them in the end.

Port Neches-Groves did and scored a 19-14 win in front of about 6,000 fans at Eagle Stadium.

“Plays are going to go right and plays are going to go wrong,” said PN-G senior receiver Justin Cegielski. “We just have to make the plays when it counts.”

Cegielski did just that, catching the game-winning 13-yard touchdown pass with 2:17 left in the game.

Eagles defensive back Kevin Johnson used every inch of his 6-foot-3 height to go up and slap down a pass by PN-G quarterback Harrison Tatum that was headed for Cegielski.

Somehow Cegielski was able to twist his body and dive and come up with the ball just as he hit the end zone grass.

“That other guy tipped it. I just dove,” Cegielski said.

That play negated what had been a pretty incredible series of plays in Barbers Hill?s favor that had the Eagles go ahead 14-13 with 2:46 left in the third quarter.

The last one started with a high snap from center flying over the head of Eagle punter Ricardo Cavazos. But flags flew and whistles blew, too, and it turned out that potentially catastrophic play for the Eagles didn?t really happen.

So then Cavazos lined up five yards farther back and this time got off a booming punt that sailed over the head of PN-G returner Jacob Lynch. Lynch tried for an over the shoulder catch and couldn’t hold on to the ball.

Johnson recovered for Barbers Hill at the Indian 6-yard line and Eagle quarterback Tony Carmona scored on the next play on a keeper around right end. Chris Frazier’s second PAT of the night gave the Eagles a 14-13 lead.

Twice, at the end of the third period and the beginning of the fourth, Barbers Hill’s defense forced PN-G to punt away. But the Eagles offense could do nothing after taking over with 7:15 remaining and had to punt again, giving PN-G one more comeback try from midfield.

The Indians went 52 yards in seven plays, mixing runs by Josh Wright (he had 29 carries for 145 yards and one score) and passes by Tatum (10 of 16 for 119 yards).

“It was unbelievable what these kids do when the game’s on the line,” Indian coach Matt Burnett said.

“We talk about finding ways to win. That’s what they did tonight.”

Like seemingly all of his teammates, Carmona had a mixed night for Barbers Hill. He led the team in rushing with 48 yards on 10 carries and completed 12 of 23 passes for 108 yards. But his two interceptions were his team?s only turnovers.

The first one came early in the second quarter, when Barbers Hill had first and goal at the 10-yard line. PN-G’s 6-foot-6 defensive end Jerin Spikes looked up from his pass rushing and just plucked Carmona?s pass out of the air.

PN-G’s throwback option offense carved huge chunks out of the Barbers Hill defense with Tatum, Wright and Caleb Harmon (17 for 69 and a TD) combining to give the team a total rushing output of 215 yards on 55 attempts.

The Indians had first-half scoring drives of 14 and 12 plays. Barbers Hill, meanwhile, went in only trailing 13-7 at the half after Eric Comeaux made a 48-yard return of Wright?s fumble and Carmona hit receiver Ethan Jeffcoat for a 15-yard score on the next play.

PN-G had 334 yards of total offense to Barbers Hill’s 200 yards. Running back Kade Bradford rushed for 37 yards on seven carries and receiver Carter Smith had six catches for 44 yards.