Titans’ Nunez needed one ‘mulligan’
Published 10:08 pm Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Hulices Nunez needed to take his mulligan at 7:06 on Friday night but high school football never has permitted such a golfing luxury.
Once a play has ended, it has ended. You never get to stand on the first tee, take out another golf ball and hit a second tee-shot unless the officials throw a flag and permit a re-kick.
Damon Heard enabled Beaumont Central to take a 6-0 lead by 7:07 p.m. The video showed the Jaguars’ kick returner catching the ball at his own 15-yard line and dashing 85 yards for a touchdown with the season’s pathetic start for Port Arthur Memorial’s football season.
Never mind that the Titans gained more first downs (14-13), more rushing yards (196-155) and more passing yards (76-64), the outcomes of so many evenly-matched games often hinge on turnovers and the kicking game.
Nunez did his best to help Memorial’s kicking game after 7:07 p.m. He converted three of three extra-point kicks. The 16-year-old son of Jesus and Catalina Nunez earned the opening-week District 21-5A punting lead with a 36-yard average too.
Unfortunately for Hulices, the junior Port Arthur kicker never got to use his “mulligan” on the opening kickoff.
“Overall that was my best game, but I wish I could have that opening kickoff to kick again,” Nunez said Wednesday. “I was nervous and excited about the moment. They made a hole up the middle and their guy ran through it.
“The only thing I saw was him breaking loose. I tried to get near him but he was a fast player. I didn’t have a real good angle on him but I didn’t get any closer than two feet of him.”
Beaumont Central’s kick returner swerved to his left with a nice cut at about Central’s 45 and angled toward the visitor’s sideline. Nunez and Titans’ deep safety defender Michael Johnson remained but Nunez lacked the speed to make the play and Johnson missed a tackle attempt.
“I feel like if they hadn’t scored on that kickoff, we probably would have won the game,” Nunez said.
Instead Heard dashed into the south end zone, the west side home stands and sideline erupted and the Titans fans had to be initially deflated. Memorial struggled on other kicking game moments and suffered a 28-21 loss that appeared to be a game that easily could have landed in Port Arthur’s win column, not Beaumont’s.
“I felt badly that I didn’t get him and I was disappointed,” the junior kicker continued. “There was a sadness afterwards. We had a dark feeling inside, especially when we came back here to the school.”
Ahh, but here’s the wonderful thing about football. It’s a terrific team-first sport. The rest of Memorial’s team shared that dark feeling. Those same Titans (0-1) have the same sets of shoes in which to celebrate on this Friday night in Port Arthur’s Memorial Stadium when they entertain Beaumont Ozen (0-1) on The Port Arthur News Friday Night Experience game of the week at 7:30 p.m.
The Titans likely will return home with less jitters in their tummies and more focus on the jobs that Port Arthur’s kickoff team performs. Ten other Titans on the kickoff team have a chance to tackle that Central kick returner, too. A quick check of the Central video revealed that a great number of Memorial’s kickoff team members failed to execute their responsibilities on the season’s opening seconds.
Central’s touchdown-maker could have angled toward Central’s sideline and scored because that side of the field looked to be sealed off. It’s a time-honored rule that kickoff team members have to maintain their spaces and their lanes. Excitement, nerves and inexperience caused the talented and capable Memorial players to forget their assignments. Special teams coach Curtis Viola knows that it’s all about execution. Viola definitely expects significant execution improvement this week minus the heavy case of the nerves.
“Hulices kicked it right down the middle and he was supposed to kick it to the side,” Viola said. “But regardless of where he kicks it, we’ve still got to cover.
“We did a lot of things well in the special teams too. We recovered an onside kick with less than three minutes left. And Hulices had a good game. He’s been a real good dependable kicker for us.”
A year of experience has changed Nunez’s mental approach to the game.
“I was too nervous as a sophomore,” he recalled. “I didn’t expect to be a varsity kicker last year. This year I feel more confident.”
… even without any mulligans.
Two potentially valuable team members returned to the Titans program this week after missing pre-season practice — junior returning wide receiver Vincent Wilson and junior 300-pound defensive lineman Javone Sloan. Both likely will suit out this week but neither will start…. Titans have a few lineup changes though. Titans receivers have been dropping like flies. Senior Chris Reed missed the PN-G scrimmage and the Central opener with a dislocated wrist. Reed is out for the Ozen game, too… Senior receiver Shaquille White was considered to be questionable for Ozen after he missed Central due to a shoulder bruise… Senior inside backer Paul Roy is expected to draw the nod adjacent to Earl Hines but last week’s starter Javonte Stephens will play. To go with Nate Davis and K’Sean Wesley in Memorial’s base three-receiver alignment, junior Shawndrick Overton (5-10, 155) is ticketed to receive his first start vs. Ozen… Jim Barton and Bob West will be mikeside for The Port Arthur News Friday Night Experience from the new Memorial Stadium press box. Work on the newly installed press box elevator was still being completed on Wednesday afternoon, according to PAISD executive athletic director Andre Boutte.