New faces step up for PN-G football in spring
Success has a price and in Texas high school football that cost is usually attrition. The Port Neches-Groves football team is no stranger to that, coming off two very successful, playoff-bound seasons but now facing a lot of new faces in the lineup next fall.
Those new faces will be on display at 7 p.m. Friday at The Reservation in the annual Purple-White spring game.
The most prominent of the graduating seniors the Indians are losing is quarterback Brennan Doty, who was named to the Port Arthur News Super Team as MVP. Doty will be a preferred walk-on at Oregon this fall, which leaves a big hole for PN-G head coach Brandon Faircloth to fill.
Luckily for Indian fans, Faircloth has the skills and experience to make a seamless transition to expected starter, senior Travis Miller.
“I’ve done this before, that’s for sure [breaking in a new quarterback],” Faircloth said. “He did a little apprenticeship last year as backup to Brennan. It’s his third year in this offense, so hopefully, he feels comfortable back there and it’ll be a smooth transition.”
Miller started for the JV team as a sophomore and led that unit to a 10-0 record. He was Doty’s backup last season, learning some valuable lessons from the star QB. That also means he’s heading into his third season in Faircloth’s offense and shouldn’t have much of a learning curve.
Miller will also have a pair of helping hands making it easier for him on offense. Running back Chase Bertrand returns after making the Associated Press Class 4A all-state team as an honorable mention. Bertrand rushed for 1,885 yards in his first season on varsity,
It was the second-highest single season rushing total in school history and enabled him to become one of six offensive players from the Indians named to the PA News Super Team, including wide receiver Jayce Nelson, who is also returning next year.
One of the strengths of PN-G’s team last season was its linemen. The Indians boasted a powerful offensive unit, placing three players on that Super Team and leading the way for Bertrand all season. Unfortunately, Greg Lunceford, Gabe Langlois and Ben Parks were all seniors, so Faircloth is having to replace three of his five offensive linemen.
“We’ve got some good experience coming back,” Faircloth said. “We also lost some players who played a lot of minutes, but that’s how it always is. Spring practices are about putting kids in position to compete and seeing how they respond. We’ll scrimmage, get a chance to go out and tackle each other and heal up a bit over the summer. We’ve seen vast improvement so far this spring.”
Defensively, the Indians have faced a little turnover, losing defensive coordinator Duane Kroeker. Faircloth hasn’t decided on a replacement yet, instead relying on his defensive coaches as a unit to lead the team before he makes a decision on a permanent coordinator.
What Faircloth does know is that the overall philosophy of the unit won’t change, as the Indians will maintain a 3-4 front and have at least one lineman in Jacob Davis back.
Having completed 17 practices this spring, Faircloth is pleased with how the new Indians have looked. What’s impressed him even more is how hungry they are to stay on top.
“The biggest surprise for me this spring is been how coachable all these kids are,” Faircloth said. “They’re very hungry and ready to be successful next year. The seniors have stepped up and taken a leadership role. It’s real easy to sit back and get complacent when you have success like we did the past two seasons. I don’t sense that from these guys. We’ve had a lot of energy every day in practice.”