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Port Arthur Memorial Titans snap streak, beat West Brook

When Nathan Holmes broke the first play of Memorial’s game Friday night against West Brook for a 48-yard gain, it set a tone.

It wasn’t the tone of a blowout, but it did forebode a special night for Holmes, the big-play potential of the Titans and how important the running game would be for Memorial in a 32-27 victory over the Bruins at Memorial Stadium.

It was Memorial’s first victory in the series since Jamaal Charles roamed the sidelines for the Titans in 2004 and improved their record to 8-0 for the first time in school history. In snapping a string of six consectuive losses to West Brook, the Titans beat former TJ quarterback Craig Stump for the first time in his seven seasons as the Bruins head coach.

With North Shore’s loss to La Porte coupled with this victory, the Titans have clinched a spot in the Class 5A playoffs as well.

“I’m happy that we’re 8-0 and 3-0 in district,” Memorial head coach Kenny Harrison said. “That’s a big time plus, so I’m excited. All the credit goes to the kids. I couldn’t have a better group of kids. I love these kids, they come out and do everything we ask of them. This is all about them and the will and character they have to win ball games.”

Holmes finished the night with 208 rushing yards on 22 carries. The senior, who has committed to the University of Arkansas, also had two catches for 68 yards and five different plays of 29 or more yards. As a whole, the Memorial offense had nine plays of 29 yards or more and 520 yards of total offense. The Titans also ran for 380 yards and have totaled 99 carries for 743 yards in the past two weeks on the ground.

Holmes had 270 of those rushing yards in the past two games. Against West Brook, he showed great speed, but also a physicality, extending a run down the sideline in the second half with a stiff arm and getting yards all game on his second effort.

“Nate Holmes is a legitimate football player,” Harrison said. “Holmes and Terrence Singleton are a great 1-2 punch. They do a great job for us, as well as our offensive line. Running behind a great o-line, they’re both great competitors and I’m just glad they’re both on my team.”

The Titans quickly jumped out to a 7-0 lead four plays in the game. After Holmes big run, quarterback Terrence Singleton found Jhajuan Seales with an 8-yard pass and then picked up a first down with a 10-yard run. That set up Holmes for his first touchdown of the night, a 5-yarder with 10 minutes, 45 seconds left in the first half.

West Brook never quite went away in this one, despite missing leading rusher Percy Johnson, who did not play due to an injury. The Bruins quickly answering the Titans’ opening score with a 15-play, 60-yard drive that featured a fourth-and-16 conversion by Bruins senior quarterback Joshua Stump, who found Ladarious Spearman for a 19-yard gain on the play.

“They line up the same way every time and I think we can beat their DBs,” Craig Stump said. “I trusted our guys on that and I think we can beat one-on-one. At that point in the game, I thought we needed to score.”

Memorial scored the next 18 points in the game on two field goals and two touchdowns with missed PATs. The first touchdown came with 31 seconds left in the first half after the Titans defense forced a rare 3-and-out from the West Brook 15. Singleton then found Seales in man coverage and hit him on his outside shoulder in the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown.

Seales finished with five catches for 72 yards while Singleton was 7-for-14 passing for 140 yards. His counterpart Stump did considerably better against a depleted Titans secondary. Cornerback Jalen Barnes was available, but did not start the game and was replaced by junior James Jenkins.

Stump was able to consistently find open receivers on the sidelines against the Titans, driving down for a score that would have given the Bruins a 14-7 lead at the beginning of the second quarter. On first-and-goal from the Memorial 10, Stump threw into the end zone and was picked off by Jaylon Howard, stopping the West Brook drive and giving Memorial some momentum. Howard came up with another pick on a tipped ball in the fourth quarter, which was his sixth interception of the season, but had to leave the game after injuring his ankle on the play.

Memorial had slowed Stump down a bit by moving to a 3-4 look with Howard and Darius Lemora at safety and Jenkins and sophomore Roderic Rucker at cornerback. Once Howard was injured, the Titans were forced to put Barnes back in the game and move back to their base 4-4-3 look.

“Jalen (Barnes) had a leg injury and missed quite a bit of practice the past two weeks, so he just didn’t have the reps in there,” Harrison said. “We were not really experimenting, but we were looking at all our options to put us in the best position to win. That’s what we did tonight.”

Stump threw for 328 yards and four touchdowns in the game, completing 28 of 41 passes. Spearman led the Bruins with nine catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns while Keelan Martin had seven catches for 85 yards and a score. Stump also led West Brook with 107 rushing yards on 20 carries, accounting for 435 of their 448 total yards.

He also almost led the Bruins to a comeback twice. He cut Memorial’s lead to five points with 5:49 left when he found Spearman with a 6-yard pass to cap a seven-play, 61 yard drive. The Bruins went for two, but after an illegal procedure penalty moved them back to the seven, the Titans stopped Stump’s run and the conversion failed.

That’s when the Titans almost put the game away, but Memorial’s lone turnover came at the end of a 29-yard run by Singleton. Cornerback Marcus Gray knocked the ball out of Singleton’s hands and then recovered it at the West Brook 5. Fortunately, the Titans defense came up big with another 3-and-out, followed by Singleton redeeming himself with a 47-yard touchdown run with 1:21 left to play.

Memorial (8-0, 3-0 in 21-5A) will play at La Porte next week while West Brook (5-3, 1-2) will host Channelview.