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Titans overcome mistakes, hold off Central

Port Arthur Memorial won a Dickens of a game against Central to open the 2012 season.

It was the best of games and the worst of games for the Titans. It was an offensive explosion and a point- scoring drought. It was a season for defensive standouts and a winter of big plays allowed. It was flurry of penalties and turnovers and a game-saving interception.

To be more concise, the Titans coaching staff will appreciate this win even as they start working immediately on all the problems exposed in a 23-20 victory over the Jaguars.

“We’ve just got to play better,” Memorial head coach Kenny Harrison said. “It’s early in the season and our kids are working hard. As a coaching staff, we have to do a better job. We’re going to get back to work, eliminate those mental mistakes and just get better. You’re not going to win many ball with penalties like this.”

The Titans had 402 yards of total offense, including 235 through the air. Roderic Rucker scored on a 45-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and quarterback Ricky Fisk completed nine straight passes at one point.

However, the Titans scored just three points in the entire second half and just nine after the first quarter. Time after time, Memorial came up short in crucial situations.

“We have to do a better job executing,” Harrison said. “We have to do a better job in the red zone. Our red zone offense wasn’t where it needed to be.”

Penalties and turnovers were the story of the game for the Titans. In the first 14 minutes of the game, Memorial had seven penalties for 75 yards. That kept the Jaguars alive on their first TD drive, with quarterback Robert Mitchell scoring on an 8-yard run. For the game, Memorial finished with 10 penalties for 105 yards.

The Titans also had basically a 20-point swing because of two turnovers. The first came when Fisk fumbled on an option read to the right, letting Centrals’ Wesley Johns scoop the ball up for a 20-yard fumble recovery TD and leaving it 7-6 after a missed PAT.

That’s six points of the swing. The next 14 came on a sequence in the fourth quarter, with Memorial just missing out on a TD and then giving up multiple big plays to let Central score.

Fisk came back into the game for the first series of the fourth quarter and led the Titans on an 11-play drive down to the 1-yard line. The Titans got close the play before when running back Shaq Angelle appeared to cross the goal line. The public address announcer called it a touchdown, but the referees ruled him down at the 1.

On the next play, Fisk was sacked. On the play after that, he threw an interception to Garrison Mitchell.

“We have to eliminate turnovers and mental mistakes,” Harrison said. “You can’t do that stuff.”

Central capitalized on the mometum swing, with Mitchell showing off an impressive skill set. The run-pass threat tormented the good Memorial pass rush by stepping up in the pocket and then escaping downfield for big gains. That’s exactly what happened when he found Nicalus Rhone on a 50-yard pass following Fisk’s interception.

Three plays later, he found Chris Allen with a 9-yard pass to move Central within striking distance of the Titans at 23-20.

At that point, Memorial again drove down the field into scoring range, but couldn’t capitalize and gave the ball back to Central on it own 27 with just over two minutes to play. After a couple Mitchell scrambles, James Jenkins put an end to the game, intercepting a ball Mitchell threw to the sideline and then running out the clock.

Fisk opened the game 3 for 6, with the big play to Rucker coming on a post route in the middle of the field. From that point, he completed those nine passes for 135 yards, finding all four of his receivers, including Brandon Leday on a 12-yard TD just before the end of the first quarter.

Some of the plays were bubble screens, with Albert Jacobs and John Leday making big yards by finding blocks and using their speed to turn up the field. Some were just nice plays in the middle of the field, with Rucker and Brandon Leday grabbing first downs in front of the coverage.

That streak fell apart in the second half, though, when Fisk had to leave the game with a leg cramp. Backup Tayylor Labrie came in and was able to run for 25 yards on four carries, but couldn’t keep the offensive momentum going for the Titans.

Fisk finished 15 for 27 for 235 yards with two touchdowns and an interception and a lost fumble. Angelle had 19 carries for 65 yards while Fisk had 16 for 56 yards. Rucker led the team in receiving yards with four catches for 93 yards. Albert Jacobs had six catches for 61 yards while John Leday ahd five for 70.

Memorial will travel to Beaumont Ozen at 7 p.m. next Saturday while Central will play Beaumont West Brook at 7 p.m. Friday.