‘Dogs, Indians eye District 20-4A play

Published 7:06 pm Tuesday, September 18, 2012

High school football’s schedule is unique from both college and the pros. In the NFL, the preseason games don’t count toward a team’s overall record. In college, non-conference games count, because the collegiate polls make a difference in a team’s postseason fate.

In high school, non-district games count, but they don’t.

For most of the District 20-4A football teams, that non-district schedule is done and teams can start focusing on the games that will decide who goes to the playoffs. The Nederland Bulldogs (2-1) enter their bye after suffering a loss to a potential playoff team for a second straight season.

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The Bulldogs won’t have much time to dwell on that 39-31 defeat to Angleton with 3-0 Vidor looming.

“It’s a week from Friday,” Nederland head coach Larry Neumann said. “We clearly know when it is. We’re going to prepare like it’s a normal week, but we’re not waiting to prepare for them. We’re going to use that extra time to help us out.”

Nederland is third in 20-4A in total offense, averaging 321 yards per game this season. Vidor leads the district with 464 yards per game while Ozen is second at 334.5. Defensively, Nederland is also third, allowing 244 yards per game, just behind Livingston (242) and Vidor (133).

Looking back at where his team was to start the year and where they are now, Neumann pointed to the running game and the offensive line as areas where he’s pleased with the progress.

“Going into the season, the areas of greatest concern were offensive line and running back,” Neumann said. “I’m probably most pleased with how we’ve progressed in those areas. The key for us is always going to be continuity in personnel. We’ve been a little up and down through the first three games. Some of that has had to do with the quality of opponent, but I think we’ve moved in the right direction. We like how far we’ve come, but we’re not where we need to be to do the things we want this season and still need to improve.”

Offensively, the Bulldogs have been led by running back Kendrick Hopkins, who has 288 rushing yards on 51 carries. Quarterback Carson Raines has completed 30 of 55 passes for 403 yards with six TDs and four interceptions. Raines has also rushed for 80 yards and four TDs on 28 carries. Only two backs in 20-4A have more TDs than Raines.

The senior’s favorite receiving target this season has been Seth Barrow, who is third in district in catches with 10 for 132 yards and three TDs. Michael Shaw is just behind with seven for 132 yards and two TDs.

At Port Neches-Groves (1-2), the non-district schedule has been used to evaluate a number of positions, including quarterback. Head coach Brandon Faircloth is pleased, though, with his team’s resolve and perspective after the Indians lost 34-13 to West Orange-Stark and 54-14 to Humble Summer Creek.

“I’m pleased with our effort and our resolve,” Faircloth said. “I think our team understands that we’ve played two really good teams. Two years ago, we opened the season 1-4 and were still practicing on Thanksgiving Day. We have to use these games to get better and focus on getting into the playoffs.”

The normally explosive Indian offense has been ineffective through three games, as PN-G is averaging just 177 yards of total offense. Part of that has been due to the instability at the quarterback position, where the Indians went into the season with 6-foot-5 senior A.J. Smith as the starter. Sophomore Ky Walker, however, will go into district with the job as Smith slides out to receiver.

The offensive struggles have not been solely hung on the QB play, as the running game has also struggled to get going. Faircloth said things are progressing, but that the Indians just need to get more consistent across the board.

“We have to move the ball better on offense,” Faircloth said. “That being said, we’ve gone up against two really good defenses the past two weeks. But, we have to get better on offense. We have to score points. That means we need to improve across the board. We need to get better at the quarterback position. Our offensive line has to get better. Our backs have to improve and our receivers need to get better. We have to get more consistent on that side of the ball.”

Smith is the team’s leading passer, completing 29 of 60 passes this season for 257 yards with three TDs and two INTs. Walker is 10 for 22 with 126 yards and one INT while rushing for 29 yards on six carries.

Spencer Wommack has been the team’s leading rusher, gaining 99 yards on 34 carries. Last week, the team’s leading rusher was senior Diego Medina, who had 86 yards on 14 carries. The Indians have not had a 100-yard rusher in any game this season.

Tight end Tim Clopton has led the receiving corps with 15 catches for 153 yards and two TDs. Jeremiah Rose is close behind with 11 catches for 124 yards.

Around the rest of the league, Vidor seems to be capitalizing on a ton of returning experience from the team that went three rounds deep into the playoffs last season. The Pirates have won all three of their games this year, giving up just three TDs total in the process. Last week against Class 5A’s Clear Brook was the first time in 2012 that Vidor did not score at least 40 points.

Beaumont Ozen is one of many 1-2 teams heading into the bye. Ozen beat crosstown rival Beaumont West Brook to open the season, with quarterback Jordan Ozen throwing for over 400 yards. Since then, the Panthers have dropped a pair of games, 37-15 to Port Arthur Memorial and 31-6 to Class 3A Stephenville.

Beaumont Central (0-3) has played three pretty good teams and been in each game, but the Jaguars have little to show for it. They opened the season with a 23-20 loss to Memorial, before falling in a close game to West Brook in the next week and then losing 14-0 to West Orange-Stark last week.

Lumberton (0-3) has had the roughest go of any 20-4A team to start the season. The Raiders have only scored eight points this season and have given up the most in the district (119). Lumberton opened the season with a 20-0 loss to Goose Creek Memorial before losing 58-8 to Barbers Hill. Last week, the Raiders fell 41-0 to Silsbee.

Two teams in 20-4A took their bye last week, as Livingston (0-2) and Little Cypress-Mauriceville (0-2) will finish their non-district schedule this week. Both teams were idle last Friday. Livingston last played against Dayton in Week 1, falling 28-13. The Lions opened the season with a 39-21 loss to The Woodlands College Park.

LC-M has gone 0fer against District 21-3A after opening the season with an 18-0 loss to West Orange-Stark and then falling 40-37 to Silsbee in Week 1. LC-M will host Coldspring-Oakhurst this week while Livingston will play at Silsbee.