Indians leave Ganders grounded
By Daucy Crizer
The News correspondent
BAYTOWN — Senior Kody Cropper spearheaded a stellar ground attack to lead Port Neches-Groves to a convincing 45-10 win over Baytown Lee in the District 22-5A opener for both schools Thursday night at Stallworth Stadium.
“I thought we played well,” said PN-G coach Brandon Faircloth. “They [Lee] came out in a little bit different defense than we thought we were going to be getting, but our offensive line did a really good job.
“Overall, it was a great effort by the kids tonight. Wins aren’t easy to come by in this district, so every time you get one you have to be satisfied.”
The Indians gained 259 yards rushing on 39 carries, good for a healthy 6.6 yards per carry. PN-G also had 171 yards passing to amass 430 total yards of offense. The Indians defense held Lee to just 178 total yards, 114 on the ground and 64 in the air.
“That’s what they were giving us,” said Faircloth of the ground game. “They put some guys in our receivers’ faces and forced us to run the ball. Our O-line responded and our backs did a really good job running the ball. I’m very proud of them.”
Already leading 28-3, PN-G received the second-half kickoff, which was a failed onside attempt by the Ganders, and marched 49 yards in four plays to open the third quarter scoring. Adam Morse hit Jace Runnels for an 11-yard completion and Cropper rushed for 10 yards.
That set up a 33-yard scoring strike from Morse to Caisen Sullivan. To further prove to the Ganders that it just wasn’t their night, Lee blocked the extra point only to have Morse pick up the ball and hit Dylan McGough for a two-point conversion to make the score 36-3.
The Indians scored again early in the fourth quarter, with Morse connecting with McGough on an 8-yard touchdown pass to push the lead to 43-3. That capped a seven-play, 45-yard scoring drive.
PN-G added a safety with 5:42 left in the game. Punting from their own 8 yard line, a low snapped led to the punter being tackled in the end zone for a safety to make the score 45-3.
Lee put together its only scoring drive of the night to close out the game’s scoring. After taking over on downs from the Indians, Javarius Irving capped an 8-play scoring drive with a 12-yard touchdown run to make the final score 45-10.
“I’m very proud of our defense,” Faircloth said. “Their quarterback (Javarius Irving) is a very good player. I thought our defense did a very good job of getting off of blocks and making tackles.”
Cropper led all rusher with 165 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown. Runnels added 83 yards on 10 carries and a score. Morse completed 13 of 17 passes for 171 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for a score. Sullivan caught five passes for 86 yards and Jack Giblin had three catches for 31 yards.
“We tried to mix in the pass a little bit and not let them take that totally away,” said Faircloth. “Adam (Morse) did a good job and our receivers did a good job getting open. “
When asked about the connection Morse and Sullivan seemed to have going Thursday night, Faircloth responded, “They have a good connection every night. They have good chemistry and he just knows where Sullivan is going to be.”
After forcing a quick three-and-out on Lee’s opening possession of the game, PN-G drove right down the field to score on its first possession. Cropper capped the 9-play, 68-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run and a quick 7-0 lead.
After stopping the Ganders on downs, the Indians responded with another scoring drive. Cropper carried four times on the drive for 58 yards. Morse scored on a 3-yard quarterback keeper to take a 14-0 lead.
Lee answered with a scoring drive of its own on the ensuing possession. Zavier Wright carried twice for 19 yards to jump start the drive. Consecutive completions from Javarius Irving to Skylar Stewart of 14 and 6 yards put the ball at the PN-G 10. The drive stalled and Rigoberto Vargas connected on a 20-yard field goal to make the score 14-3.
The Indians went back to work in the second quarter with a 7-play, 77-yard scoring drive. Cropper carried four straight times for 30 yards and Morse hit Sullivan for a 23-yard completion. Jace Runnels capped the drive with a 6-yard TD run to extend the Indians lead to 21-3.
PN-G scored again on its final possession of the half. Taking over at their own 41 with 2:01 remaining, the Indians navigated the 59 yards in 1:02. Morse and Giblin connected on completions of 15 and 11 yards. Morse hit Sullivan on an 18-yard scoring strike to give the Indians a 28-3 halftime lead.
Irving completed 10 of 20 passes for 64 yards. He rushed for 45 yards on 15 carries and one touchdown. Wright added 56 yards on nine carries. Javier Estrada had four catches for 16 yards and Stewart finished with three catches for 32 yards.