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Past successes don’t count in Dogs-Horns

5A DIVISION I: AREA NEDERLAND (8-3) VS. GEORGE RANCH (11-0)

• When: 7 tonight

• Where: Berry Center (Cypress-Fairbanks ISD stadium, 8877 Barker Cypress Road, Cypress)

• Radio: KLVI-AM 560

• Seating: Nederland fans on visitors’ side

• Next for winner: Bryan-Magnolia West winner in regional semifinals

George Ranch has fallen short of the state semifinals each of the past two seasons, but the Longhorns are still one of the more consistent football programs in Texas Class 5A.

“We’ve been fortunate to go 13-1, 12-2 the past two years,” coach Ricky Tullos said. “All these kids who are seniors have been a part of that. Some of them have been here three years. I think that confidence has built. A lot of continuity and consistency.”

It’s hard to overlook what the Longhorns have done in recent memory, including their 11-0 record this season.

“Speed, speed, speed, both sides of the ball,” Nederland coach Larry Neumann said. “They remind me a lot of Crosby in the skill sets that they have. Defensively, they’re physical. They’re big. They run well. They’re a bona fide state contender, no doubt about that.”

Much of that speed comes from the Longhorns’ standout rusher Darius Anderson, who’s committed to Missouri. Anderson has 1,125 yards and 18 touchdowns rushing, gaining 7.4 yards per carry, according to statistics compiled by the Houston Chronicle.

Their second-leading rusher, Alex Fontenot, is just 88 yards away from 1,000.

“We want to run the football and play great defense, no matter what level you’re at,” Tullos said.

The Longhorns are heavier with the run, which is a change from New Caney, Nederland’s bi-district round opponent in the 5A Division I playoffs. And Anderson is another top-tier running back Nederland’s multi-faceted defense will have to slow down to have a chance to win.

It’s not that George Ranch quarterback Antonio Jackson (1,115 passing yards, five touchdowns on 57-of-98 passing) can’t beat Nederland (8-3) with the big play.

“I think they’re much more run-oriented,” Neumann said. “They don’t throw the ball like New Caney, but they do.”

For its part, George Ranch has a big task on its hands — slowing down a Nederland team that rallied off 504 total yards and held New Caney to 215. Nederland gave up only 88 yards rushing.

Neumann expects tonight’s area round game, in which the Bulldogs are looking for their first win in the stage since 2012, to be “the same song and dance”: Nederland’s  defense will be charged with getting off the field more than George Ranch and giving its high-powered offense, which stars its own all-state running back candidate in Austin Krautz, a chance to score more points.

Neumann acknowledges this will be “a heck of a challenge,” but added that records don’t matter.

“There are going to be two teams that meet at the Berry Center at 7 p.m. Friday and we’re going to play 48 minutes of football,” Neumann said. “Your resume will get you no points. Your record will get you no points. Your speed and size and quickness will get you no points. It’s the best football team that will prevail and at the end of the football game will have the most points and advance. We know what we’re up against, and we’re excited about that opportunity. We’ll see how it goes.”

NEDERLAND-GEORGE RANCH MATCHUP

NOTE: George Ranch stats via chron.com

Offense

Nederland: 399.1 yards per game (222.7 rushing, 176.4 passing); leaders Austin Krautz (junior RB, 1,745 yards and 21 touchdowns on 214 carries), Mitchell LeBaron (senior QB, 1,909 yards, 21 touchdowns on 135-of-244 passing, 8 interceptions); Dean Fisher (junior WR, 523 yards, 6 touchdowns on 34 receptions)

• George Ranch: 361.8 yards per game (257.7 rushing, 104.1 passing); leaders Darius Anderson (senior RB, 1,125 yards, 18 touchdowns on 152 carries); Antonio Jackson (junior QB, 1,115 yards and 5 touchdowns on 57-of-98 passing, 5 interceptions), and Broderick Thompson (senior WR, 246 yards on 16 receptions), Quinton Morris (junior WR, 211 yards, 2 touchdowns on eight receptions)

Defense

• Nederland: 328 yards per game allowed (202.6 rushing, 125.4 passing)

• George Ranch: team stats not available (Mikial Onu, senior CB, has five interceptions)

Sound bytes

• Nederland coach Larry Neumann: “It’ll be a huge test for our players. We’ve been blessed with good health. I think our players are excited about the opportunity.  They’ve seen them. They know what they’re up against. We’re going to have to play a higher-level performance if we expect to win.”

• George Ranch coach Ricky Tullos, on facing a Nederland defense that shows multiple formations: “Week in and week out, we see something different. We never know what we’re going to get. I don’t see it being any different Friday night.”

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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