The News sports department’s Top 10 Stories of 2015

Published 10:00 pm Friday, December 25, 2015


Should it be any surprise?

When a team wins a state championship, it tends to galvanize more than just the community it represents. An entire area is galvanized, and at least until the start of the following playoffs, it wears the crown of one of Texas’ football kings.

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Such is the case with West Orange-Stark. The Mustangs broke a 28-year championship drought by dominating the 4A Division II final against then-unbeaten Celina behind Jack Dallas’ 139 passing yards and two rushing touchdowns in a 22-3 win at Houston’s NRG Stadium.

The Mustangs’ successful bid to bring a state championship back to the Golden Triangle has resulted in another crown — The Port Arthur News’ top sports story of 2015, as determined by the newspaper’s sports reporters.

Dallas, who for that game, anyway, was nicknamed Jack Houston, was named the offensive most valuable player of the game, and Steven Tims (12 tackles, three for losses) received the defensive MVP honor.
It is the third state title in the Mustangs’ history and first under coach Cornel Thompson.


It’s a season rarely seen in Division I ranks.

Kade Harrington was said to put up arcade-like rushing numbers for the Lamar University football team this season, earning the 5-foot-9 junior from Kingwood the Twitter handle of #ArKADE. Harrington finished the season with 2,092 rushing yards, but he had already reached the 2,000-yard mark in his 10th game of the season, becoming the seventh player in all of Division I (Football Bowl and Championship subdivisions) to do so. To get an idea of how great that accomplishment is, Heisman winners Marcus Allen at Southern California and Barry Sanders at Oklahoma State did the same.

Harrington, whose 347 yards against Abilene Christian on Oct. 10 set a Southland Conference record, has since been named first-team All-American by the Associated Press, STATS LLC, College Sports Madness and the American Football Coaches Association. He is a finalist for the STATS National Offensive Player of the Year award, which will be awarded Jan. 8.


Finishing second in Texas’ highest classification in the many-disciplined sport of track and field is a difficult accomplishment, but the Port Arthur Memorial boys team did it.

In doing so, the Titans added some gold to along with their silver-plated wooden trophy for finishing second place to Manvel in 6A. The Memorial 4×200-meter team of JaCorie Jones, Corey Dauphine, Quantae Conner and Kameron Martin won its championship shortly after setting a nation-leading 1 minute, 23.84 seconds, in the area meet. The 4×100 team, which was second in the state, had the second-fastest time nationally at 40.59 seconds.

Standout Corey Dauphine, who redshirted this season as a Texas Tech running back, was voted Track Athlete of the Year by visitors of Texas MileSplit’s website.


Surely, this was somewhere to be found.

James Brindza created maybe the highlight of Nederland’s football season, booting a 20-yard field goal with 2 seconds left to give the Bulldogs a stunning 30-27 win on Port Neches-Groves’ field to keep the Bum Phillips Bowl trophy for a second year and sixth straight victory over the Indians in the Mid-County Madness rivalry.

PN-G tied the game with 2:01 left on Caisen Sullivan’s 18-yard pass from Adam Morse after trailing by as many as 18 points. Nederland marched right back down the field and Dean Fisher pulled down a difficult catch from 25 yards out with 13 seconds left. The Bulldogs milked since time off the clock before Brindza’s heroic kick.

The finish epitomized the classic saying by Jim McKay: “The thrill of victory … and the agony of defeat.”


For Port Neches-Groves, all was not lost following the Bum Phillips Bowl.

Nederland’s shocking loss at Goose Creek Memorial (for the second year in a row) opened the door for PN-G to eventually share the District 22-5A championship with the Bulldogs. It became the first district title for the Indians since Brandon Faircloth’s first season as head coach in 2009, but it marked the fifth straight time the Bulldogs won outright or shared the title.

The two teams’ first-round performances in the 5A playoffs were classic as well. Austin Krautz rushed for 205 yards in a 42-28 come-from-behind Division I win over New Caney in Beaumont, one night after PN-G stopped a two-point pass attempt with 1:11 left to preserve a 42-41 win over Dayton in Division II. It marked the first time in 11 years both Nederland and PN-G advanced to the second round, where both were eventually eliminated. (Eventual champion George Ranch ousted Nederland.)


Those three words put together made for big news.

The end of the greatest era in The News sports history finally came in June, when Missouri native Bob West wrote his last column after 43 years as sports editor. West is best known for his Homecoming Roasts that raised money for the Museum of the Gulf Coast, where he was enshrined last month.


The man with the highest career yards-per-carry average in NFL history was honored and roasted by The News on June 13.

At the Homecoming Roast for Jamaal Charles, a bronze bust of the Memorial alumnus-turned-Chiefs running back was unveiled. Sadly for Charles, he suffered a season-ending ACL injury in Week 5 of this season.


A year after Sam Houston State blasted Lamar 42-10 in Beaumont, the #ArKADE madness began. And it was right on time.

Harrington rushed 24 times for what was then a career-high 230 yards and two crucial touchdowns in a 49-46 win over the then-No. 3 Bearkats to open Southland play.


This coming baseball season will be the 39th and final one for Jim Gilligan as Lamar’s head coach. He announced his pending retirement on Sept. 21, but he will look forward to adding to a resume that includes 1,320 victories, 10 regular-season conference championships and 12 NCAA regional appearances.


The football program didn’t have all the fun at West Orange-Stark this calendar year, or the previous school year, for that matter.

The Mustangs finished 26-10 this past season and took on Argyle for the 4A state championship, falling 7-3.

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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