Getting defensive: Memorial unit revamped with new coaches

Published 11:52 pm Tuesday, August 9, 2016

There is no question the Port Arthur Memorial Titans have struggled on defense over the last two seasons.

Memorial gave up 35.4 points per game in 2014, and the number went up to 40 in District 21-6A play. The average went down a bit in 2015 with the Titans giving up 31.4 points overall and 33.5 in league contests.

The most points given up by the Titans gave up the last two years both came against a team Memorial does not face in 2016 with the school’s move down to District 22-5A. Channelview scored 70 in Port Arthur in 2014, and the Falcons racked up 56 points a year ago.

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This year’s defensive unit has nowhere to go but up behind the likes of cornerback Kary Vincent Jr. and linebacker Jacorien Barnes.

“I feel real good about those guys and Kainen Collins, who is a returning starter on our line,” Memorial coach Kenny Harrison said. “We have added some new coaches, a new defensive coordinator and Thomas Brooks has come into the fold.”

Harrison hired Cody Haug as the Titans’ new defensive coordinator. Haug mostly recently coached linebackers at Spring DeKaney. The Wildcats went 5-5 the last two seasons.

Brooks is a former head coach at Ozen (2002-04). The Panthers won a district championship in his first season and reached the playoffs two out of his three seasons.

Brooks also made a stop in Katy, where he coached on the defensive side of the ball under Gary Joseph. The Tigers have lost five games since 2010 with state

championships in 2012 and 2015. Brooks coached the defensive line the last three years and Katy went 46-2 in that time frame.

“Those two guys, with the mix of the guys we had in the past, have brought a lot more energy,” Harrison said. “The kids are fired up, and up to this point, we have had great practices on the defensive side.

“I feel real good about our defense. It is always good to get off to a fast start. I think our kids need that. One good thing is playing the Florida team locally. So we don’t have to travel to Houston.”

The Titans open at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29, at the Thomas Center against Bay High of Panama City, Fla. Memorial scrimmages at Pearland at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

Barnes said he and the rest of his defensive teammates are eager to erase the past.

“We are getting better day-by-day,” Barnes said. “Our alignments are much better. I have to step up as a leader and lead the defense along with Kary Vincent.

“Sophomore year was hard. Last year was a little better and we have high hopes this year. We are itching to get on the field this year. We have to stay in shape.”

Harrison, like Barnes, is ready to have his Titans put on the pads and face someone else besides each other in practices.

“Our kids, a week after going up against each other, are ready to see another opponent,” Harrison said. “Practice against each other gets old after a while. Pearland is a legitimate opponent and that will be a test to show us where we are.”

This is the first season in Harrison’s eight years with Memorial that the Titans started fall practice at the same time as most schools. His Titans did not do spring practice this year.

“It’s had its ups and downs,” Harrison added. “One of the positives is last week we got to practice without any of the kids having to worry about the STAAR test and no teacher in-service days. We had the opportunity to get some quality work in with no distractions. I like it from that standpoint. Kids were always getting pulled out of practice in the spring for one reason or another.”

Gabriel Pruett: 721-2436. Twitter: @PaNewsGabe

About Gabriel Pruett

Gabriel Pruett has worked with both the Port Arthur News and Orange Leader since 2000. A majority of the time has been spent covering all aspects of Southeast Texas high school sports. Pruett's claim to fame is...being able to write his own biographical information for this website.

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