Nederland wears down Livingston with ground game

Published 1:25 am Saturday, September 10, 2016

NEDERLAND — The rushing game for Nederland took pressure off quarterback Kevin Laday in his first varsity start.
Devon Simmons ran for four touchdowns, four other Bulldogs scored as well, and the Bulldogs began their District 22-5A co-championship defense with a 51-9 win over Livingston on homecoming night.
“We practiced hard, so I had to come out and show out,” said Simmons, a junior.
Simmons carried 17 times for 118 yards before going down with an apparent right ankle injury with about 2 minutes to go in the third quarter. Simmons hopes to be back next Friday when Nederland (1-2, 1-0 District 22-5A) visits Baytown Lee.
Bulldogs coach Larry Neumann said the preliminary report on Simmons’ injury was favorable.
The backfield carried on for the Bulldogs in Simmons’ absence. Kevon Latulas (23-yard run), Sean Nguyen (14) and Ryan LeLeux (2) each scored in a 21-point fourth quarter, helping Nederland total 265 rushing yards and taking a little pressure off their quarterback.
“It’s always pleasing to a coach to see guys that are put into roles maybe they didn’t think they were going to have and perform well,” Neumann said.
Laday, the Port Arthur Memorial transfer, accounted for 140 passing yards completing 10 of 16, building on a strong debut in the second half of last week’s narrow loss to Dayton. He completed four passes of 20 or more yards.
“I think he did a lot better this week with three days’ work,” Neumann said. “And that’s admirable. The young man is absorbing as much as he can, and we’re throwing quite a bit at him, and we think he’s going to continue to get better and more comfortable. The quarterback needs to be comfortable with everything, the management of the offense and the people around him. And he’s moving in that direction quickly.”
Laday also tossed two hard-luck interceptions. Cameron Mitchell snagged the first in the end zone on man-to-man coverage against Connor Perkins early in the second quarter, and just before halftime a pass bounced out of Dean Fisher’s hands into B.J. Mottu’s in the red zone.
Laday drove Nederland down to the 1 after 27-yard completions to Simmons and Perkins before a false-start penalty and sack hindered that series.
The Bulldogs benefited from solid field position throughout the game. Simmons carried for 33 yards on their first play from scrimmage and punched the ball in the end zone from 2 yards out two plays later.
Livingston struck back thanks in large part to quarterback Cameron Merchant. He completed a 32-yarder to Cade Campbell and, after a 15-yard interference call against Nederland, hit Mitchell for 20 yards and a score. But the extra-point attempt went wide right.
Laday engineered a four-play, 53-yard series on the ensuing possession, scoring from 9 yards out still in the first frame. An intentional grounding call against Merchant on Livingston’s next series padded Nederland’s lead to 16-6.
Simmons gave Nederland a 23-6 lead on a 9-yard scamper with 5:17 left before intermission. He had 80 yards on nine carries at the break.
“We had to focus on our offense first,” he said, asked about getting off to a better start in a game. “We couldn’t come out and make dumb mistakes. We played better than last week, and we keep improving every week.”
Simmons rushed for a 6-yard score on the opening drive of the second half that covered 55 yards in eight plays.
Nguyen had 62 yards on eight second-half carries.
Tiren Forney and Reilly Hebert had two sacks each and Brady Spell added another for Nederland. Alec Celaya picked off a pass late in the first quarter, but had a long return called back for offsetting penalties.
The loss was an ugly introduction to 22-5A for the Lions (1-2, 0-1), who moved up from Class 4A after turning in corrected enrollment numbers to the UIL last winter.

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

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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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