‘Battle of wills’: Nederland’s defense meets Vidor’s Slot-T

Published 11:07 pm Tuesday, September 20, 2016

NEDERLAND — The yardage Vidor racks up with a Slot-T offense in an age of Spread-dominated football is astounding.

The Pirates (3-1, 2-0 in District 22-5A) have averaged 448.7 yards per game just rushing the football.

For the season, they’ve thrown for 10 yards.

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This is the offense Nederland (2-2, 2-0) must slow down Friday night.

“I don’t think there’s a scheme you run against and say, ‘Hey, this is how you stop it,’” Nederland coach Larry Neumann said. “You’re going to be in a battle of wills. We know that every year. We’ll run some schemes and they’re going to run their offense with the multiple things they do with that offense.
“But it’s not any one thing that we’re doing. It’s completing a mission, whether we’re on offense or defense, that’s going to be the difference in that game.”

A year ago, the Pirates came so close finishing a mission in Nederland.

They were on their way to a 438-yard rushing game and had the ball with less than 2 minutes to go when a bad handoff resulted in a fumble recovery for the Bulldogs, who escaped with a 36-30 win. Nederland had just taken the lead on Dean Fisher’s 23-yard touchdown catch from Mitchell LeBaron.

It’s a whole new year for the Slot-T at Vidor. All four backs rank among the top eight in the district in rushing.

Halfback Haylon Leckelt leads 22-5A with 511 yards (9.46 yards per carry) and five touchdowns. Classmate Maverick Quirante, who missed last season with an ACL tear, has 470 yards and is second in the district as a quarterback.

Senior Kolby Humble, who was quarterback for Quirante last year, averages 11.26 per carry and has 349 on the season as a tailback. Hogan Stogner is the fullback and grinds out 247 yards.

The Bulldogs saw the Slot-T for the first time last week at Baytown Lee, but Neumann cautioned the Ganders aren’t as seasoned in the offense as the Pirates are. Jeff Mathews, the Pirates’ head coach since 1999, first installed the offense around 2004.

“It came at a point when everybody in the district had gone to the Spread,” Mathews said. “We didn’t have the athletes everyone else had. … Athletic-wise, we can’t match up. So, we thought that would shorten the game and give the kids a chance to be successful.”

The years of seasoning have worked. Already, the Pirates have matched their win total from last season.

“Vidor’s had it in for a while. You can tell they have,” Neumann said of the offense. “They’re experts at how they run it. It’s not what they do as much as how they do it. Good teams, that’s usually the deal. There are a lot of good teams offensively. Slot-T, Wishbone, … you name it.
“It’s a culture in Vidor to run that attack. Jeff Mathews and his staff created that culture sometime back to their credit. Their team has bought into it. Every year, it’s the same approach as far as defending it. We know what we’re going to get out of it.
Out of the 23 years I’ve been here, if this is not his best team, it’s got to be in the top three or four he’s had, not just offensively but across the board.”

The Bulldogs have talked daily about having the discipline to carry out every individual assignment to contain such a powerful, old-school offense. The key, Neumann thinks, is to have the same intensity of defending against any other offense as a team would the Slot-T, rather than contest it the same way.

“As long as I do what I’m supposed to do and everybody does what they’re supposed to do, we should have no problem,” Nederland defensive end Tiren Forney said. “That’s what we work on day in, day out.”

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

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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