Offense vs. offense: Indians, Pirates close in big numbers

Published 12:13 am Friday, October 7, 2016

By I.C. Murrell
Port Neches-Groves will be tested at tonight. So will Vidor.
Another first-place showdown will kick off when PNG hosts the team with the leading offense in District 22-5A. But as prolific as Vidor (5-1, 4-0 in 22-5A) has been on the ground, PNG (5-0, 4-0) has been just as effective with a very balanced offense.
“Brandon [Faircloth] is a mix-play guy,” Vidor coach Jeff Mathews said of PNG’s coach. “Whatever you try to stop that play, he’s got another play to come right back.
The Slot-T offense Mathews’ Pirates run has been a major talking point in Southeast Texas football. The unit has produced 2,626 total yards — 2,498 of those on the ground.
To no surprise of Mathews, his quarterback leads the entire district in rushing. Senior Maverick Quirante has 782 yards and eight touchdowns through six games.
The only way to counteract that offense is to slow it down, Faircloth said. It’s probably a common theme among Mathews’ counterparts.
“Coach Mathews and their coaches do a very good job, and you’ve got to play disciplined football and not be selfish,” Faircloth said. “Take care of your job and wrap up well. Those backs and quarterback, they run hard. They’re a prolific offense, no question about that.”
PNG’s offense, having played one less game than Vidor, gathers 433 yards per game, just 4.7 shy of the Pirates. Behind sophomore Roschon Johnson, the district’s leading passer just 30 yards shy of 1,000 on the season, the Indians have produced 53 percent of their yardage passing the ball.
The Indians also boast the second-leading rusher, junior Preston Hughes, and second-leading receiver, junior Preston Riggs, in 22-5A. They’ll go against the second-ranked defense in 22-5A, and that battle begins in the trenches.
“It’s going to be a war,” PNG offensive line coach Peter Medlock said. “They’re very good up front. They’re physical. They get off the ball well. They get off blocks well. Their linebackers run to the ball extremely well. They’re an unbelievable challenge for us.”
The Pirates have not been shy about passing the ball the past two weeks. Prior to playing Nederland, they had passed for 10 yards on the season. Now, they have 128.
It’s just been a matter of what defenses have given them, according to Mathews.
Plenty is at stake, of course, in a first-place battle. If the Indians win, they and Port Arthur Memorial will hook up next Friday in Port Arthur as the only two unbeaten teams, provided Memorial wins at Lumberton tonight.
If the Pirates prevail, they only have fourth-place Livingston at home, a trip to last-place Baytown Lee and an off-week before a Week 11 clash at home against Memorial.
This game goes a long way toward shaping the district race. But where two offenses are gathered, Faircloth is counting on his defense to be in the midst.
“Our defense has played really well over the first five games,” Faircloth said. “Our defense has stopped the run and done really well vs. the pass. We’ve got to play great defense here at PNG, especially in this district, where we play all these great offenses. Putting a good defense on the field is very important every year, and that’s been the reason for our success so far this year.”

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

• When: 7 tonight
• Where: The Reservation
• Radio: KCOL-FM 92.5
• District records: Vidor 4-0, PNG 3-0
• Series record: PNG leads 41-11-2; last meeting, PNG won 50-7 in 2015

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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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