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Banged-up Bulldogs hanging on to playoff lives

Nederland-Ozen Matchup

Offense

  • Nederland: 291.4 yards per game (161.8 rushing, 129.6 passing); leaders Devon Simmons (junior RB, 418 yards on 76 carries with 5 touchdowns) and Dean Fisher (senior WR, 275 yards on 17 receptions with 3 touchdowns)
  • Ozen: 140.2 yards per game (84.5 rushing, 55.7 passing; leaders Dominique Morris (junior QB, 239 yards on 35-of-62 passing with 5 touchdowns)

Defense

  • Nederland: 277.6 yards per game (149.3 rushing, 128.3 passing)
  • Ozen: 336.8 yards per game (207 rushing, 129.8 passing)

Sound bytes

  • Nederland coach Larry Neumann: “We have had our share of documented adversity this year, and I am so proud of this team and how they have stayed the course. This team has not wavered.”
  • Ozen coach Edward Taylor: “My defense has a big task stopping those guys. They play a lot of man coverage on defense and do a good job forcing quarterbacks to throw in small windows.”

NEDERLAND — Nederland has definitely taken to the motto “Next man up” this season.

And for good reason.

The mentality takes another step Saturday when the Bulldogs face the Ozen Panthers at 2 p.m. at the Thomas Center in Beaumont.

Nederland is also facing another “playoff” game in sorts considering the next District 22-5A loss for the Bulldogs could spell the end to any hopes of making the playoffs.

“It is an old cliché, but we know we are playing with our backs up against the wall,” coach Larry Neumann said. “I am proud of this team. I don’t get any sense they are playing with too much pressure on them and they are not uptight.”

The Bulldogs are taking steps to getting healthy this week but will also be without one of their star defensive players. Tiren Forney has an arm injury and also suffered a concussion last week against Central.

Receiver Connor Perkins is back this week after suffering an injury against Port Arthur Memorial two weeks ago. Neumann said quarterback Marshall Lange has greatly improved with his ankle injury, and fellow quarterback Blaysin Fernandez has also recovered from a concussion.

“Our team will not accept any excuses for anything,” Neumann said.

Ozen coach Edward Taylor is one man who knows no matter who is in for the Bulldogs, Neumann will have his team ready.

“What I have learned about Nederland through the years is coach Neumann does a great job prepping whoever they put out there,” Taylor said. “Coach Neumann and [West Orange-Stark] coach [Cornel] Thompson always do a great job year in, year out. He [Neumann] deserves to be listed as one of the greats in this area.”

So who should Ozen expect to see at quarterback? Neumann said he plans to use both Fernandez and Lange along with senior Reid Garrett.

“It will depend on the circumstances of the game,” Neumann said. “We are going to continue to apply each players’ abilities. All three of those guys will have their moments.”

Taylor said one of the first guys on his list to stop is Nederland junior running back Devon Simmons. He had 91 yards on 21 carries with one touchdown last Friday in a 28-21 win over Central.

“He looked real good against Central,” Taylor said. “He is really quick. [Dean] Fisher is a great route runner and they use Garrett in a lot of positions, so we have to keep an eye on him.”

Both teams understand if either wants to make the playoffs, this is a must-win game.

“If we want to stay in the hunt, we need to execute tonight,” Taylor added.

 

Nederland (2-5) at Ozen (1-5)

  • When: 2 p.m. Saturday
  • Where: Thomas Center, Beaumont
  • Radio: KLVI-560 AM
  • 22-5A records: Nederland 2-3, Ozen 1-3
  • Series record: Nederland leads 15-5; last meeting, Nederland won 34-25 in 2015

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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