NATIONAL SIGNING DAY: Titans form their largest signing class

Published 6:21 pm Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Port Arthur Memorial class of 2018 set a football program record Wednesday.

Of the 24 seniors on the 2017 roster, 15 signed national letters of intent with a college football program, four more than last year.

Coach Kenny Harrison has technology to thank for that.

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“I think the key to getting more opportunities is Hudl,” Harrison said, naming the online recruiting service that allows players to post their highlights. “I’m a firm believer that if a kid wants to play, there’s an opportunity out there.”

Memorial, the District 22-5A co-champion for the second year in a row, had its usual bunch of Division I commitments, highlighted by quarterback Keitha Jones’ signing with Tulane and Elijah Hines’ landing at Louisiana Tech. Hines is The News’ Offensive Player of the Year and has been solid on the Bulldogs since last summer.

Jones elected to de-commit orally from SMU, which saw coach Chad Morris take the Arkansas job in December, and selected another American Athletic Conference team.

“It was about me feeling comfortable and how they were together and a family at Tulane,” Jones said.

The Southland Conference drew two Titans on Wednesday. Right tackle Brian Roy is joining national semifinalist Sam Houston State, while linebacker and The News Defensive Player of the Year Jomard Valsin added to Northwestern State’s roster.

Cornerback Greg Laday is going to Northern Colorado, a once-Division II powerhouse that now competes in the Division I Big Sky Conference.

But this senior class will be remembered for sticking together — not just on the football field.

Four smaller universities who landed Titans each signed two or more players from Harrison’s program. A Port Arthur-to-the Midwest pipeline resulted in running back Kobi Martin and wide receiver Jordan Vital going to Storm Lake, Iowa’s Buena Vista University; linebacker Wendell Keller and wideout Tariq Malik headed for Oskaloosa, Iowa’s William Penn University; and linebacker Braydon Williams set for Doane University in Crete, Nebraska.

William Penn and Doane compete in the NAIA. Buena Vista is an NCAA Division III school and therefore does not award athletic scholarships.

Division III Texas Lutheran University landed three Titans: offensive lineman Nakoven Lewis, tight end Jamal Dorsey and cornerback Kam Nixon. Division II Southwestern Oklahoma State University picked up center Dalyn Ceaser and receiver James Francis.

“I feel like it’s all coach Harrison,” Jones said. “He has the right staff, a good staff. He wants us to succeed even if it’s not in football.”

Jones, recruited as an athlete, will join forces with longtime friend and 2015 Memorial graduate Corey Dauphine, who originally committed to Texas Tech. Dauphine, who will be a fourth-year junior on the field this fall, sat out the 2017 season due to NCAA transfer rules.

Jones said getting to team with Dauphine was a big factor in choosing Tulane.

“Having someone show me the ropes and how it’s done is important,” Jones said. “I look forward to putting Port Arthur on the map.”

There’s not a Tulane vs. LaTech game scheduled in the near future, although both were Conference USA partners for two seasons until Tulane joined the American for the 2015 season. Jones said there’s a chance the New Orleans-based Green Wave could meet Ruston’s Bulldogs in a bowl game.

Hines, however, is expected to pay the University of Texas a visit to open the 2019 season.


Bulldogs send Forney, Latulas to Texas JUCOs

NEDERLAND — Coach Monte Barrow said that Tiren Forney’s signing with Navarro College is the result of a five-year process.

“I think he had a vision of where he wanted to be, maybe this day in his life,” Barrow said. “And that’s not easy to do for a 13-, 14- or 15-year-old kid becoming a young man. Somebody who knows what they want and knows it’s not easy to get it but is willing to put in the work, I couldn’t be more proud.”

Forney, a defensive end, and wideout Kevon Latulas signed letters of intent Wednesday morning. Latulas committed to Kilgore College.

“It’s a blessing,” Forney said. “I just want to thank God, my coaching staff and everyone who supported me.”

Forney added he remembered the advice former Nederland teammate Corbin Smith gave him about becoming a better player. Smith, an offensive tackle who is a freshman at Rice, and Forney lined up against each other in drills.

Latulas started out as a defensive end but became a wide receiver just in time for his senior year. He’ll be remembered for his three touchdown passes, including one that led to the winning two-point conversion, in a 36-35 win over previously unbeaten Port Neches-Groves.

“[Barrow] told me I had an athletic ability,” Latulas said. “I could play any position I wanted to. He told me I was going to play receiver, and that’s what I had my mind on playing.”

Barrow said Latulas didn’t ask to be moved to receiver.

“Just watching days we had where kids were out there before Christmas, in between the season and the offseason, you could see some ability where we said, ‘Hey, this guy has an ability to do something.’”

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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