1-0 in district: Titans find new start, pull away from Jackets

Published 10:53 pm Thursday, September 26, 2019

GALENA PARK – Port Arthur Memorial head football coach Brian Morgan was pleased with a lot of what he saw from the Titans in Thursday’s District 9-5A Division I opener at Galena Park ISD Stadium.

“I was proud of our kids, and I think we came out and did a lot of things well,” said Memorial’s second-year head coach. “We got the ball into space and made some plays.”

The Titans (2-2, 1-0) won the district opener, 27-8, against host Galena Park (1-3, 0-1), but it wasn’t as easy as the final score would indicate.

Memorial defensive back Jatavian Neal tackles Galena Park receiver Caleb Aparicio as linebacker Trone Oliver (6) and defensive lineman Christian Thomas (41) chase Aparicio down Thursday in Galena Park. (Jereem Augustine/Special to The News)

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A quick glance at the box score would create the assumption that the Titans dominated. After all, they gained more than twice as many yards as the Yellowjackets (433 to 216) and had one player (quarterback Jah’mar Sanders) finish with 206 total yards and two touchdowns, and two more (Kason Williams and Branden Chaney) combine for 290 yards of total offense and three touchdowns.

But two untimely fumbles and 10 penalties for 55 yards kept the Yellowjackets in the game.

Toward the end of a scoreless first quarter, linebacker Kareem Guillott intercepted a pass that would eventually set up a 34-yard touchdown pass from Sanders to Williams with 11:35 in the second quarter.

Ten minutes later, the Titans scored again on the first of Chaney’s two touchdown runs. The PAT was blocked, and Galena Park’s Derrick Simpson returned the blocked kick for two points as the Titans led 13-2 at halftime.

After wide receiver Alex Ned fumbled at the Yellow Jacket 11-yard-line, Galena Park called upon senior quarterback Frankie Villalobos, whose first pass attempt was a 52-yard touchdown strike to Patrick Hernandez.

Villalobos was sacked on the two-point conversion but completed his first five attempts, giving the Yellowjackets some much-needed momentum as they trailed 13-8.

Memorial receiver Tavian Gipson splits a pair of Galena Park defenders during the first half Thursday. Receiver Alex Ned (20) is in on the play. (Jereem Augustine/Special to The News) 9-26-19

The game changed when …
The Titans were in danger of giving Galena Park the opportunity to score the go-ahead touchdown when Sanders – who up until that point had eight carries for zero rushing yards (due to sacks and recovered fumbles) – scrambled for a 19-yard touchdown on third-and-6 with 10 minutes remaining in the game.

“I had to get the ball into the end zone,” Sanders said. “The offensive line did their job.”

Further diminishing the Yellow Jackets’ momentum was defensive back Maleek Jones’ interception at the Galena Park 5-yard-line with 6:30 remaining in the game.

Chaney sealed the victory with a 3-yard touchdown run with 48 seconds left in the game, set up by a 17-yard run by Sanders.

Up next …
After playing three of their first four games in Harris County, the Titans return home to face Goose Creek Memorial next Thursday.

Morgan said Goose Creek Memorial is similar to Galena Park offensively, and that they also have a new head coach.

The Titans won’t return to the state’s most populated county until a Nov. 2 matinee against Houston Wisdom.

By Michael Sudhalter, Special to The News