Keeping in check: Indians’ defense rises in second half
Published 11:38 pm Friday, September 27, 2019
PORT NECHES — A Port Neches-Groves defense spearheaded by senior tackles Donovan Latin and Josh Patteson put a strangehold on previously unbeaten Baytown Lee and its prolific offense here Friday night as the Indians drilled the Ganders 31-14 here at The Reservation.
Brandon Faircloth’s team improved to 3-1 on the year, but more importantly knocked off one of the top teams in the league to go to 1-0 in 12-5A-II play. Lee dropped its first game in 2019 after three straight wins and fell to 0-1 in district action.
“Our defense really did a great job tonight against a terrific offense, and our offense also had an outstanding performance. I’m very, very proud of all our players,” said Faircloth. “Opening district with a big win against a really good Baytown team was very important. But our district is so good, we’ll have to play like this the rest of the season.”
While Latin, Patteson, Santiago Agudelo, and Wyatt Girouard attacking Lee’s offense at the line of scrimmage, the entire Indian secondary of Christian Sullivan, Donovan Bergeron, Josh Pippin, Ja’Colby Smith-Barber and Matthew Kendrick limited the Gander passing game to only 174 yards.
Lee’s offense had entered the contest No. 2 in 12-5A-II averaging 456 yards a contest. But in this blowout, it was PNG’s rugged defense shutting down the Gander offense that had come in posting 183 points on the board in their three straight opening win.
Together with its standout defense, Faircloth’s offense rattled the Lee defense for 382 total yards. Leading the offensive onslaught were junior quarterback Blake Bost, senior wide receiver Peyton Proenza and senior running back Zane Hernandez.
Bost, in his finest game as an Indian starter, tossed three touchdown passes, completed 24-of-37 passes for 263 yards, and had no interceptions.
“Man, our defense played a great game tonight,” said a modest Bost following the win. “Lee has such a good offense and to hold them to only two scores is impressive. And I’m also so proud of my offensive line which kept them off me all night. It allowed me a lot of time to find our open receivers.”
After forcing Lee to a three-and-out, the Indians iced the contest going 75 yards in eight plays capped off by a Bost-to-Proenza strike covering 30 yards with 10:27 remaining in the contest. Standout sophomore Tate Sandell kicked booted his fourth straight point-after to make it a 31-14 lead.
One offensive series earlier, PNG sophomore defensive back Matthew Kendrick made one of the biggest defensive plays of the season when he intercepted a Ijenea Wooley pass at his own 27 returning the theft 43 yards to the Lee 29 setting up a Bost 31-yard TD strike to Brady Nail. Nail’s scoring reception came with 1:43 left in the third making it a 24-14 Indian lead.
Wooley and his Gander offense had moved from its own 25 to the Indian 33 with just over two minutes left in the third period, and that point PNG’s lead was a precarious 17-14.
Although averaging 456 yards total offense a game coming into the contest, the district No. 2 ranked offense was almost held to a standstill by an aggressive-attacking Indian defense. With only 31 yards rushing and just 90 yards through the airways, the Ganders were held to only 121 yards in the first two periods.
Take away a 58-yard touchdown grab by Lee sophomore Trudell Berry two plays after the Indians had jumped to a two-touchdown lead, and Lee’s once prolific offense would have been held to only 63 first half yards.
On the other hand, the Bost-led Indians ran up 214 total yards in the opening two periods.
Sandell sent the hosts to intermission leading by 10 at 17-7 with 0:17 left by drilling a 27-yard field goal. The 67-yard, 12-play scoring march was highlighted by a Bost completion of 21 yards to Kaleb Wuenschel to the Lee 22 with just over a minute left in the second.
Port Neches-Groves had taken the opening kickoff driving 73 yards in a 5:39 drive culminating in a three-yard plunge by Hernandez. Sandell’s PAT was good and the Indians were off to the races leading 7-zip with 6:21 still remaining in the opening quarter.
In the opening drive of the night, Bost was tremendous completing 6-of-6 aerials for 62 yards.
The Indian Spirit was dancing away early in the second period as this time PNG’s highly efficient offense drove 75 yards in nine plays to take a 14-0 lead with 7:53 on the clock. A four-yard touchdown pitch to Proenza in the rear of the Lee end zone produced another Indian score.
Riding the sizzling left arm of Bost, the Indians went to halftime leading 17-7. Bost and his outstanding receiving corps of Proenza, Hernandez, Wuenschel, Dejaunte Conner, and Ryan Sosa had torched the Lee secondary for 172 yards.
Overall records sometimes don’t provide a true picture of how good a team really is. Case in point is this a Gander team that was averaging over 60 points a game coming into its game with the Indians.
Although 3-0 and scoring points at a video game clip, Lee’s previous three opponents were only a combined 2-7 and Gander opponents had allowed 414 points in their nine games, a average 46.0 points a game.
On the other hand, the Indians entered Friday’s contest averaging 28.6 points a game, while allowing 23.6. PNG’s three previous opponents were 4-5 on the season and had given up 273 points while scoring 259 of their own – an average of 30.3 to 28.8.
Wooley, one of the district’s very best players a year ago and the No. 1-ranked passer in District 12-5A-II this season, was limited to only 174 yards through the air (just one TD) and was intercepted twice. The Lee senior had torched the Indian secondary in 2018 321 yards, while completing 22-of-40 and a touchdown.
THE GAME CHANGED WHEN …
PNG sophomore defensive back Mattthew Kendrick intercepted a Wooley pass at his own 27 and returned it 43 yards to the Lee 29 setting up a Bost 31-yard TD strike to Brady Nail.
THE GAME BALL GOES TO …
Defensive line Donovan Latin who had a couple of sacks and a fumble recovery keying a PNG defense that shackled Lee’s offense to the tune of just 259 total yards. Indian junior quarterback Blake Bost also completed 24-of-37 passes for 263 yards and three touchdowns, while wide receiver Peyton Proenza caught 8 passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns.
UP NEXT …
The 3-1 Indians are on the road at Vidor next Friday for 7:30 p.m. District 12-5A-II contest.