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Coaches adjust to single scrimmage ahead of late season start

In recent years, University Interscholastic League teams in classes 5A and 6A would have been permitted up to two scrimmages, provided they did not organize full-contract drills during the spring semester.

The late start to preseason camp, among UIL precautions against COVID-19 spread, only allowed for large-school programs to conduct one scrimmage each before kickoff next weekend. (West Brook and Beaumont United are the exception, as the two programs agreed to turn their season opener into a scrimmage to better prepare for the season.)

Given their lone practice game, Nederland coach Monte Barrow and Memorial coach Brian Morgan agreed to keep their first teams on the field for most of the third quarter.

“We’re all on the same boat,” Barrow said. “I think me and coach Morgan both were thinking, get those starters out at the half, and after watching them and seeing what kind of game shape they were in, we wanted to extend them a little more, knowing we don’t have another scrimmage. They’ve got to know what it feels like to play when you’re a little tired.”

Morgan echoed Barrow’s thoughts, stressing playing in game shape cannot be simulated in preseason camp.

“We were down one scrimmage, so I think you could see it today,” he said after Nederland beat Memorial in a Thursday night scrimmage. “It’s nothing like game shape, and those guys need to run around, play a few quarters, get hit and play series and long plays.”

In a traditional season with a late August kickoff date, Memorial would practice during the spring and thus would be allowed one preseason scrimmage. But after a first half in which Morgan’s Titans trailed 14-0, the defense made some key plays to give the offense a needed lift.

Nederland running back Josh Mazyck (2) starts to hurdle over Memorial defensive back Jamond Francis (15) as wideout Kade Scott gives Mazyck a block during Thursday’s scrimmage in Nederland. Linebacker Darrell Thornton (17) and sophomore defensive back Jelani Chevalier (6) also try to chase down Mazyck. (I.C. Murrell/The News) 9-17-20

“I thought the defense came out and played hard after we kind of settled down,” Morgan said. “I guess I was most happy with the second half. We came back and rebounded from some adversity, focused in, made plays and got going. So, that was good to see.”

Memorial will start its season Sept. 25 at Port Neches-Groves, which lost its Thursday scrimmage to West Brook 28-10 in Beaumont.

PNG led the scrimmage 10-7 at one point.

Morgan sees similarities between PNG and its Mid-County archrival.

“I think you’re looking at a real similar team, maybe a different style of quarterback, but a good quarterback and a real similar offense, similar type of defense, which is good for us,” Morgan said. “Port Neches will be a good test. [PNG coach Brandon Faircloth] does a really good job, and we’ll be ready to go, for sure.”

Nederland will kick off its season on Sept. 25 at Sam Houston State University against Huntsville, a team that reached the 5A Division II Region III semifinal round last year. Barrow can only hope the Bulldogs get out to as fast a start it had against Memorial.

“It’s like I told our guys, they gave us what we can’t coach, and that’s coming out and giving everything they’ve got,” Barrow said. “That’s all we can ask for. It’s never as good as you think, and it’s never as bad as you think. As coaches we always tend to look at the negative. That’s how you get better. We’ll do that on video and start preparing for Huntsville.”

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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