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Bulldogs keep district control in their paws; eye Barbers Hill after tough 2019 defeat

NEDERLAND — With one district loss on the season, the Nederland Bulldogs still control their own destiny when it comes to having a shot at the District 12-5A Division II title.

In order to maintain that control, the Bulldogs will square off against Barbers Hill, who beat Nederland 40-14 last year.

The Bulldogs (4-2, 3-1) and Eagles (3-3, 3-1) kick off at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Eagle Stadium.

“We know what happened last year,” Nederland head coach Monte Barrow said. “The guys that played in that game haven’t forgotten that. It’s a different team with us, but still, that was a tough loss for us last year with the way we lost. We have to go to work and make sure we are doing what we do best and not worry about last year.”

Barrow said he and his team are well aware that at least a share of a district title is still in their hands and that a win could make a season finale showdown against top-ranked Crosby a game for the district.

“This is one of those games where you can’t go to two losses,” Barrow said. “You also don’t want to put your playoff fate in someone else’s hands. A district title was the goal at the beginning of the season and it is a goal that is still attainable. In order to get there, you have to take care of business this week.”

Barrow said he knows his defense will have to be stout against a rushing attack that only trails Nederland and Texas City in rushing yards per game in the district.  The Eagles average 206 rushing yards per game compared to Texas City’s 227 and the Bulldogs’ 209.

Junior quarterback Brent Holdren leads Barbers Hill in rushing with 559 yards on 94 carries this year. He also has eight rushing touchdowns.

“The quarterback run is a lot of what they did last year,” Barrow said. “It’s a different quarterback this year, but he is a very, very capable runner. He is a big kid, but has some speed. They are good up front, too… All of the teams are good at controlling the ball, but it starts with stopping the run.”

The Bulldogs proved their rush defense against Texas City. In the game, the Bulldogs held the, then, district-leading rusher Semaj McCall to 77 yards rushing.

The Bulldogs could find success on defense if Holdren is forced to pass. He leads the district in interceptions with seven compared to his eight touchdowns.

The Eagles’ greatest strength is the district’s second-rated defense, which allows 310 yards per game. They will have to hold the district’s leading rusher in Nederland running back Josh Mazyck, who has 781 yards and 12 touchdowns.

“They are sound and well coached,” Barrow said of Barbers Hill. “They fly to the ball really well.”

The game could come down to the turnover margin. Barbers Hill has the worst turnover ratio with minus-10, while the Bulldogs are tied for first in the district with plus-3.