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Familiar foe PNG coach Brandon Faircloth talks Nederland, Marshall playoff matchup

Port Neches-Groves head coach Brandon Faircloth will have an eye on Saturday’s 5A Division II Region III matchup between Fort Bend Marshall and Bum Phillips Bowl friendly rival Nederland.

PNG was the last team to defeat Nederland and gave Fort Bend Marshall one of its most difficult games in a 21-14 loss in the bi-district round.

Faircloth is taking the winter break to rest but is still following the playoffs.

“You definitely try to take a break and rest after working 60-70 hours a week,” he said. “I always follow our local teams and friends around the state, who are still in the playoffs. I take a break and don’t go to games, but I follow and root for the local teams.”

The PNG coach said Nederland is a better team now than when his Indians won 22-21 in the first district game Oct. 23.

“Obviously, Coach (Monte) Barrow and his staff have done an amazing job,” Faircloth said. “They have improved every week, are playing their best ball right now and have done a great job bouncing back after our game.”

Faircloth also complemented the Bulldogs, saying they have a great group of seniors, especially on defense.

“They have a lot of seniors on offense, too, with (quarterback) Rene (Cunningham) and (running back) Josh (Mazyck),” Faircloth said. “They just need to be who they are. It has got them this far, honestly.”

Faircloth and his coaching staff devised a plan to keep the ball away from Marshall’s potent offense. The Indians dominated the time of possession in hopes of keeping the playoff contest within striking distance at the end of the game.

“Our approach to every game is to try and play great defense,” he said. “We thought using our offense to do that just as much as our defense was a good plan. We wanted to keep them off the field and snap the ball with under 10 seconds on the play clock every play and try to run the ball. Our offensive line and our running backs did a great job of that.”

Part of PNG’s ball control strategy came down to converting key fourth downs to keep drives moving.

“We planned on doing it,” Faircloth said of the fourth-down conversions. “We knew we would have to take some risks. You are playing the No. 3 team in the state. You have to try and find a way to extend drives and stay on the field. As you do things like that, the kids get more confident, see that we are here to win the game and not just punt to them all night.”

The Indians’ commitment to ball control was on full display on the first drive of the second half. The Indians held the ball for more than six minutes and capped it off with a 31-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Blake Bost.

Faircloth said he had a mix of emotions of wanting to score, but also wanting to drain more clock.

“You’re not going to turn down points,” he said laughing. “We knew putting the ball in Blake’s hands was a chance to be successful. He is tough to stop. When you are down seven, you take the points. Once the game got tied up, we focused more on getting it to the fourth quarter as fast as we can.”

Faircloth believes the Bulldogs match up well with Marshall and have a great chance to win.

The Bulldogs are built for a game like this, the PNG coach said.

“With Josh and Rene, they can run the ball really successfully,” he said. “They are doing a good job of getting the ball to Kyndon (Fuselier), as well. They have a great three-headed monster right there, and they have been playing really well on defense. We are rooting for them to win.”