Memorial run defense gearing up for major test with La Porte

Published 12:34 am Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Over the first three games of the season, the Memorial Titans’ interior run defense had some cause of concern. The defense has greatly improved over the past two games but will be tested when taking on La Porte this week.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday in La Porte.

Memorial (5-0, 3-0 in District 8-5A Division II) is one of two teams who have not lost a district game, with Kingwood Park being the other.

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The Titans gave up long runs to Port Neches-Groves and Nederland in the first two weeks of the season and struggled to get the defense off the field in the first half against Porter.

Over the last two games against Baytown Sterling and Crosby, the Titans held them to a combined 26 rushing yards.

“They have to keep getting better and playing,” Memorial Head Coach Brian Morgan said. “It is not different guys playing. It is the same guys. Other than (Caden) Pitre, the other four or five guys haven’t played varsity football before. They are playing every week and their technique and pad level are getting better. They had little mental mistakes that they made against Nederland that they aren’t making now.”

The rushing attack will be put to the test against La Porte, which enters the week with the No. 1 rushing attack, averaging 230 yards per game on the ground.

The Titans have the best run defense in the district, holding opponents to an average of 137 yards rushing per game.

“They run a bit of an old-school rushing offense,” Morgan said of La Porte. “They have a lot of misdirection. There is a lot of false keys and everything. The linebackers, in particular, have to be very good, technique wise. They have to have their eyes in the right spot. They have multiple capable backs; one can really, really run. The other is a really good. If you are not careful, they can turn a 4-yard play into 60.”

La Porte running back Keenan Lawrence leads the district in rushing 536 yards and eight touchdowns. He also averages a district-high 7.8 yards per attempt. Teammate Tyresse Barnes is fifth in the district in rushing with 445 yards and seven touchdowns. Barnes is second in the district with 7.6 yards per carry.

Memorial sophomore running back Ja’coryn Baker had his best game of the season, recording more than 100 yards rushing and receiving against Crosby. Despite a late fumble after a big play that was recovered by the Titans, Morgan said there was no hesitation in going to the young back to close the game.

“He is getting better every week,” Morgan said. “He plays hard… Him outside of game time, he acts like your No. 1 running back. He is mentally focused. He takes coaching well. He doesn’t like to be wrong. When we had that drive to finish the game off, there wasn’t a question who was getting the ball. We knew it and (Crosby) knew it.”