Late scores put game away between PNG, Montgomery

Published 4:24 pm Saturday, November 12, 2022

PORT NECHES — The Port Neches-Groves Indians earned their first playoff win of the Jeff Joseph era Saturday.

PNG was able to pull away late to secure a 38-17 win over the Montgomery Bears in the bi-district round of the 5A Division II playoffs.

The Indians will take on LBJ Austin at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Rhodes Stadium in Katy.

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Both offenses started the game a bit rusty as both teams were forced to punt on their opening drives. However, PNG was able to take advantage of good field position, scoring on a strike from Cole Crippen to Landon Guarnere to give the Indians a 7-0 lead.

Montgomery answered with a drive of their own and were able to get deep into PNG territory before the Indians were able to get a stop and force a field goal to bring the score to 7-3 in favor of PNG.

Later in the half, Crippen found Chance Prosperie for another score to build the Indians lead to 14-3.

Landon Guarnere celebrates after scoring the game’s opening touchdown. (Chris Moore/The News)

The Bears reached the end zone to bring the score back within four points. But it was short lived as Guarnere returning the ensuing kick 94 yards for a touchdown to give PNG a 21-10 lead in the second quarter. 

PNG added a field goal to make the score 24-10 at halftime.

The Indians sputtered a bit to start the second half. Penalties consistently erased positive plays and put PNG behind the sticks.

“We looked very undisciplined in the second half,” PNG Head Coach Jeff Joseph said. “It showed up on the scoreboard. We were not able to sustain drives consistently and we turned some people loose on defense. It is something that we have to clean up if we want to win more playoff games.”

On the first drive of the second half, Crippen was picked off and the ball was returned to the PNG side of the 50. However, the defense was able to hold strong and forced a turnover on downs.

The Indians weren’t able to do much and were forced to punt on the next drive. The Bears wee able to find a little life after a borderline miraculous fake punt gave Montgomery a fresh set of downs. Two plays later, the Bears connected on a 34-yard touchdown pass to bring the score to 24-17 in favor of PNG with just over a minute to play in the third quarter.

PNG receiver Chance Prosperie makes a ridiculous catch behind the back of a defender. (Chris Moore/The News)

A pair of penalties on the offense put the Indians at first and 27, forcing an inevitable punt that had a friendly roll, pinning the Bears on the Montgomery 5. After a couple of first downs, a blitz and sack by Mason Droddy ended the drive with a turnover on downs.

The Indians got Shea Adams going in the run game. He capped off a five-play drive with a 16-yard run to give PNG a 31-17 lead with 6:27 left in the game. 

After another turnover on downs for the Bears, Adams once again found the end zone for the game’s final score on a 10-yard run.

“It has been our yearlong process to continue to emphasize running the ball,” Joseph said. “We did it well for most of the game.”

The game ball goes to… Landon Guarnere had quite a day for PNG. He recorded the first TD of the game on a catch and returned a kickoff back to give his team a two-score lead in the first half. He recorded two catches for 42 yards.

The play of the game was… The fake punt by Montgomery gave the bears some life. The ball was snapped to one of the blockers, who rolled out to the right, but several PNG players were in hot pursuit. As he was being taken down to the turf, he lobbed up a high arching pass that fell perfectly into the arms of a well-covered receiver well beyond the first down marker.

Key stats… Outside of a handful of plays, PNG’s defense was fairly dominant. The Bears only amassed 254 yards of total offense, compared to PNG’s 318. Shea Adams had 15 carries for 92 yards and two touchdowns.

Up next… PNG will play LBJ Austin. Check back for more details on when and where the game will be played.