Port Neches-Groves Indians displaying difference from their 1st meeting this season against Buffs

Published 12:36 am Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The Port Neches-Groves Indians are in the 5A Division I Quarterfinals for the first time in two decades.

PNG takes on Fort Bend Marshall at Galena Park. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday.

The two teams, who compete in the same district, played each other in September. The game ended in a 35-14 win for the Buffs, but the two teams are vastly different than they were in the first meeting.

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The September contest was the first game of district play, and it was the closest contest FB Marshall has been in since.

Since that game, PNG has scored fewer than 35 points just twice in nine games.

The first was in a 26-24 win over rival Nederland in a downpour. The second was a 24-19 win over LBJ Austin in Round 2 of the playoffs.

The Indians defense has also only allowed more than 21 points four times in that span.

The PNG offense is led by the stellar play of the offensive linemen, who will have their hands full with a talented defensive front.

“Their size and length on the defensive front stands out,” PNG Head Coach Jeff Joseph said. “Those guys are 6’6”, 6’5” and 6’4” on the defensive line. They have super athletic linebackers that are really fast. They have great cover guys. It is the best defense we have played against this year.”

While the Buffs have plenty of speed, they have to cover PNG receiver Chance Prosperie, who led the district in catches and touchdowns.

In the last meeting, Prosperie was able to find the end zone for one of the Indians’ scores.

The PNG defense has steadily improved throughout 2022, but must take it up another notch to beat the No. 2-ranked FB Marshall.

“We are a different and improved football team from then,” Joseph said. “They are, too. They have adapted and changed with injuries. We have done the same. We are going to look at the last game, but we are also going to look at the last three or four games they played to make sure we have a plan in place to give our kids the best chance possible.”

Joseph wants his players to understand what they have accomplished but also be prepared for another tough test.

“I don’t think we approach it any different than we have most of the year,” he said. “You win the game. You have that day and the next day to appreciate and celebrate that. By Monday, it is on to the next one.”

Joseph said the game’s site was determined by a coin flip and a search for the right venue. The coin flip was to determine if the two teams would find a neutral site or flip for home field. After the toss determined the two teams would find a neutral site, the coaches looked for a stadium big enough for both fan bases between Fort Bend and Port Neches.

“We ran into issues with some of the stadiums that would normally be options like Baytown, Sam Houston State or Kyle Field. All three of those weren’t available due to some renovations,” Joseph said. “That was part of it. For us to drive to Houston for NRG would’ve made sense but it was booked, and the Texans play there Sunday. Saturday wasn’t a great option either. Galena Park was the biggest and best option that is somewhat equal distance between us.”

PNG fans packed NRG last week, giving the Indians a bit of a home-field advantage in Houston.

“The overall support of this community is awesome,” Joseph said. “It is always beneficial to have a crowd like that cheering for you. At the end of day, you have to play the same game they do, but having a crowd like that helps. The energy boost we get from the crowd is awesome.”