Indians begin district play with playoff rematch against Fort Bend Marshall

Published 12:30 am Wednesday, September 20, 2023

PORT NECHES — District play kicks off this week for most of the state.

For Port Neches-Groves, the opener could have title implications, as the Indians (2-1) square off against Fort Bend Marshall (3-0), which won the District 9-5A Division II title last season.

The two teams play Friday at PNG with a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Port Neches-Groves students cheer on the team during the 5A State Quarterfinals between PNG and Fort Bend Marshall. The rematch is Friday in Port Neches. (Chris Moore/The News)

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Last year, the two teams met in the opener, and it was Fort Bend Marshall, who handed the Indians their only regular district loss.

The two teams went on to meet in the fourth round of the playoffs in a classic that saw PNG come out victorious —a 29-21 win over the Buffs en route to a state title appearance.

This year, the stakes are still high as Marshall is viewed as the favorite to win the district crown, and PNG is hoping to stay in contention after a mass exodus of senior talent from last year.

The Buffs enter the game following a 34-6 win over Alief Taylor to close out the non-district schedule. Fort Bend outscored opponents 111-28 in the first three weeks of the season.

PNG dropped the season opener to Memorial but bounced back with a 45-14 win over Beaumont United and a 26-20 win over West Orange-Stark.

PNG defensive coordinator Matt McDaniel said the team knows it has to play a near-perfect game Friday to come out with a win.

Indians fans, pictured during the quarterfinals against Fort Bend Marshall, are expected to be out in force Friday for the home rematch. (Chris Moore/The News)

“Our kids know the challenge,” he said. “We played them twice last year, so we know how talented they are and how athletic they are. They are very big and fast. The mindset of our kids is what it always is. We have to keep working and getting better every day. We have to be as prepared as we can be to play the game.”

McDaniel said the team has been locked in at practice.

With most of the starters from last year’s team graduated, McDaniel said the team has plenty of guys who were on the playoff roster that saw what it took to knock off a team of that caliber.

“The margin for error is very, very small,” he said. “That is the biggest difference. You have a small margin for error as far as taking bad steps or having your eyes in the wrong place. When you are playing a team like that, one little mistake can cost you big on either side of the ball. Preparation and practice gives you a better shot at executing.”

PNG is now tasked with slowing down a team that has tons of talent on offense.

“They lost some guys like we did,” McDaniel said. “They have a lot of talent coming back. They have some receivers that can really run. They are fast and strong. They are big up front, like they always are. They do a great job on the offensive line. They run and throw the ball really well.”