Points hard to come by during PNG’s district opener against Fort Bend Marshall
Published 10:30 pm Friday, September 22, 2023
PORT NECHES — Senior running back Isaiah Nguyen provided just enough offense to lead Port Neches-Groves to a 7-0 win over Fort Bend Marshall in the District 9-5A Div. II opener for both schools Friday night at The Reservation.
“I thought we moved the ball effectively down the field on offense and executed well,” said PNG coach Jeff Joseph. “We had three chances at field goals inside the 20, one of them we made and took off the board to run out the clock.
“We did what we had to do offensively to get the win. We tried to help our young quarterback out a little bit. The offensive coaches did a good job with the game plan, and we just executed enough to get the win, which is all that matters.”
Nguyen was the workhorse for the Indians, which comes as no surprise to the PNG faithful. He carried the ball 34 times for 157 yards and scored the game’s only touchdown on a 14-yard TD run with 4:09 left in the third quarter.
“The guy is tough as nails and just finds a way,” said Joseph on Nguyen. “The credit has also got to go to the big guys up front. They take pride in running the football. That’s something that we’re going to have to keep doing to win games.”
The matchup featured two teams ranked in the top 10 in the state for Class 5A Division II as the Buffalos entered ranked No. 2 and the Indians at No. 7.
Most people probably expected some more offense and both teams are no stranger to putting some points on the scoreboard.
However, it turned into a defensive battle, one that the Indians took control of by limiting Marshall to less than 130 yards of total offense. PNG forced one fumble, had one interception, numerous tackles for loss and blocked a field goal attempt.
“We played with unbelievable effort on defense,” said Joseph. “Coach McDaniel and all those guys on the defensive side of the ball had a great game plan. It just comes down to the heart and effort the kids play with. It’s a relentless passion to play hard for each other and that really drives our defense.
“Our front guys were super active tonight. They kept battling and play hard every single snap.”
Marshall (3-1, 0-1) received the second half kickoff and had a productive drive going. Peyton Long had a 10-yard run to the 50 and Cori Robertson followed with a 9-yard run. Following an incompletion and a five-yard penalty, the Buffalos were forced to punt.
PNG (3-1, 1-0) put together the game’s only scoring drive on its first possession of the second half. Connor Bailey had a 13-yard completion to Sean Gardiner to the Marshall 48.
Nguyen had consecutive runs of 8 and 10 yards to the 29. Jayden Matute had a 10-yard run to the 19. Nguyen capped the drive two plays later on a 14-yard TD run to give the Indians the lead.
The Indians’ Mason Wuenschel intercepted Marshall’s Kaleb Wright in the Buffalos next drive. However, PNG was unable get anything going offensively and had to punt the ball away.
Marshall got the ball back at its own 17 with 5:49 left in the fourth quarter, needing a scoring drive to tie the game. However, Wright bobbled and a handoff and was hit by Jacob Cabrera in the backfield, forcing a fumble that was recovered by the Indians at the Buffalos 10.
Following three straight runs, the Indians were in position to kick a 21-yard field goal to make it a two-score game. However, Giovanni Oceguera’s kick was wide right to keep the score 7-0.
PNG’s defense held the Buffalos on four straight downs and took over possession with 2:19. Oceguera made a 37-yard field goal that would have given the Indians a 10-0 lead, but there was a penalty on Marshall the gave the Indians a first down.
So PNG took the field goal off the board, and took three kneel down in the victory formation to run out the clock.
It was an offensive struggle for both teams as stout defensive efforts by both teams resulted in a scoreless first half.
PNG received the opening kickoff but was stopped on downs when a bobbled snap on fourth-and-1 from its own 40 resulted in no gain.
FB Marshall looked to be putting together a scoring drive. Kaleb Wright hit Andre Feast for 12 yards to the PNG 30.
A pass interference penalty on the next play put the ball at the 12. That’s when the drive stalled. The Buffalos Miguel Diaz came on to attempt a 31-yard field goal, but it was blocked by the Indians’ Reid Richard.
After forcing a Buffalos punt, the Indians offense went to work. A 6-yard completion from Connor Bailey to London Nunnley on third-and-5 gave PNG a first down.
Isaiah Nguyen had a 17-yard run to the Buffalos 15. The Indians had to settle for a 29-yard field goal attempt by Giovanni Oceguera. However, a bad snap negated the chance early in the second quarter.
On the ensuing possession, Marshall’s Andre Feast took a jet sweep and raced 56 yards to the Indians 20.
Three straight runs resulted in the Buffalos facing a fourth-and-10. Wright’s pass fell incomplete to turn the ball over on downs with 7:09 left in the second quarter.
THE PLAY OF THE GAME WAS…Isaiah Nguyen’s 14-yard touchdown run. It was the only score of the game and gave the Indians their third straight win after a season-opening loss.
THE GAME BALL GOES TO…PNG senior running back Isaiah Nguyen. He led all rushers with 157 yards on 34 carries and scored 1 TD.
KEY STATS…PNG had 171 yards rushing and 38 yards passing for 209 yards of total offense. The 171 yards on the ground helped the Indians control the clock and limit Marshall’s possessions. Blair Chatagnier had four carries for 15 yards. Sean Gardiner had two catches for 18 yards, London Nunley and Noah Washington each had two catches for 10 yards. Connor Bailey completed 6 of 13 passes for 38 yards.
Marshall was held to just 89 yards rushing and 37 yards passing for just 126 yards of total offense. Kaleb Wright was 5 of 11 for 37 yards. Andre Feast had two carries for 67 yards and also had one catch for 12 yards. Ja’Kayden Ferguson had two catches for 14 yards.
UP NEXT…Port Neches-Groves hits the road for a district game at Texas City next Friday at 7 p.m. Marshall returns home to play Santa Fe next Saturday, Sept. 30, at 1 p.m.
IN OTHER LOCAL ACTION…Nederland came out on top Friday, defeating Fort Bend Willowridge by a score of 52-14 in homecoming action.
— Written by Daucy Crizer