Port Neches-Groves defensive lineman Jonathan Hernandez causing chaos for opposing offenses 

Published 12:06 am Friday, September 22, 2023

PORT NECHES — Interior defensive line might be one of the most under-appreciated positions in football.

The players rarely have the numbers that jump out on a stat sheet but can have the biggest impact on a game without necessarily making the huge tackle or sack.

A good interior defensive lineman is at his best when offensive players have to react to the havoc he causes. For Port Neches-Groves, that player is Jonathan Hernandez.

Coaches says “(Jonathan Hernandez) puts his head down and gets to work.” (Chris Moore/The News)

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He won’t likely lead the team in sacks or tackles for loss, but his disruptive presence consistently causes opposing offensive players to react and change their plans mid-play.

His performance in the Indians’ 26-20 win over West Orange-Stark earned him Player of the Game for PNG.

“He has been very consistent for us,” defensive coordinator Matt McDaniel said. “He has been really good. He plays multiple spots on the defensive line. He is one of our stronger guys. He is also very quick with his feet.”

Hernandez played in all 16 games for PNG last season as a sophomore, giving him valuable experience on a relatively young team.

His defensive coach describes him as a quiet student-athlete, who handles his business in the classroom.

“He puts his head down and gets to work,” McDaniel said. “Sometimes, that is more important than being a vocal leader. He leads by example.”

That example can be seen on game film and for observant fans during Friday nights. Hernandez often disrupts plays by breaking through the offensive line and forcing running backs to change direction, allowing teammates time to get a tackle for loss. He is also a mainstay in the backfield, forcing quarterbacks to move off their marks, which can throw off the timing of passing plays.

“As a defensive staff, we try really hard to highlight those guys in team meetings,” McDaniel said. “Our linebackers make so many more tackles, because of guys like him. Our secondary can make plays on balls because the quarterback is being hurried or being hit as he throws it.

“It doesn’t go down as a sack, but it is a huge play for us. Making the quarterback scramble when he doesn’t want to scramble is another huge thing that doesn’t go on a stat sheet, but he does it consistently. He is invaluable to our team.”

The Indians take on Fort Bend Marshall at 7 p.m. today at The Reservation.