Coach Joseph talks about strong start in homecoming win, importance of 2nd half opportunities

Published 10:37 pm Friday, October 20, 2023

PORT NECHES – Port Neches-Groves jumped out to an early lead and never looked back as the fifth-ranked Indians cruised to a 51-14 Homecoming win over Santa Fe in District 9-5A DII action Friday night at The Reservation.

The Indians improved to 7-1 overall and 5-0 in district play. PNG used a balanced offensive attack, rushing for 227 yards and passing for 215 for 442 yards of total offense.

Also, congratulations to Homecoming Sweetheart Katherine Page.

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“We had some new guys playing as we had some guys injured and banged up from our game last week,” said PNG coach Jeff Joseph.

“Those guys needed to get their feet wet a little bit. Our guys up front have been consistent and they play hard. Isaiah (Nguyen) makes plays when he has creases. Blair (Chatagnier) ran really hard today and has been getting better every week.”

Blair Chatagnier led the ground attack for PNG, rushing for a game-high 118 yards on just five carries and one touchdown.

Isaiah Nguyen had four carries for 31 yards and one touchdown. Aibel Jomon added 35 yards on 13 carries.

Sophomore quarterback Connor Bailey turned in an efficient night for the Indians, completing 5 of 7 passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns.

“Connor has grown up,” said Joseph. “Our coaches have done a really good job of putting him positions to be successful. He’s a mature kid that we’ve seen get better every week. Our receivers have done a really good job of stepping up their level of play. They’re making plays, getting open on the outside and making big explosive plays that our offense needs.”

Already leading 41-7 to start the third quarter, PNG was able to play mostly second string players and backups for much of the second half. That serves two purposes, giving those players a much deserved chance to play and it gives the coaching staff a chance to look at some players that will need to play bigger roles next season.

“Those guys that haven’t played as much as I would have liked them to play this year. It was nice to get them some playing time,” said Joseph. “We talked at halftime that whoever is on the field, our standard doesn’t change. Who we are doesn’t change. They’re wearing the same jersey as everyone else. When they get their chance to play, they need to show out and play hard. They did that tonight.”

PNG put together a lengthy opening drive to start the third quarter. London Nunnley took over at quarterback and was able to scramble twice to convert first downs, the first was a 20-yard run and the second was a 6-yard scamper.

The drive culminated with a 30-yard Giovanni Oceguera field goal to make the score 44-7.

Santa Fe’s (4-4, 1-4) opening possession of the second half resulted in a quick score. On the drive’s second play, Ryan Wainscott took and end around and raced 66 yards down the right sideline for touchdown to make the score 44-14 with 5:03 left in the third quarter.

PNG closed out the scoring late in the fourth quarter. Nunnley connected with Jayce Neeb on a 16-yard touchdown with 1:00 remaining to provide the final margin of 51-14.

The game couldn’t have started any better for PNG. On the game’s third play from scrimmage, PNG’s Travis Cobb intercepted Santa Fe’s Kase Albrecht and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown to give PNG a quick 7-0 lead less than a minute into the contest.

On the ensuing kickoff, Santa Fe tried a reverse on the kickoff return but fumbled the handoff, and Dallas Frederick was there to pounce on the ball for PNG.

Nguyen followed with a 2-yard touchdown run and just like that PNG led 14-0 with 10:54 left in the first quarter.

“We caused two turnovers early in the game. (Travis) Cobb made a good play on the interception and made something happen with it,” said Joseph. “They fumbled the kickoff return and we almost picked it up and scored then, too. It was a great start and got the ball rolling for us and the momentum on our side. It was an awesome way to start the game.”

Santa Fe put together a promising drive on its next possession, picking up a first down on a 16-yard completion from Albrecht to Ryan Wainscott.

Wainscott added an 18-yard run and Santa Fe got all the way to the PNG 33 before the drive stalled and Wainscott was stopped short on fourth down.

PNG scored again on its next offensive possession. Nguyen started the drive with a 33-yard run. Bailey hit Landon English on a 31-yard scoring strike to give PNG a 21-0 lead with 3:17 left in the first quarter.

After the Indians defense forced a Santa Fe three-and-out, the PNG offense went back to work with another quick scoring drive. This time it was Chatagnier that started the drive with a 30-yard run. Bailey then hit Noah Washington on a 41-yard touchdown pass, and it extended the lead to 28-0.

Santa Fe responded with a scoring drive of its own. Not finding much traction on the ground, Santa Fe found some yards through the air as Albrecht connected with Wainscott for 19 yards and Corban Whittington for a 21-yard completion.

Albrecht capped the 11-play, 75-yard drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Wainscott to make the score 28-7 with 6:59 left in the second quarter.

PNG answered right back and in quick fashion. Bailey hit Nunnley on a 78-yard touchdown pass. Nunnley was able to execute the catch and run down the right sideling when the Santa Fe defensive back fell down.

The extra point was no good to make the score 34-7.

Whittington returned the ensuing kickoff 52 yards to the PNG 38. However, Santa Fe was not able to take advantage of the good field position and had to punt.

That set up an 80-yard touchdown run by Chatagnier on the drive’s first play. That extended PNG’s lead to 41-7 with 4:06 left in the second half. That scored remained as the two teams went into the locker room at halftime.

THE PLAY OF THE GAME WAS … PNG’s Travis Cobb intercepted Santa Fe’s Kase Albrecht on the game’s third play from scrimmage and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown. That set the tone for the rest of the game for the Indians.

THE GAME BALL GOES TO … Sophomore quarterback Connor Bailey who completed 5 of 7 passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns. He was very efficient in spreading the ball around as three different receivers caught touchdown passes. His passing allowed the Indians to extend their lead.

KEY STATS … London Nunnley caught a 78-yard touchdown pass in the first half. Then switched to quarterback in the second half where he was 2 of 6 for 31 yards and one TD. He also ran four times for 23 yards. Noah Washington had two catches for 70 yards and one TD. Jayce Need had two catches for 31 yards and one TD.

Santa Fe was led by quarterback Kase Albrecht who completed 12 of 21 passes for 149 yards and one TD. Ryan Wainscott caught six passes for 85 yards and one TD and also rushed six times for 89 yards and one TD. Joseph Floyd had 53 yards on 22 carries. Corban Whitting had five catches for 63 yards. Santa Fe had 283 yards of total offense, 134 rushing and 149 passing.

UP NEXT … Port Neches-Groves travels across town to face long-time rival Nederland in the 100th edition of Mid-County Madness next Friday. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium. Santa Fe returns home to host Texas City next Friday at 7 p.m.

— Written by Daucy Crizer