Port Neches-Groves, Nederland, Memorial enter playoffs with different stories, same expectations 

Published 11:49 pm Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Port Neches-Groves, Memorial and Nederland all enter the playoffs with very different stories, but with a similar goal in mind — survive and advance.

Port Neches-Groves, which finished the season with an undefeated record in District 9-5A Division II, enters the playoffs as the only team of the three to host a Round One contest.

The Indians (9-1, 7-0) take on Brenham (5-5, 3-3 in District 10-5A-II). Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday. The Cubs enter the playoffs on a two-game losing streak.

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The two programs faced off last year on PNG’s road to the state championship game. The Indians came away with a 38-28 win over the Cubs in the regional round (third round). Prior to that, it was Brenham that beat PNG 27-21 in 2009 in the second round.

Port Neches-Groves closed out the season with a dominating 41-7 win over Galena Park last week. Last year, the Indians hosted the opening round of the playoffs against Montgomery, winning 38-17.

The Cubs’ three district wins came against teams that ended the season with losing records.

Staying in the same district, Nederland, which earned the final playoff spot, is travelling to Lake Creek on Friday.

The Lions enter the playoffs with a perfect season (10-0, 6-0).

The Bulldogs (4-6, 4-3) have their work cut out for them. Lake Creek is averaging 49 points per game on the season, but the team is not perfect and has exhibited some flaws.

The Lions have shown the ability to dominate opponents, winning games 61-13 and 38-3, but also struggled, winning a one-score game against Huntsville two weeks ago in a 27-20 contest.

The Lions also won a 36-35 contest over Montgomery in September.

“If you want to stay in the playoffs, you are eventually going to run into teams like Lake Creek,” Nederland Head Coach Monte Barrow said. “The message this week has been ‘in order to do great things, you have to have a great opportunity,’ and this is a great opportunity.”

Barrow said his team’s defense, which played well this season, must step up and be ready.

The Bulldogs enter the playoffs on a two-game skid, but the potential for an upset can go a long way for a young team with minimal experience, according to the coach.

“(The playoffs are) different,” Barrow said. “Unless you are in it, you don’t know that it is different. I think they are catching on. The practice we had (Monday) was different than any practice we had all season. They understand it has to be different. The finality of the playoffs is different than game one of district.”

In Port Arthur, the Titans (8-2, 6-2 in District 8-5A Division I) will battle on two fronts.

Memorial takes on Forney (9-1, 6-1 in District 7-5A-I), and the Titans will have to take a four-and-a-half-hour road trip north for the contest.

Last year’s realignment paired Memorial’s district with the Dallas-area district.

“We are going to have a plan of breaking up the bus trip,” Memorial Head Coach Brian Morgan said. “We’ll stop about halfway to eat, find ways to keep the legs fresh and not just sitting still for that long. We will try to get there a little early.”

The Titans are also trying to regroup after suffering both of their losses in the final two games of the season.

Memorial dropped 52-23 game to Barbers Hill and a 24-17 contest to Kingwood Park to close the regular season.

Morgan points to small, correctable issues as the cause for the losses.

“Every little thing matters,” he said. “A couple weeks ago, we had a lot of things we didn’t do very well. This week, there was a lot less of that. It is small things. When you play close games against good teams, those small things matter. Hat placement and footwork are little things that matter that probably cost us that game the other night.”