“We knew that the weather was going to be like this.” PNG starts playoff run in rainy conditions.

Published 10:23 pm Friday, November 10, 2023

PORT NECHES — The weather conditions were less than ideal, but that didn’t seem to bother Port Neches-Groves as the Indians cruised to a 37-7 win over Brenham in Region III Class 5A-Div. II playoff action Friday night at The Reservation.

PNG improves to 10-1 on the season and is currently riding a 10-game winning streak.

The Indians also eliminated Brenham from the playoffs last year, 38-28, in the Region III semifinals at NRG Stadium in Houston. Brenham finishes the season with a 5-6 record.

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The Indians will face the winner of Austin McCallum versus Leander Rouse game in the Area Round of the playoffs next week. The location and time are to be determined.

“All that matters is that we won. It was by 30, but if it was by 2, I would have been just as happy,” said PNG coach Jeff Joseph. “I’m just thrilled for our kids to play another playoff game.

“We knew that the weather was going to be like this, we didn’t know how hard it was going to be raining. We had plans in place to adjust for the weather and run the football. In the playoffs you want to get your best guys involved, and our best guys are our offensive line and running back Isaiah Nguyen. They were super involved tonight. Connor (Bailey) made some big throws when we needed them.”

Nguyen led the ground attack for the Indians, rushing for a game-high 148 yards on 33 carries. Blair Chatagnier added 55 yards on nine carries and one TD.

Perhaps the biggest spark came from the return of senior Shea Adams, who carried the ball 10 times for 39 yards and three touchdowns in his return from a lower leg injury.

“It’s been a process, and Shea’s been itching like crazy to get back out there,” said Joseph of Adams’ return to the field. “He was absolutely committed to the rehab process and to get back out there with his teammates and to get to play again. I told him we weren’t going to put him out there until we were completely confident in his health. He was super excited to get the opportunity tonight and our team fed off that energy.”

After being stopped on their first possession of the third quarter, the Indians defense forced a fumble that was recovered by Maxwell Scroggs at the PNG 35.

The Cubs were set up in good field position following a 23-yard punt that gave them the ball at the PNG 41. The forced fumble was a huge momentum swing.

PNG took advantage of the turnover. After pounding the Cubs on the ground, the Indians turned to the passing game. Connor Bailey hit Noah Washington for a 36-yard completion to the Brenham 16. Two plays later, Bailey connected with London Nunnley on a 13-yard scoring strike. That pushed PNG’s lead to 23-7 as the extra point was no good.

“Our defense really stepped up,” said Joseph. “They had one really big run against us, but our guys played so hard. Effort covers up for a lot of mistakes and we played really hard tonight.

“The fumbles we recovered in the second half were opportunities we were able to take advantage of, especially the first one coming out of halftime. It was a 10-point game then and we were able to take that turnover and punch it in. That momentum heading into the second half was absolutely imperative.”

The Indians scored twice more in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach. After stopping the Cubs on downs at their own 26, PNG put together a quick scoring drive capped by a 10-yard touchdown run by Adams, his third of the game.

Chatagnier iced the game with a 23-yard touchdown run with 7:21 left in the game. That drive was set up by a Jonathan Hernandez fumble recovery.

Brenham received the opening kickoff after the Indians won the toss and deferred to the second half. On the Cubs second play from scrimmage, Jakoby Dixon broke off a 22-yard run to the 45. A bad snap over the head of quarterback Jordan Harvey cost the Cubs 18 yards and they were forced to punt.

The Indians partially blocked the punt, which got just back to the line of scrimmage, giving PNG great field position at the Brenham 43.

PNG didn’t waste the good field position. Nguyen rushed for 28 yards on his first run to the 15. Two more Nguyen runs put the ball at the 10. Adams rushed three straight times, the last of which was a 3-yard TD run that gave the Indians a quick 7-0 lead with 7:06 left in the first quarter.

The Indian defense forced a three-and-out by Brenham with PNG taking over at its own 45 following a 24-yard punt.

It was more of the same from the Indians offense: a steady diet of Nguyen running the ball behind the stout offensive line.

Facing a third-and-seven, Connor Bailey connected with Nguyen on a screen pass that went for 20 yards to the Cubs 16.

Nguyen followed with runs of 5 and 8 yards to give the Indians first-and-goal at the 3. Adams was stopped at the 1 on his first quarterback keeper attempt but scored on a 1-yard plunge on the second try.

PNG extended its lead to 14-0 with 11:41 left in the second quarter.

Brenham answered back on its ensuing drive. Dixon broke loose for a 43-yard gain to the PNG 12. Harvey kept it himself for an 8-yard gain to the 4.

Harvey scored two plays later on a 1-yard sneak to make the score 14-7 with 9:15 left in the second quarter.

PNG followed with a 19-play drive that took 8:59 off the clock. The longest play on the drive with a 10-yard run by Nguyen.

The drive went all the way to the Cubs 2 before the Indians had to rush the kicking team on the field for a 19-yard Giovanni Oceguera field goal with :06 left in the second quarter. That gave PNG a 17-7 lead heading into the locker room at halftime.

THE PLAY OF THE GAME WAS … A fumble recovery by PNG’s Maxwell Scroggs. The Indians punted for the first time in the game, into the wind from deep in their own territory. The punt went 23 yards to set up Brenham at the PNG 41. With the score just 17-7 at the time, it was a big momentum swing back to the Indians when Scroggs recovered that fumble.

THE GAME BALL GOES TO … Shea Adams and Isaiah Nguyen should share the game ball. Adams returned from injury to rush 10 times for 39 yards and three touchdowns. Nguyen was outstanding running behind the best offensive line in the area, rushing for a game-high 148 yards on 33 carries.

KEY STATS … PNG rushed for 244 yards on 53 carries and passed for another 67 for 311 yards of total offense. Connor Bailey competed 3 of 6 passes for 67 yards and one touchdown. Brenham was held to just 115 yards of total offense, 88 rushing and 27 passing. Jakoby Dixon rushed for 88 yards on 11 carries and caught five passes for 24 yards. Jordan Harvey completed 6 of 13 passes for 27 yards. Harvey also rushed for 22 yards on six carries and one touchdown.

UP NEXT … PNG plays the winner of the Austin McCallum (7-3) vs. Leander Rouse (7-3) game next week in the Area Round of the Region III Class 5A-Div. II playoffs.

— Written by Daucy Crizer