BATTLE OF THE BEST — Indians ready to tackle highly ranked Lake Creek

Published 12:18 am Wednesday, November 22, 2023

PORT NECHES — For the third consecutive year, the Port Neches-Groves Indians are playing in the third round of the playoffs, which hasn’t happened for the program since 1975-1977.

Despite being ranked No. 3 in 5A Division II, the Indians enter Friday’s contest as the underdogs, going up against No. 1-ranked Montgomery Lake Creek.

The Lions are 12-0 on the season and have only lost one game in the past two years, dropping a 55-18 contest to Fort Bend Marshall in the third round of last year’s playoffs.

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This year, the Lions are dominating pretty much every game they enter, averaging 51 points per game with their highest total coming last week in a 78-27 second round playoff win over Crockett.

“They are solid all around,” PNG Head Coach Jeff Joseph said. “They don’t have a lot of weaknesses. We know going into it, that we will have to play really well to stay in the game.”

Playing well has not been a difficult task for Indians, who are averaging 37 points per game over the past eight games. More impressively, the PNG defense is holding opponents to 14 points or fewer in five out of their last six games.

Indians linemen get in some practice reps this week ahead of playoff action Friday against Montgomery Lake Creek. (Chris Moore/The News)

Looking at similar opponents between the two schools doesn’t provide much clarity. Both teams played Brenham and Nederland.

PNG defeated rival Nederland 41-16 in the Bum Phillips Bowl last month, while Lake Creek beat the Bulldogs 53-6 in the opening round of the playoffs.

The Lions defeated Brenham 39-21 in the final game of the regular season, while PNG beat Brenham 37-7 in Round 1.

The Lions closest game came against an unlikely district foe. Lake Creek squeaked out a 36-35 victory over Montgomery in Week 6.

Much like PNG, the Lions lean on a strong offensive line and solid run game, according to Joseph.

“Getting that running back on the ground consistently is going to be big,” he said. “He is going to get extra yards after contact. He is such a good runner and powerful runner. We do have to play as a unit, as a team and help each other out by getting multiple hats to the football and to the point of attack. That is going to be big for us.”

PNG enters the week with one of the state’s best offensive lines.

The unit helped the Indians amass 455 yards on the ground in last week’s 51-14 win over Rouse.

“It has been awesome for us,” Joseph said. “Our offensive line coach, run-game coordinator (Charlie) Fellers has done an incredible job of coaching those guys and building their confidence. Those guys love football and have taken a lot of ownership in being a really solid unit, and we are going to have to continue to lean on those guys.”