Go inside Indians’ 30-27 playoff win over Lake Creek with coach’s reaction, analysis
Published 8:56 pm Friday, November 24, 2023
HOUSTON – Shea Adams continues to provide a spark for No. 3-ranked Port Neches-Groves as the senior scored three touchdowns, and the Indians defense staved off a late rally to post a 30-27 win over No. 1-ranked Montgomery Lake Creek Friday in Region III Class 5A-Div. II semifinal playoff action at C.E. King’s Panther Stadium.
It wasn’t one of the more aesthetically pleasing games of the year for PNG, but at this time of year, all that matters is getting the win.
“Pretty is overrated. There is only one thing that matters at the end of the day and that’s getting a win and we found a way and that’s what it’s all about,” said PNG coach Jeff Joseph after the game. “We didn’t tackle very well, we didn’t cover very well, but we played with effort. That’s going to be our MO. You can cover a lot of mistakes by playing harder than the other guys.”
Adams did a little bit of everything for the Indians, rushing 13 times for 25 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught four passes for 70 yards and a touchdown.
He continues to line up at quarterback for any short yardage situation and is successful most of the time.
“It’s just him (Adams) getting more and more comfortable with his foot,” said Joseph. “The more comfortable he gets, the more he’s going to be able to do for us. He’s one of the best football players on our team, so I hope he continues to get healthy.”
PNG had more trouble moving the ball, especially on the ground, than it has for much of the season.
The Indians ground attack is their calling card, but the Lions were able to keep them off balance for much of the night except for a few big plays.
“They were fast and over the top in a lot of run game stuff,” said Joseph. “They loaded up the box. They changed up some coverage stuff from what we worked on in practice.
“We were able to throw the ball well. But we turned the ball over a couple of times, which we hadn’t really done much so far. We were able to overcome that. Our defense made plays when they had to make plays and they played tough.”
It was the Indians 11 consecutive win and improved their record to 12-1 on the season.
Lake Creek finishes the season at 12-1.
PNG will face Huntsville, who defeated Randle 14-13 Friday, in the Region III final next week.
Details will be provided once available.
Sophomore quarterback Connor Bailey completed 8 of 14 passes for 144 yards and one touchdown.
Senior Isaiah Nguyen rushed 24 times for 99 yards.
“The first half, he was outstanding,” said Joseph of quarterback Connor Bailey. “Our receivers, especially Noah Washington, stepped up and made contested catches. Shea Adams going across the field is a difference maker for us because he makes plays with the ball. Connor did a great job in the first half. The offensive line was good in pass protection. We had guys that made plays and that’s the biggest part.”
Lake Creek made a big push in the third quarter to get back in the game. PNG received the second half kickoff. The Indians had already converted one first down on the drive when Blair Chatagnier fumbled, and LC’s Davis Lee scooped up the ball and raced 36 yards for a touchdown to make the score 23-13 as the two-point conversion attempt failed.
The Lions defense forced a quick three-and-out on the Indians next possession. London Nunley’s punt was returned by Sam Lee 40 yards to the PNG 35.
There was also a late hit penalty on PNG which gave LC the ball at the Indians 15.
Lake Creek didn’t waste any time in scoring. Eli Morcos hit Elijah Naziruddin for 7 yards to the PNG 4 and those two connected again on a 4-yard touchdown to cut the Indians lead to 23-20 with 6:28 left in the third quarter.
PNG’s offense responded with a scoring drive. A 15-yard pass interference penalty against the Lions jump started the drive. Nguyen ripped off a 54-yard run to the LC 2 on a second-and-15 play.
Adams scored two plays later on a 1-yard quarterback sneak to push the lead to 30-20 with 5:08 left in the third quarter.
Late in the third quarter, Lake Creek’s Sam Lee caught a pass and broke several tackles down the right sideline for 37 yards. However, he fumbled the ball when finally tackled, which was recovered by Chase Johnson at the PNG 40.
Lake Creek kept the pressure on the Indians. Bailey fumbled the ball while being sacked on third-and-seven from the Lions 28. The ball was recovered by the Lions Davis Lee at the 44.
The Lions offense went back to work. Facing second-and-25, Morcos hit Tyvonn Byars over the middle for 39 yards to the PNG 32. Morcos would hit Sam Lee for a 19-yard touchdown three plays later to make the score 30-27 with 3:38 left in the game.
PNG recovered the ensuing onside kick and took possession at the 50. The Lions defense forced a three-and-out and Lake Creek took over at its own 20 with 2:28 left in the game.
The Indians defense cranked up the pressure and made it hard for the Lions to get a drive rolling. Morcos was sacked for a 12-yard loss and followed with two incompletions. Facing fourth-and-21, Morcos was intercepted by Poole to seal the win.
“That quarterback (Eli Morcos) is really talented, and he was able to extend plays,” said Joseph. “We missed some opportunities to get him on the ground, but we knew we had to keep going after him. You can’t let a guy like that sit back in the pocket. He’s going to pick you a part and find the open receivers like he did early in the game.
“We started sending some linebackers and our front guys started getting some more pressure on him when we needed to get pressure on him. It was big.”
Lake Creek received the opening kickoff and drove straight down the field to score the game’s first points. Byars ran for six yards on third-and-two and Morcos followed with a 11-yard completion to Kady Yeary to the 45.
Morcos hit Sam Lee for 10 yards to the PNG 33. Morcos was sacked for a 1-yard loss and threw an incompletion on second down. Morcos then connected with Lee on a 34-yard touchdown pass to give the Lions a quick 7-0 lead with 7:41 left in the first quarter.
PNG answered right back with a scoring drive on its first possession of the game. Bailey hit Reid Richard for 14 yards to convert on third-and-seven. Bailey connected with Adams for 14 yards to convert a third-and-six to keep the drive alive.
On third-and-eight, Bailey hit Noah Washington for 13 yards to the LC 15. Bailey hit Adams for a 9-yard touchdown on third-and-goal to tie the game at 7-7.
LC bobbled the ensuing kickoff and was tackled at its own 4-yard line to start its next drive. The Indians defense forced a quick three-and-out and PNG took over with good field position at its 49.
It didn’t take long for the Indians to take advantage as Blair Chatagnier scored on a 49-yard touchdown run. The extra point was no good due to a high snap to give the Indians a 13-7 lead with 10:00 left in the second quarter.
The Lions offense was back on track on their next possession. Morcos hit Lee for 12 yards to the PNG 45. Facing third-and-11, Morcos hit Elijah Naziruddin for 19 yards to the Indians 27. The drive stalled at the PNG 20 and the Lions were left with a 37-yard field goal attempt by Alex Abbott. The kick was blocked and returned by the Indians to the LC 35.
Bailey connected with Washington for 37 yards to the Lions 3. Adams scored two plays later on a 1-yard quarterback sneak to give PNG a 20-7 lead with 5:41 left in the second quarter.
After allowing a Byars 15-yard run, the Indians defense stopped the Lions on their next three plays to force a punt. PNG had just under four minutes to add more points before halftime, which is exactly what it did.
Bailey hit Adams for 33 yards to the LC 45 on third-and-10 to kick start the drive. Isaiah Nguyen followed with consecutive 8-yard runs to the LC 29. Again, on third-and-10, Bailey hit Washington for 10 yards to the 18. The Indians had to settle for a 25-yard Giovanni Oceguera field goal with :12 left before halftime to give PNG a 23-7 lead.
After trailing 7-0 early, PNG scored the final 23 points of the first half to take a 23-7 lead into the locker room at halftime.
THE PLAY OF THE GAME WAS … PNG’s Chase Johnson stripped the ball from Lake Creek’s Sam Lee and recovered the ball at the PNG 40 with just over a minute left in the third quarter. The Indians were holding on to a 30-20 lead and that play ended a promising drive for Lake Creek, who was trailing 30-20 at the time.
THE GAME BALL GOES TO … Senior Shea Adams who is improving and getting more opportunities each week. Adams rushed for 25 yards and two touchdowns and also caught four passes for 70 yards and a touchdown.
KEY STATS … PNG’s Blair Chatagnier rushed four times for 46 yards and scored one touchdown. Noah Washington had three catches for 60 yards and Reid Richard had one catch for 14 yards. The Indians had 304 yards of total offense, 160 rushing and 144 passing. Lake Creek was led by quarterback Eli Morcos who completed 16 of 31 passes for 276 yards and three touchdowns. Tyvonn Byars rushed 16 times for 51 yards. Sam Lee caught 10 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns. Elijah Naziruddin had three catches for 30 yards and one touchdown.
UP NEXT … PNG (12-1) plays Huntsville (8-5) next week in the Region III Class 5A-Div. II Final. Game details will be provided once available.
— Written by Daucy C. Crizer