Young Titans success in 2023 bodes well for the future
Published 12:16 am Friday, November 24, 2023
The Memorial Titans’ season ended in the first round of the playoffs this year, but the young team gained valuable experience to propel them forward into next year.
The Titans (8-3, 6-2 in District 9-5A Division I) fell 44-7 to Forney on the road during the postseason’s first weekend.
The Titans won eight straight to start the season before losing their last three. One of Memorial’s most impressive win might have come opening night, beating cross-county rival Port Neches-Groves in a 24-7 final.
The Titans handed PNG their only loss of the regular season.
Titans Head Coach Brian Morgan said his team probably overachieved in some areas given the squad’s youth in key areas.
“As you get to the playoffs, you are going to play more teams that are senior-heavy,” he said. “That was evident when we played Barbers Hill. That was a team that had a ton of seniors. When we played Forney, as well. They had a ton of seniors that played a ton of football. Even though we have young kids we are really excited about, they had guys that had been there before. That makes a bigger difference than you know.”
The 2023 Titans played in stark contrast to last year’s squad, which had talent and leadership mixed for a strong 2022 run.
Against Forney, the Titans had 10 seniors, 11 juniors, 14 sophomores and 1 freshman.
That means the majority of this year’s squad returns for the 2024 season with playoff experience.
“There are positions you can get away with being young,” Morgan said. “You can be young at receiver, running back and sometimes at corner. It is tough to get away with being young on the o-line and safeties. On the line, we were young already and became real young after some injuries late in the year. That was tough to end the season with a bunch of sophomores on the o-line.”
Last season, the Titans had two freshmen on varsity in running back Amante Martin and linebacker Tai’Yion “Tank” King. Both continued their stellar play and are expected to remain big contributors to the Titans’ future.
Memorial also got a boost from senior leadership that persevered throughout, not only the ups and downs of a football program, but also a school experience.
“The COVID year was their first year,” Morgan said. “It is probably the smallest senior class we have had. From that COVID year, being in and out of school, and we lost kids from natural attrition. Guys like Daevon Iles, who come to work, you know they are going to be successful in life.”
Morgan long talked about Iles since his freshman season, but just as rewarding are the guys who flew under the radar early and ended up having superb careers.
“Ja’Quan Holmes was a developmental guy,” Morgan said. “He wasn’t a superstar young. As a freshman and even as a sophomore, we didn’t really project him to do that. Then, in the last two years, he caught 120 balls. It is fun to see those guys develop. Some of the guys on the o-line — if you asked me four years ago, I wouldn’t have thought some of those guys would develop or play for us. It is fun to see those guys grow up.”