POSTSEASON PREVIEW — Port Neches-Groves, Huntsville showdown makes for strong quarterfinals

Published 12:26 am Wednesday, November 29, 2023

PORT NECHES — The Port Neches-Groves Indians are two wins away from 5A-Division II state title game but will have to get through Huntsville Friday to continue their postseason run.

The Indians take on the Hornets in the 5A-Division II Regional Finals at NRG Stadium Friday. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.

According to the Port Neches-Groves ISD, playoff tickets are now on sale online only through Thursday. On Friday, tickets will be sold online and at the gate.

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PNG will be the HOME team. Gates open at 6 p.m. TICKET LINK: https://bit.ly/47Uv6iO

Huntsville, which ended the regular season 5-5 (4-2 in district), finished the year losing two of its last three games to Lake Creek and Randle, respectively.

The Hornets fell 27-20 to Lake Creek, which PNG defeated in the regional semifinal last week. Huntsville then dropped the season finale to Randle 35-6.

Port Neches-Groves High student-athletes burst through the banner during Week 1 of the 2023 football season. Now, the Indians are preparing for Week 4 of the playoffs. (Chris Moore/The News)

However, in the rematch last week, Huntsville redeemed itself, defeating Randle 14-13 to advance to the regional semifinal.

PNG Head Coach Jeff Joseph said Huntsville is much improved from where they ended the regular season.

“They have cleaned up some stuff that they are doing on defense,” Joseph said. “It is simpler in some ways, but it has been very effective. They have done a good job of taking care of the football in the playoffs and done well on special teams.”

In the playoffs, Huntsville has held teams to a combined 48 points in three games, with 28 coming in a 54-28 victory over LBJ Austin in the second round.

The Hornets are not a stranger to close games, either, with last week’s win over Randle and a 10-7 win over Texas City in the opening round.

PNG and Huntsville have played three of the same opponents. Both have played Lake Creek, Texas City and Brenham. PNG defeated Brenham 37-7 in Round 1, while Huntsville defeated Brenham in a 39-36 shootout in October.

Last week, PNG’s defensive front helped seal the game by repeatedly forcing the Lake Creek quarterback to scramble and throw off the offense’s timing late in the game.

“Our defensive front played really hard,” Joseph said. “We moved those guys around a little bit, which allowed them to be active. Our linebackers played the run game well. They did a good job of playing that big running back.”

Joseph said he is happy the team is getting ready to play in an NFL venue.

“It is nice to be able to have our fans travel, for sure,” he said. “It is also nice for our kids to be able to have that experience. It is an awesome experience for our players, our band, our cheerleaders. It is a cool opportunity for all of them to do that. There is also a good chance for some bad weather this week, so that should help us not have to delay or push back that game at all.”