READY UNDER CENTER — Sophomore Connor Bailey steps into Indians quarterback role
Published 12:14 am Thursday, November 30, 2023
PORT NECHES — When Port Neches-Groves quarterback Shea Adams went down with a fracture in his foot in September, the season for the already-inexperienced football team seemed a bit dimmer.
The team graduated much of the squad that helped make a state title run in 2022 and would have to turn to a sophomore quarterback to help keep the ship afloat.
Connor Bailey took over for Adams and not only helped PNG maintain its standard of excellence; he helped lead the team to an undefeated district record and the fourth round of the 5A Division II playoffs.
Adams returned to the team in limited capacity in the playoffs and has been used more as a runner and receiver than a traditional quarterback.
Bailey entered an ideal situation for a young quarterback. He has been able to stand behind one of the best offensive lines in the state, with one of the best run games to pair with it. The team also features a dominant defense. Still, the coaches at PNG aren’t hiding the young quarterback, who has had to make some big throws during this deep playoff run.
Bailey does not see himself as young.
“I try not to look at it that way,” he said. “Once you are on varsity, you are on varsity and that is all that matters. There is no age level. You are playing football out there with everyone else.”
Bailey credits his teammates, coaching staff and community for being supportive during the season.
“They are all always picking me up,” he said. “They really make it a lot less difficult.”
Head Coach Jeff Joseph praised Bailey for his maturity and ability to handle the offense.
“He has great poise and a lot of guys in front of him blocking that makes his job a lot easier,” Joseph said. “That kid is solid. Other kids believe in him, and he has been efficient in the way he handles the football for us.”
Adams has also been an important supporter for Bailey.
The senior quarterback previously told Port Arthur Newsmedia that he was Bailey’s biggest fan.
“Shea is a great guy and a great teammate,” Bailey said. “He is an even better athlete. He is always in my ear and pushing me. The whole time he was injured, he was in my ear helping me out and giving me tips. Y’all see how great of an athlete he is, but he is a better teammate off the field. I love Shea.”
Last week the two connected on what might have been the biggest play of the Indians’ 30-27 win over Lake Creek. Late in the game, against a team in the midst of a potential comeback, PNG faced a third-and-long situation with the potential of giving the ball back to Lake Creek.
“I rolled out and hit Shea for a big first down,” Bailey said, adding it was his most memorable play of the season so far. “It was a big momentum play.”
No one at PNG is trying to look past this week, let alone to next season, but Joseph says Bailey is gaining valuable experience while making a deep playoff run as an underclassman.
“Anytime you get playing time on the varsity, it is very helpful,” Joseph said. “That is not just him. It is all of those guys. Our kids our getting extra practices throughout the playoffs, and that is time to get a little better that is going to pay off in the long run.”
Bailey and the rest of the team hopes there are more memorable moments to come as PNG takes on Huntsville in the Regional Final at NRG Stadium Friday.