SEMIFINAL SHOWDOWN — Port Neches-Groves faces off against Liberty Hill for title shot

Published 12:18 am Wednesday, December 6, 2023

The rematch is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Cy-Fair FCU Stadium in Cypress.

That’s where Port Neches-Groves High (13-1) is facing off against Liberty Hill (10-4).

The winner earns a spot in the Dec. 16 state championship game at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium.

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Football fans need only turn the calendar back to Dec. 9, 2022, when these two teams met in the semifinals. The Indians came out strong in that one, winning 42-14 over the Panthers.

Following that game, PNG coach Jeff Joseph said his defensive players worked as hard as they had all year, adding the speed at which they played was awesome.

You could make a case the same thing holds true now.

It was only last weekend where Port Neches-Groves topped Huntsville, limiting the Hornets to 14 points in the 5A-II State Quarterfinal matchup.

Senior Shea Adams outruns a Huntsville defender for a touchdown in quarterfinal playoff action. (Brian Quijada/Special to The News)

In all, the defense allowed only 253 yards of total offense for Huntsville.

A similar effort is needed this week against Liberty Hill, which is playing in its four consecutive playoff semifinals.

One of the Panthers to watch is playmaker Noah Long, who scored three touchdowns last week to lift Liberty Hill to a 28-14 victory over San Antonio Pieper.

Indians fans know their team has plenty of playmakers, as well. Last weekend produced a balanced attack — 146 rushing yards and 158 passing yards — leading to more than 300 yards of total offense.

Panthers coaches are certainly aware of what PNG brings to the table with a strong offensive line and numerous talented ball carriers.

In 2022 against Liberty Hill, Port Neches-Groves amassed 525 yards of total offense, 288 rushing and 237 passing.

Isaiah Nguyen rushed for a game high 261 yards in 2022, and he is back for more as part of a scintillating senior season.

In 2022, Joseph credited his offensive line for adjusting quickly, and his fellow coaches for making real-time adjustments on the sideline.

“We leaned on the offensive line and the running game, because that’s the strength of our team,” he said at the time. “They make us go.”

The Indians were able to run the ball and pass protect. Then quarterback Cole Crippen took care of the football and did a good job of distributing it to playmakers.

That was the game plan in 2022: Get the ball to the playmakers and let the offensive line control the line of scrimmage with the running game.

A similar effort this year under the leadership of quarterback Connor Bailey and playmaker Shea Adams is needed with a state title game appearance on the line.