PROGRAM BOOST — Jeff Joseph elevates Port Neches-Groves to new standard in first 2 seasons
Published 12:26 am Friday, December 8, 2023
PORT NECHES — Two years ago, Port Neches-Groves went through the tough and rigorous process of finding a new head football coach.
The district put together a selection committee and hired Texas high school coaching legend Todd Dodge to as a consultant to assist in the undertaking.
The result was the hiring of Jeff Joseph, who came to the Indians with no prior head coaching experience but a pedigree and résumé worthy of the title.
Port Neches-Groves Independent School District Deputy Superintendent Julie Gauthier, who was part of the six-person committee that helped select Joseph for the job, said winning was not the primary focus for the position.
“Everything that we look for is always about the kids,” she said. “We are not a district, committee or administration that worries about wins or losses. We worry about the experience the kids are having.”
Gauthier said her first impression of Joseph was a “lowkey, humble guy that is passionate about what he does.”
While winning was not the primary focus, PNG has enjoyed plenty of it in Joseph’s first two seasons.
In his first season, Joseph beat Nederland 26-24, defeated Fort Bend Marshall in a playoff game (0-3 prior to last season) and made it to the 5A Division II State Championship Game, which had not been done in more than two decades.
PNG finished the season 13-3.
However, his second season would seem to be more difficult as PNG graduated many of the starters from the 2022 roster. Even with a turnover, Joseph and his coaching staff rallied after a Week 1 loss to Memorial to rattle off 13 consecutive wins to date.
Not only did the coaching staff deal well with the roster makeover, the team’s starting quarterback, Shea Adams, went down with a foot fracture in non-district play and the team barely missed a beat while starting a sophomore under center.
The Indians are once against a game away from the state title game with a familiar foe in their way. Last year, PNG defeated Liberty Hill 42-14 in the semi-final.
Joseph admitted the start to his head coaching career is exceeding his expectations.
“I couldn’t have ever imagined this,” he said.
“There has been a lot of luck involved ending up in a place like I have ended up in and in a school like this that loves football. We have a lot of support around us from our principal, Scott Ryan, and Julie Gauthier and Mike Gonzales over there at the admin building. All of those people give us the time and resources we need to be successful here.”
Joseph gives the majority of the credit to his coaching staff and players for buying in.
“The coaching staff is everything,” he said. “It is a lot more them than people probably realize. They are very good coaches. Their work ethic is what really shows up. They put so much time and effort into planning and putting our kids in the right positions to be successful.
“We had a strong group of seniors last year. It took a little bit of time for them to turn around. Some of it is ‘success breeds success.’ These kids came into this year with confidence in our coaching staff and confidence in what we were doing throughout the offseason. That is a product of our coaches building great relationships with them and having a little success last year.”
Joseph echoed Gauthier’s sentiment of making sure the program is student-first.
“We have to remember that there are more than 22 guys in the program,” he said. “For us as coaches, it is our job to make sure that every kid on our team is leaving better for having been in our football program.
“We want our kids to know that we care about them being good people and respectable young men. That is so much more important than football and will take them much further in life than football will.”