PNG coach Jeff Joseph talks semifinals win, play call he wants back and state championship preview

Published 3:05 am Saturday, December 9, 2023

When a potential state championship is on the line, the competition is always fierce.

Following his team’s semifinal win over Liberty Hill Friday night, Port Neches-Groves High coach Jeff Joseph talked about how his team went up three touchdowns in the second half and most felt like the game was under control.

“It was a little bit of chaos there at the end and turned into a bit of a circus, but we held on,” Joseph said. “Our kids are resilient. They made plays when they had to and fielded onside kicks when they had to. They found a way to win.”

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PNG improved to 14-1 and extended its winning streak to 14 straight games with a 42-35 win over Liberty Hill.

Indians fans travel in force to Cypress. (Brian Quijada/Special to The News)

“(Liberty Hill) put a ton of people down in the box again, another one of those situations, and we had one-on-ones on the outside and Connor (Bailey) threw some accurate footballs,” said Joseph on the offense.

“We were able to take advantage of some of those opportunities and score some points. We should have scored again but had a few silly penalties. We will have to clean up some of those things to stay in the game next week. But right now, I’m just excited for our guys.”

Joseph describes next week’s state championship battle against South Oak Cliff as the ultimate goal.

“I don’t think we are in a position to start celebrating it yet,” he said Friday night in Cypress. “We’re going to get back to work tomorrow and start game planning and see what happens next week.

“(South Oak Cliff has) loads of talent on that football team, and we get to go up to Dallas and play them on their home turf again. We’ll do everything we can to prepare and make sure our kids are ready.”

Joseph said he thought his Indians defense played pretty well against Liberty Hill, adding a fake punt at the end of the first half cost his squad seven points going into halftime.

Following the victory Friday night, PNG coach Jeff Joseph praised his team’s defensive effort. (Brian Quijada/Special to The News)

“I made a bad call and tried to be more aggressive and go after one, and they went 92 yards on a fake punt for a touchdown,” he said. “If that play doesn’t happen it looks completely different going into halftime. Our defense made stops.”

THE PLAY OF THE GAME WAS … Junior running back Blair Chatagnier’s 48-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter. That was the Indians first drive of the second half and pushed the lead to 14 points.

THE GAME BALL GOES TO … Sophomore quarterback Connor Bailey who completed 13 of 20 passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns. His ability to complete passes kept the Liberty Hill defense off balance, which opened up the Indians running game.

KEY STATS … PNG’s Shea Adams caught three passes for 53 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed seven times for 24 yards. Reid Richard caught two passes for 64 yards. Liberty Hill was led by running back Ben Carter who rushed for a game-high 189 yards on 10 carries with two touchdowns. Jack Pitchford rushed for 108 yards on 16 carries and one touchdown and also caught a 31-yard TD pass. Noah Long rushed 10 times for 84 yards. Joe Pitchford completed 3 of 8 passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns.

UP NEXT … PNG plays Dallas South Oak Cliff (13-2) next week in the Class 5A-Division II state championship game in Arlington at AT&T Stadium next Saturday at 11 a.m. It’s a rematch of last year’s state championship game.

— Written by Daucy Crizer