No. 5 Crosby poses massive test for Nederland

NEDERLAND — One look at the returning starters and college offers for the Crosby Cougars and it is easy to see why the Nederland Bulldogs are underdogs to start the season.
At least six Crosby players have standing college offers.
Start with junior running back Carlos Grace. He ran for 968 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore. He has offers from Houston, SMU, Kansas State, Michigan, Texas and Illinois.
There is junior receiver Mannie Netherly who hauled in 16 receptions for 228 yards and three touchdowns last year. He has offers from BYU, Kansas, the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, North Texas, SMU and Texas Tech.
Senior center Keenan Murphy has committed to the University of Houston and senior receiver Shane Hudson has offers from Houston, Lamar, TCU, Texas State, McNeese State and Northwestern State.
Safety Joseph Pickney had 105 tackles and two interceptions his junior year and now can pick from Texas State and Lamar, for the time being if bigger offers do not come in.
Sophomore running back Craig Williams has offers from Kentucky, SMU, TCU and Texas Tech.
All this and no mention yet of senior quarterback Tristen Cotton. Cotton threw for 2,684 yards as a junior with 19 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
“We are not whistling in the graveyard,” Nederland coach Larry Neumann said. “Our players know how talent Crosby is. If we do not play our very best then the score could get out of hand. We know that.”
The Cougars and Bulldogs played a great game in 2014. Crosby edged Nederland, 25-20, and eventually the Cougars season ended in the state semifinals with a 13-2 record.
“Falling back on history and how long I have been coaching, it seems like in the first game there is a little self discovery for both teams,” Neumann said. “You are not as positive about your own abilities as you will be in Week 2, Week 3 and down the line. Sometimes that keeps the score close in that first week. Each team seems to be finding themselves in that first game.”
To keep the score close, Nederland looks to keep pace with the rapid fire Cougars.
Austin Krautz could be a big part of the Nederland attack. The senior running back rushed for 1,103 yards and caught 47 passes last season. He scored 25 touchdowns.
Tonight marks the first varsity start for quarterback Mitchell LeBaron. He takes over the signal calling duties after spending last season on the junior varsity squad.
Nederland counters the Crosby offense with a defensive unit which held opponents to 356.3 yards and 30.8 points per game.
“First thing you look at in this game is the quality of our opponent,” Neumann said. “What really jumps out to me is their offensive personnel. They have a great quarterback with excellent running backs they move all over the field. Along with the receivers they have, Crosby really puts a lot of strain on your defense. We know we can’t keep them out of the endzone but we hope to slow them down. We will see how that goes.”

Crosby at Nederland
• When: 7 p.m. Friday
• Where: Bulldogs Stadium
• Series Record: Crosby leads 4-1
• Last Meeting: Crosby won 25-20 in 2014

Crosby-Nederland matchup
(Statistics from 2014 regular season)
Offense
• Crosby: 380.4 yards per game (201.9 rushing, 178.4 passing); leading retuners: Tristan Cotton (senior QB, 2,425 yards on 175-of-304 passing, 24 touchdowns) and junior RB Carlos Grace (809 yards on 103 carries, 13 touchdowns)
• Nederland: 425.5 yards per game (247.2 rushing, 178.3 passing); leading returners: Austin Krautz (senior RB, 1,002 yards on 153 carries, 15 touchdowns, 473 rec. yards on 36 receptions, 6 touchdowns; Connor Perkins (junior WR, 484 yards on 25 receptions, 19.36 ypc, 7 touchdowns
Defense
Crosby: 301.4 yards per game allowed (193.6 rushing, 107.8 passing)
Nederland: 364.2 yards per game allowed (223.7 rushing, 140.5 passing)
Sound bytes
• Crosby coach Jeff Riordan: “Nederland is an extremely tough place to go on the road and play. Nederland is a tradition rich program with great coaching and hard-nosed kids. It will be a tough challenge that we look forward to. It is a great game one for both teams.”
• Nederland coach Larry Neumann: “The fact they are so good physically is a challenge for us. I think our are up to the challenge and its by the way they have been working. (Against Livingston) We didn’t have as many self-inflicted wounds as far as penalties and busted assignments. That is first thing you look at with your team. You have to look at yourself and find things you did better from the week before. We did some things better than week before. We still have a long way to go on both sides of the ball. We moved in the right direction in a week’s time and I think every coach wants to see it.”

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