Bulldogs grind out another feat

By Tom Halliburton
The News Sports Correspondent

BEAUMONT — Perhaps these opportunistic Nederlanders truly benefit from their previous gut-wrenching experiences.
Their blue-ribbon coaching staff always seems to work their old gold and black magic in ways that mystify opposing fans.
Beaumont Ozen won Friday night’s time of possession, rushing yards, passing yards, total yards and first downs. The Panthers junior tailback Calvin Tyler ran 26 times for a game-high 233 yards and two scores.
But Nederland did all that counts at the Thomas Center, winning 34-25 and returning home 3-2 at mid-stream and 2-0 in district.
Yes, Nederland’s defense struggled again. The Panthers gouged defensive coordinator Delbert Spell’s unit for 502 yards.
Do not pity Nederland’s defense. The Dogs knew just when to pester Tyler and Ozen’s versatile quarterback Josh Boyd. They barked loud midway into the first quarter, producing two major Ozen mistakes.
Nederland won the turnover count, 4-1, and rarely hurt its own cause with self-inflicted wounds. Tailback Austin Krautz delivered a season-best 183 yards on 24 carries. Quarterback Mitchell LeBaron fired touchdown tosses to three different receivers.
And Nederland apparently benefitted from last week’s knockdown, dragout 36-30 district opener with Vidor.
“We had that experience under our belts last week and I think that helped us,” youthful looking mentor Larry Neumann said. “Our defense, without a doubt, is a little suspect. In fact, they may be the prime suspect, but our goal is to finish with more points than the opponent.”
Spell’s suspects first took it out on Tyler. Senior Ronald Zamora greeted him in the Ozen backfield, forcing a loose ball and sophomore Tiren Forney claimed the fumble at Ozen’s 10. Krautz dashed to the end zone three snaps later.
Moments later Forney touched the ball way too long for Ozen. Boyd wanted to find Tyler on a screen pass but Forney’s pick six on a 21-yard interception return gave the Dogs a 13-6 edge with 3:23 left in the first quarter.
“Great teams don’t always play great, but they play great when they have to,” Neumann said, quoting legendary Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll.
Krautz likely would say his offensive line blockers played great almost the entire night. Justin Carr, Corbin Smith, Burke Badon, Austin Gauthier, Brandon Baumgardner and Jakoeby Sonnier earned their gold stars, especially in run blocking.
Krautz gained double-digit yardage on 10 different carries against Ozen’s defense.
“They did an awesome job,” Krautz said. “The holes were there all night long. Anybody could have run through those holes. I give all the credit to them.”
Nederland had effective ways of denting Ozen’s speedy secondary. With the game tied at 13-all early in the second quarter, the Dogs worked the flea-flicker to perfection on a 45-yard first-down bomb.
LeBaron handed to Krautz who lateraled the ball back to the Nederland quarterback. The execution enabled Connor Perkins to escape Ozen’s defense and snag the rainbow in stride at the Panthers 5. The flea flicker made it Nederland 13-6 with 10:30 left in the half.
Defenders Vincent Tran and Zamora smothered Tyler on a 4th and 1 to shorten the field for LeBaron midway in the third quarter. It came in handy since NHS only led 20-19 at that time.
LeBaron and Jalin Johnson teamed up on a slip screen for a 20-yard scoring play, fattening the lead to 27-19 with 5:27 left in the third quarter.
Johnson out-jumped Ozen receiver Jaydon Cunigan for an interception with 10 minutes to play at the NHS 8. That allowed Nederland to begin dishing out a heavy dose of Austin Krautz.
Yet Spell’s suspects had done their job one last time.
“We knew Tyler could go the distance,” Nederland’s defensive coordinator said. “We would have had a hard time staying with him in a touch (football) game.”

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