PORT NECHES —
By David Coleman
The News Sports Writer
PORT NECHES — It started with a 70-yard drive and ended with a dominanting victory by West Orange-Stark, as the Mustangs renewed a rivalry with Port Neches-Groves with a 34-13 victory at The Reservation Friday night.
“They’re a great team, there’s no question about it,” PN-G head coach Brandon Faircloth said. “We’ve got to continue to work and find areas to improve upon. They will show us where those are. We expect that from the teams we play. We’ve got one more non-district game to work on those things. Coach Thompson has a great team and they are going to have a great year.”
WO-S (2-0) forced PN-G to punt four plays after the Indians made the first of five fourth down conversions on a fake punt to open the game. After that, the Mustangs went 70 yards on nine plays, scoring the game’s first points when quarterback Jimmy Salter found Tremaine Anderson for an 11-yard swing pass to make it 7-0 WO-S.
“They’re so fast,” Faircloth said. “We had to adjust to how fast they played. They’re so impressive. It’s overwhelming at first. That’s why we do it, so we’re not overwhelmed once district starts. We have to get used to that kind of speed. Central and Ozen are no different, so we have to get better.”
WO-S almost gained more yards on that one series than PN-G did in the entire game. The “Chain Gang” defense held the Indians to 27 yards total offense in the second half.
After forcing a three-and-out on PN-G’s second possession, WO-S receiver J’Marcus Rhodes fielded a punt at the PN-G 49 and cut down his own sideline untouched for a touchdown to give the Mustangs an early 13-0 lead with under three minutes in the first quarter.
But, it was at that point that PN-G stemmed the tide a little and took the first of a handful of small victories away from the game. Return man Kaleb Clark fielded the ensuing kickoff a yard deep into the end zone, turned up the field and raced 90 yards to the Mustang 11.
That set up A.J. Smith’s 11-yard TD pass to Tim Clopton on the next play to cut WO-S’ lead to 13-7. Clopton finished the game with five catches for 43 yards.
“There’s definitely some positives that came out of this tonight,” Faircloth said. “We did some good things. We just have to find those and continue to do well.”
Salter was especially efficient in leading the Mustang offense, completing his first five passes of the first half and his first nine passes of the second. The senior was 17 for 21 passing for 184 yards and two touchdowns.
Rhodes may have been the player of the game, though, as he had two 40-yard touchdowns and finished with seven catches for 111 yards. In addition to the punt return TD, Rhodes turned a perfectly executed bubble screen into a 41-yard TD just before halftime.
Still, PN-G showed resiliency, taking over with two minutes left in the first half and driving 68 yards to score with no time left in the quarter.
That score was helped by a timely offensive penalty, as PN-G was stopped short of the goal line on a quarterback sneak with four seconds left. However, the referees ruled the play dead and called an illegal procedure penalty on the offense, backing them up to the WO-S 6.
Smith then hit Clark for a 6-yard TD as time expired to make it 27-13 PN-G.
The senior PN-G signal caller was 12 for 24 passing for 88 yards with two TDs and one interception. That pick was costly, too, as it set up WO-S’ third TD. Smith was picked off at the PN-G 20 by Deionte Thompson.
Four plays later, Abear Simien scored on a 1-yard run to make it 20-7. The play was set up by a 21-yard Salter scramble after PN-G sent a failed blitz and couldn’t wrap up the speedy Mustang quarterback.
Smith also split time with sophomore Ky Walker, who was brought up from the JV for this game.
Walker had a rough debut with the varsity, going 0-for-2 with two sacks. On his first series, he handed off to Spencer Wommack, threw an incompletion, got sacked for a 10-yard loss, which put PN-G in position to give up the 49-yard punt return to Rhodes. Later he would lose a fumble at the Mustang 20 on his second sack.
The talented Walker, who Faircloth has called his QB of the future, will be in a rotation next week with Smith, as the two rotated series against the Mustangs.
“We’ve got to continue to get both of them reps,” Faircloth said. “ We did some good things. We adjusted on some and didn’t on others. We have to continue to play well and improve.”
After scoring on the final play of the first half, the Indians kicked off to the Mustangs to open the second. WO-S drove 66 yards on nine plays, with Kane Tezeno finishing off the drive wiht a 5-yard TD run. Salter completed five straight passes on the drive to five different receivers.
After that, though, both teams settled in and didn’t get many other opportunities to score. Defensively, Logan Warlick led the way for PN-G, totalling 13 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble. Dillard Youngblood had seven tackles while Bradley Broussard added six. Corbin Coy, starting at cornerback for an injured Dylan Segura, had two pass breakups.
PN-G (1-1) will host Humble Summer Creek next week while West Orange-Stark will travel to Beaumont Central.
West Orange-Stark 34, Port Neches-Groves 13
Tipping point: J’Marcus Rhodes returned a punt 49 yards for the Mustangs’ second TD nine minutes into the game. That gave the Mustangs a 13-pont lead and all the momentum they would need.
Under the radar: Spencer Wommack rushed for a hard 46 yards on 12 carries for the Indians. He flashed some big-play speed, but most of his runs were betwen the tackles and he had to settle with four and five yard gains all night.
Random stat: PN-G punter Kaleb Clark booted a 61-yarder in the third quarter. The ball bounced past the WO-S returner and flew another 20 yards before coming to rest on the WO-S 19.
“Special” teams: Clark also had a 90-yard kickoff return that set up PN-G’s first score. The fastest Indian, according to head coach Brandon Faircloth, Clark used great blocks and good cutbacks to outdistance the Mustangs before running out of gas at the 11.
Opportunity lost: On fourth-and-10 at the Mustang 9 in the fourth quarter, WO-S only managed a 6-yard punt, giving the Indians the ball on the 15. Unfortunately, two plays later, sophomore QB Ky Walker was sacked and fumbled, giving the ball back to the Mustangs and ending PN-G’s last scoring opportunity.
PORT NECHES —
By David Coleman
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