The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
For everything else that went on in the game, the Port Arthur Memorial Titans got the ball with 3 minutes, 30 seconds to play and a chance to win a share of the district title.
Ultimately, the Titans fell short, as La Porte won 37-33 and took home the District 21-5A title outright Friday at Memorial Stadium.
Memorial (8-2, 4-2 District 21-5A) will play 22-5A champion Manvel in the bidistrict round of the Class 5A, Division II playoffs next Saturday at 1 p.m. in Channelview. La Porte will play the winner of the Pasadena Memorial and Alvin game.
"The kids fought hard," Memorial head coach Kenny Harrison said. "That’s the thing about our kids, they’re going to play hard. There was never a question about that. As a coach, we just have to do a better job of putting our kids in a position to have some things happen to us, because the kids played hard.
“We’re going to put this one behind us. The only thing we can do is get the players ready to go for next week’s game against Manvel, who’s a heck of a football team.”
That chance at a final, game-winning drive didn't seem possible in the first half. The Titans gave up three runs of over 65 yards and trailed 23-6 with 8:23 left in the second quarter. La Porte tailback Johnathan Lewis scored on runs of 85 and 66 yards without even being touched on the latter, and had 175 yards on five carries at halftime.
La Porte set the tone for the first half on its first play from scrimmage. District 21-5A leading rusher Keith Whitely broke a 65-yard run through the middle of the Titan defense and was only stopped from scoring a 75-yard TD by the timely tackle by James Jenkin,s and the untimely placement of a referee in front of him at the Titan 10.
Two plays later, La Porte scored the game’s first touchdown as quarterback Jordan Jackson found Lewis on an 8-yard swing pass for the score. The Bulldogs kept up the scoring barrage after forcing two Titan punts, blocking the second out of the back of the end zone for a safety with 1:54 left in the opening frame.
After the Titans kicked off, Lewis broke an 85-yard run on the next play, taking a pitch to the right side and cutting back through the Titan defense before hitting the open field.
While never able to stop the Bulldog rushing attack, the Titans were able to contain them to just 68 rushing yards and zero offensive touchdowns in the second half. That helped the comeback efforts, as Memorial outscored La Porte 27-14 after Lewis’ second TD run. LaPorte’s only points in the second half came on a 55-yard interception return by Victor Holmes.
Part of the effectiveness came when quarterback Ricky Fisk and the Memorial offense figured out a way to beat La Porte’s zone coverage which had everyone but three down linemen dropping back. Instead of trying the bubble screens that have been the Titan’s hallmark this year, Memorial started running for shorter gains, as Fisk and Edward Mayfield picked up four to six yards per carry. Mayfield led the Titans with 74 yards on 14 carries.
“They came out and dropped the extra defensive back,” Harrison said. “They basically said they didn’t want us to beat them with the pass, so we just had to run the ball. We were able to establish our run game for the most part and basically take what they gave us.”
Fisk was also efficient throwing the ball, connecting with his receivers on crossing patterns and comeback routes that found the soft spots in the coverage. The senior finished 22 for 32 passing for 250 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He also had 73 rushing yards on 24 carries. Fisk became just the third Titan to ever pass for over 2,000 yards in a season and the second with 20 or more passing touchdowns.
He put Memorial on the board after La Porte’s early scoring barrage, finding Roderic Rucker for a 6-yard TD pass. Fisk had to scramble away from the La Porte rushers on the play, faked a run to his right to pull Rucker’s defender towards him before pulling up before the line of scrimmage and lofting the ball to a now-open Rucker.
It was Rucker’s 11th touchdown of the season, putting him one receiving TD behind Jhajuan Seales for the single-season record. However, Rucker appeared to hurt his shoulder at some point in the second quarter and did not play in the second half. His replacement, junior Tayylor Labrie caught his second and third passes of the season, including an acrobatic jumping catch over the top of a defender for a 25-yard TD in the third quarter.
After scoring a quick TD in the second quarter on an Edward Mayfield 9-yard run, the Titans had closed the gap to 23-19 with 33 seconds left in the first half. With the Titans getting the ball in the second half, they had a chance to steal even more momentum from La Porte, but the Bulldogs were able to march down the field before the half as Jackson found Jahvey Marks on a 25-yard TD pass to make it 30-19.
That TD proved big, as the Titans drove down with under three minutes to play down by four points. Memorial started its final drive on its own 5, but a pair of quick Fisk passes to John Leday and Albert Jacobs got them out of their own end zone. A 23-yard scamper by Mayfield put them on La Porte’s side of the field.
The Titans never got closer to the end zone than the Bulldog 42, as a holding penalty pushed them back to the Memorial side of the field. Afer scrambling for 2 yards, Fisk was sacked for a 12-yard loss on fourth-and-18 to end the drive and give La Porte the ball back and the victory.
La Porte 37, Port Arthur Memorial
Turning point: La Porte’s touchdown just before the half was a killer for the Titans on many levels. Two critical penalties kept the drive alive, and the points the Bulldogs scored there proved the difference by the end. The Bulldogs were never inside the Titan 30 for the rest of the game.
Penalized: After having only five penalties in the previous two games combined, Memorial had nine for 90 against La Porte. The two teams combined for 20 penalties for 183 yards.
Freshman MIA: After fumbling on a likely TD run against Baytown Sterling, freshman Kameron Martin has just five carries for 23 yards in two games. Friday marked the first time since Week Zero Martin, the team’s second-leading rusher, did not have a carry.
Out of commission: La Porte’s Keith Whitely, the District 21-5A rushing leader, was knocked out of the game toward the end of the first half. Memorial safety Jalen Barnes knifed in for a hard tackle at the line of scrimmage and Whitely came up limping. The senior still had 113 yards rushing and finished the regular season with 1,367 rushing yards.
On offense: The two teams finished within a point of each other in total offense, but the Titans ran over twice the plays La Porte did. The Bulldogs needed just 33 offensive plays to gain 389 yards while Memorial ran 72 to gain 388 yards.
On defense: Junior linebacker Dante Lovilotte led the Titans with nine tackles, while Darius Lemora and Matthew Romar each had six. Romar and Meldric Matthews each had a sack while Devin Cockrell broke up a pass and James Jenkins intercepted a pass. It was Jenkins’ third pick of the season and Romar’s fifth sack.