PORT ARTHUR —
Nederland held its first two practices of the season on Monday and Tuesday, breaking things up with a 30- minute rest inside the locker room between two sessions. In one, the team focused on offense and in the second, they moved to the defensive side of the ball.
Monday’s practice went smoothly, as the Bulldogs came out and hit the ground running.
“It’s as good as I’ve ever seen it retention-wise,” Nederland head coach Larry Neumann said. “What was unique to us is we did more. We gave them a pop test (Monday). We threw a lot more af them offensively and defensively and I can’t say I’m surprised with how it looked. We expected it to look this way.”
Part of that is all the experience Nederland has coming back on both sides of the ball.
“It’s always good to have experience returning,” Neumann said. “It guarantees you nothing, though. I’ve seen teams with no experience go to the semifinals. We know that, because we have had teams with experience and teams with nothing. In this game, the variables that are most important are that catch-word ‘chemistry,’ and leadership and playing together as one. If you’ve got that with experience, that makes you even better. If you’ve got that with no experience, you’re still going to be pretty good.”
With the lack of pads, the first two practices were more about tempo and execution. Neumann seemed pleased with both, complimenting his group on multiple occasions throughout the practices.
“Last Friday when we walked the workout, I told them it’s not what we’re doing, but how we do it,” Neumann said. “We’re all going to make adjustments. But, understanding how we work out, and if we can keep that tempo, things will work out.”
Nederland will practice twice more in helmets and shorts before donning pads Friday for the first time. They will hold the first scrimmage of the season on Aug. 17 at Bulldog Stadium against West Orange-Stark.
Heat rules not an issue
The Nederland coaching staff has only seen one player sit out plays in two practices because of heat issues. That’s a credit to the training staff and to the coaches who monitor their charges for any symptoms.
“I kid with our trainers, we’re in more jeopardy of drowning than they are of heat, we throw so much water at them in practice,” Neumann said. “At the same token, it’s hot and we take it seriously. We do a seminar each year with our training staff to go over all the symptoms of heat. Even old guys like me go through it. We tell our coaches, we know you’re in the passion of coaching, but if you see a kid turning gray or not sweating, let’s get him taken care of. You can’t afford to miss on those things.”
One change that didn’t really occur to Nederland’s camp schedule is based on the new practice rules the UIL issued this year to curb heat-related injuries. That’s because the Nederland practice schedule for “two-a-day” workouts already conformed to the UIL’s definitions of a single practice.
“As I understand the new rules, we’re in compliance with the one-a-days,” Neumann said. “We have two halves with a 30 minute break in between. I guess we’ve never done two-a-days, by the new definition of the rules. It’s three hours maximum, and we go an hour and 10 minutes in two halves. So, we practice for two hours and 20 minutes with a maximum of a 30 minute break in between.”
The Bulldogs are also not conditioning players after practice with a bunch of running, either. Neumann said this is because their practice pace and the work they do there has plenty of conditioning work built in. If they get to a point in a couple weeks where he thinks they need it, running might be added to the menu, but for now, the Bulldogs will keep on keepin’ on.
“Maybe the tempo and the way we practice, not to brag, but maybe we get more done in an hour and 10 minutes than some teams do in two hours,” Neumann said. “You don’t want to lose a kid to the heat and you want to make sure you’re doing the right thing. Our kids worked their tails off. We haven’t had to condition and don’t expect to. They’re going to practice hard enough to condition and get where they need to before the season.”
Broussard becoming a ‘Dog
Newly minted running backs coach Michael Broussard is one of the few coaches to cross a pretty big border war. That’s right, Broussard is a graduate of Port Neches-Groves from 1995. He’s coached at Anahuac and Lumberton, but now, he’s on the opposite side of a pretty heated rivalry.
It hasn’t fazed him yet, though.
“I’ve lived in Nederland for five years, go to church here, so it’s our little hometown community,” Broussard said. “It’s nice. Usually people, when they graduate, they move on and everybody becomes friends and becomes part of the community. I’ve never had a blind side of shut out the Black and Gold, so when it comes to sports and community and the passion for football, it can be anywhere.”
One point Broussard made was that when he was in high school, the team’s biggest rival was Thomas Jefferson High School in Port Arthur.
“When we were in school, our rival was TJ at the time,” Broussard said. “We didn’t have a ‘hatred’ for Nederland at the time. My friends and wife that graduated a couple years after I did, when they hear the Cherokee fight song, they throw up in their mouth a bit. I’m originally from Port Arthur, and my parents were TJ grads. That was a big deal with me growing up.”
While Broussard may be downplaying the defection, his new boss certainly hasn’t done that to him.
“It’s not as difficult as everyone, coach (Kevin) Barbay and coach Neumann are trying to tell me,” Broussard said. “‘Welcome to a winning program’ and the jokes they have. It’s fun. The pride here is awesome. It’s a great program and to be a part of it is awesome.”
The Nederland offensive line returns four players who started games in 2011, but where those guys ends up has yet to be determined. The line was fluid on Monday and Tuesday, with a few different iterations.
The only thing that didn’t change much was Jorge Del Fierro working at left tackle as Ex’Avier Bill’s replacement. Del Fierro is moving over from right tackle, where he started last season. He’s got the size and wingspan to be a good player at the spot.
The two guard spots were filled by Jacob Brinkley and Cole Brown, with Chris Henry at center and Dannis Latiolais working at right tackle. That wasn’t the way things ended up on Monday, as Henry got his elbow banged up a bit.
That meant Brown and Logan Albritton both worked in at center, causing some ripples along the line, with Latiolais bumping back in to a guard spot. And this is only after two days of practice without pads. Things will continue to work themselves out over the next few weeks, but expect some fierce competition for the final five spots on this line.
Tuesday’s practice saw the line back to its pre-injury form, with Henry working at center, Brinkley and Brown at guard and Del Fierro and Latiolais at tackle.
PORT ARTHUR —
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