Kendrick Hopkins and the Bulldog front seven gave Nederland plenty to be thankful for on Friday. The junior running back rushed for 108 yards by the half and the Nederland defensive line dominated Pflugerville Connally in a 17-10 Class 4A Division I area round victory at Woodforest Bank Stadium.
Nederland will face Pearland Dawson in the regional round Friday night in Reliant Stadium at 7 p.m., in a rematch of last year’s regional that saw Dawson end the Bulldogs’ season 33-25.
“We felt pretty comfortable about the matchup we had tonight,” Nederland head coach Larry Neumann said. “They’re a pretty solid defensive football team. A second round playoff game win is great. It’s hard enough to win any night, but in the second round with what’s at stake, I’m really pleased.”
Hopkins authored two of the first half’s biggest plays, ripping off runs of 29 and 30 yards. The second came after Nederland forced a Connally punt from their own 25 that went just seven yards, giving the Bulldogs the ball at the Connally 32.
Hopkins broke a sprint draw to his left and set up the game’s first touchdown one play later when Carson Raines plunged in from 2 yards out to make it 10-0 Nederland. The junior rushed for 108 yards in the first half and 174 total in the game. He also eclipsed the 1,600 yard mark for the season and now has 1,640 with 13 touchdowns.
“He just doesn’t look like he’s getting that many yards,” Neumann said. “It adds up. He’s a yard after contact guy. He’s always leaning forward. He’s always headed their way. I can’t say enough about that guy. The problems our line was having blocking too, if there were any holes, they were small. Sometimes, a back can get discouraged with that, but he just kept hitting in there. Sometimes, he didn’t make anything, but others he made quite a bit more.”
but he just kept hitting in there. Sometimes, he didn’t make anything, but others he made quite a bit more.”
Tanner Noel had already scored the game’s first points, hitting a 49-yard field goal with 10 minutes, 50 seconds left in the second quarter. Noel nailed the kick with plenty of room to spare in tough conditions with the wind at his back and a misty rain falling on the field.
Nederland’s defense took control of the game early and never let go. The Bulldogs allowed just three points, seven first downs and 167 total yards. The front six players for the Bulldogs combined for 45 tackles, including eight for a loss and three sacks.
Senior linebacker Korbin Stampley followed up his 18 tackle performance against Dayton with 10 against Connally. Senior defensive end Koby Couron had three TFLs and now has 30 for the season. He tied teammates De Shawn Washington and Brock Pryor for the defensive line lead with eight tackles each. Washington added two sacks, giving him nine for the season.
“This is my favorite kind of game,” Pryor said. “It was pretty physical. Both sides came off hard. It was a battle to the end. They did well. This was smash mouth football. It was old school.”
Part of Nederland’s defensive effectiveness was due to a stout defensive line, but part of it also had to do with Connally’s injury situation.
Connally quarterback Dajon Williams suffered a concussion against Montgomery last week and missed the matchup with Nederland. In his place, the Cougars rotated both running back LaDaedrix Payton and junior quarterback Landon Nobles but neither enjoyed much success. Nobles had attempted just four passes all season before Friday’s game with Nederland and all four came last week vs. Montgomery.
The two substitute QBs were 2 for 5 for minus-2 yards passing in the first half and finished the game a combined 4 for 13 for 24 yards.
“Their QB sustained a concussion in the last game and it changed them quite a bit,” Neumann said. “I told their coach that they did a heck of a job adjusting with a Wildcat scheme. They were very productive in that and managed their offense around losing a key guy pretty well.”
In the second half, both teams generated more offense after they combined for more punts (11) than first downs (8) in the first. After Carson Raines went 1 for 12 passing in the first half for the Bulldogs, he found Carson Raines on a 64-yard TD pass that made it 17-0 with five seconds left in the third quarter.
“They’re pretty good in the secondary,” Neumann said. “He threw some guys with their player right with our receiver. They also had some timing routes where their guy is running right there and trying to pick it off. We have to use that as a learning tool to get it off a little quicker.”
Connally answered Barrow’s touchdown with a 102-yard kickoff return by Ed-Drick McDonald with no time left in the third quarter. After a quick stop of Nederland, Connally’s kicker Daniel Portillo then hit a 32-yard field goal to bring the Cougars within a score at 17-10.
After the ensuing kickoff, Connally was able to force a three-and-out to get the ball back. However, the Bulldog defense stood strong, Couron held Payton to a 2-yard gain on first down before Washington sacked Payton for a 4-yard loss on second.
On third-and-12, Payton threw the ball down the field but Nederland was able to keep the Cougars from catching it for a completion and forced Connally to punt.
That’s when Hopkins took over, picking up two key first downs and allowing the Bulldogs to run out the clock for the victory.
4A DIVISION I AREA ROUND
NEDERLAND 17, PFLUGERVILLE CONNALLY 10
Ned 0 10 7 0 -- 17
PC 0 0 7 3 -- 10
NED – Tanner Noel 49-FG, 10:50
NED - Carson Raines 2-run (Tanner Noel kick), 4:26
NED - Seth Barrow 64 pass from Carson Raines, (Noel kick), 0:05
PC – Ed-Drick McDonald 102 kickoff return, (Romelo McCabe kick), 0:00
PC - Daniel Portillo 31 FG, 6:30
NED PFL CONN
First downs 16 7
Rushes-yards 41-190 32-143
Passing yards 101 24
Total yards 291 167
Passes 5-18-0 4-13-0
Punts 7-33.4 10-26.3
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 2-0
Penalties-Yards 5-50 7-59
RUSHING— Nederland, Kendrick Hopkins 33-174, Carson Raines 3-7, Michael Shaw 2-(minus-10), Brandon Dial 3-19.
PC, LaDaedrix Payton 22-127, Shaun Williams 5-11, Landon Nobles 5-11. PASSING— Nederland, Raines 5-18-0 101. PC, Nobles 2-3-0 minus-2, Payton 2-10-0 26.
RECEIVING— Nederland, Shaw 1-10, Seth Barrow 2-68, Colton Kimler 2-23. PC, Leo Dawson 1-0, Luther Yamthe 1-3, Payton 1-(minus-2), Michael Eguwaugu 1-23.