The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
BEAUMONT – Before they play the school’s third-ever game at Reliant Stadium, the Nederland Bulldogs got a sneak peek at what it’d be like on Monday. They traveled to Houston to practice at Reliant before Friday’s matchup with Pearland Dawson.
“It was about getting the shock and awe factor out of it,” Nederland head coach Larry Neumann said. “We ran around for about 15 minutes and I think it wore them out. They reacted just like I’ve reacted to that before. It’s an inspiring thing to go in there, knowing the Texans play there. We had a really good practice out there. The kids were focused out there.”
Nederland had previously opened the season in 2006 against La Marque at Reliant, falling 28-20 despite getting 138 yards and two long TD runs from Micah Mosley. In 2007, Nederland beat Brenham 29-28 in the second year of the Reliant Stadium High School Kickoff Classic, as quarterback Ryan Sampere passed for 252 yards and led the team with 40 rushing yards.
This week, the Bulldogs went out early to practice and gave the players a little time to run around and take in the sights before settling into a practice routine.
“It was an incredible experience,” Nederland senior safety Bryce Whaley said. “Not many teams get a chance to do that. It was awesome to get to practice there and to play there. We had some time to play around and throw the ball a little bit at first. It was fun.”
One new feature Nederland will be trying out is Reliant’s Field Turf. Installed recently for high school and college games played at the stadium, the new field turf is very similar to Lamar’s and Port Neches-Groves’s.
“It was nice,” Nederland kicker Tanner Noel said. “The turf was just like anywhere else. The stadium was pretty big. I think it’s going to be cool playing there. I was also happy when they brought in the high school uprights instead of having to kick on the college ones.”
Nederland and Dawson will be the first of four high school games played at Reliant this weekend. The Bulldogs will be part of the only game on Friday with a triple-header of games set for Saturday, including Katy-La Porte, Alief Elsik-North Shore and Houston Lamar-Fort Bend Travis.
It is the second straight week Reliant has hosted a Saturday triple-header during the playoffs as it looks to become a site that could realistically host the UIL state championship football games in time.
But, the stadium does pose some challenges, like fielding punts and kickoffs with the roof closed.
“I liked it,” Nederland senior wideout Michael Shaw said. “It really liked when you look up, it was a roof up there instead of the sky. We caught a few kickoffs, but caught more punts than kickoffs. The depth perception was a little different, but everything else was the same.”