The Port Arthur News
HOUSTON — Few senior classes get to end the season with a victory. For Nederland’s talented group of two- and three-year starters, the season ended Saturday at the Berry Center.
Just after the Eagles finished off a 38-6 victory over the Bulldogs, it was hard for seniors like quarterback Carson Raines, cornerback Zach Taylor or defensive end Koby Couron to see past the pain.
“It’s starting to hit me,” Raines said. “I guess when I wake up Monday and don’t have to go to practice, I’ll realize this season is over.”
But, with a little perspective and time away from the end, they’ll be able to call themselves one of the most successful senior classes in Nederland’s recent history. This group of seniors won 28 games in the past three years, including a 5-2 record in the playoffs the past two seasons.
Raines finishes his Nederland career as the top passer, throwing for 4,136 yards and 37 touchdowns in three seasons as a starter. Both Michael Shaw and Seth Barrow end their tenure as receivers in the top 10 all-time. Shaw also had 300 rushing yards, averaging a cool 12 yards per carry.
Couron, defensive tackle Brock Pryor, Taylor, and linebackers Jordan Wood and Korbin Stampley were part of the best statistical defense Nederland has had in the past 20 years. They all contributed to a group that intercepted 19 passes this season and scored eight defensive touchdowns.
For a lot of reasons, this Bulldog class will be missed.
“It doesn’t take long to reflect on what these guys have done,” Neumann said. “I told them this may have been the best football team I’ve coached. That’s a tribute to these young men, especially these seniors. They raised the bar this year and that’s going to help our program. This was a special group, very unique and I’m proud to have the privilege to coach them.
“We’ve had some great senior classes at Nederland. I don’t want to slight any of them, but these guys have been great. They’ve been fun to be around.”
On Saturday, the group ran out of gas, both literally and physically. Georgetown’s fast-paced, high-powered offense moved the ball up and down the field. With two-way starters, the Bulldogs had to go deep into their conditioning to stay afloat.
Maybe it didn’t mean anything to the outcome of the game, but it was also those seniors who drove down the field with time ticking off in the fourth quarter. Tyler Spell caught his second pass of the season for a first down. Senior receiver Brandon Self also picked up a first down on a reception from Raines. Senior tight end Bo Stewart did too.
To cap it all off, Raines found Zach Taylor with a 15-yard pass on a flare out of the backfield with 1 minute, 37 seconds to play. With that, this senior group helped Nederland avoid being shut out for the first time since a 63-0 drubbing by Dayton in 2007.
“I’m proud of the courage and determination of this group of young men,” Nederland head coach Larry Neumann said. “So many of our players have given so much of themselves to get to where we are tonight. There’s some disappointment, but it won’t last as long as the positive things they’ve done this year. I told our seniors how great they were in their leadership to our younger guys.
“They’ve been excellent examples. We were a pretty good football team last year and we built on that this year. After the disappointment of tonight wears off, we’ll get refocused on where we need to be.”
Nederland returns a host of players next season. Tailback Kendrick Hopkins, who was hampered by an AC separation in his shoulder for much of the season, finished the year with 1,722 rushing yards. Defensive end De Shawn Washington, who had three pressures and half a sack against Georgetown, should be a highly recruited piece of the defensive line next season. They’ll be joined by a host of other players who contributed a lot to Nederland’s success and should do the same next year.
For Neumann, his hope is some of what made this senior group special rubbed off on the younger players.
“When coaches talk about chemistry, if there’s a picture of it, it’s this senior class,” Neumann said. “I’ve never seen a group of athletes get along better, push each other harder and support each other harder, support each other when they needed it and get on each other when they needed it. They are truly brothers.
“That’s something coaches try to get in a football team. You see it manifest with this team in the offseason and during the season and you hope the younger guys see it and feed off it.”
For Raines, his teammates and the coaches, the pain is still too fresh. It’ll take time and distance before they can appreciate the legacy his classmates have left for this Nederland football team.
It’ll happen in time.
After May, when these seniors are off to college, the memory of this disappointing night in Cypress will fade. Instead, this class will be remembered for its closeness, for The Play to beat Dawson and for back-to-back undefeated district championships.
“It’s meant everything,” Raines said. “I’ve been playing with these guys since we were all nine years old. I wouldn’t trade the world for these past three years. I had a great time, we had a great year and a great journey.”