By JOHN BLACK Baysun1437@gmail.com PORT ARTHUR (Sp)--
The La Porte Bulldogs got a big road win here Friday night as they muscled their way past the Port Arthur Memorial Titans, 37-13, to move their season record to 7-2.
The Dogs have just one game left in the regular season, and it is a big one--a 7 p.m. battle this coming Friday evening in Bulldog Stadium against Beaumont West Brook. Brook and La Porte both have one loss in league play thus far, as each fell relatively hard to North Shore. The victor Friday will thus finish in second place in the final District 21-5A standings, but that really doesn't matter in terms of post-season play.
That's because the Dogs and the Titans will be the small school representatives out of 21-5A when the playoffs start, while North Shore and West Brook will enter the large school division. La Porte's first post-season opponent will be out of District 22-5A--quite possibly Pasadena Memorial. But that's a matter for later discussion. Let's focus now instead on this win over Port Arthur.
The Dog defense set the tone early by forcing a punt on the first Titan possession. Credit Ryan Moye with the tackle on Eric Medina's opening kickoff. Chad Sutherland and Tyrone Graves combined for the stop on first down and Jeremy McNeal got the second tackle, before a pass missed. The Dogs got the ensuing punt on their own 30.
Keith Whitely got things going offensively as the offensive line opened a big hole and Keith sprinted 44 yards to a first down at the Memorial 26. After Anthony Webb got a yard, McNeal threw to Justin Collins on the right sidelines. It was a fine throw and an even finer catch as Justin snagged it just before going out of bounds. The gain was to the Memorial 12. Whitely then stepped off two yards to the 10 before Webb went outside right and raced into the end zone. Medina booted the extra point and the Dogs had a 7-0 lead with 8:24 left in the first period.
Once again, the defense shined. Cameron Whilley made the first stop; Sutherland made the second stop; and a host of Bulldogs stopped the quarterback scramble on third down, forcing a second Titan punt.
This time the Dogs got the ball on their own 38. Webb stepped off five yards, then McNeal hit Karl Terrebonne on a down and out on the right for a gain of 11 and a first down. McNeal then got a yard before Webb got three and Zach Reynolds snagged a short McNeal pass and turned into a 13-yard gainer and a first down at the Memorial 22.
The drive stalled and Medina came on and drilled a 35-yard field goal--but wait, the Titans were flagged for roughing the kicker. So Bulldog head coach Jeff LaReau decided to take the points off the board and trust his offense for a bigger payday. And why not, what with Larry Smith and Maurice Morris, Tony Briones and Joe Brewer and Nick Hamilton and Reynolds and Pierre Hernandez controlling the line of scrimmage virtually all night.
The move paid off. Moving from the Titan 11, the Dogs took it in. First Anthony followed Briones to the two, then Webb went right up the middle for the score. Medina booted true again and La Porte had a 14-0 lead with 2:27 still left in the first quarter.
Memorial then drove for a field goal attempt that missed, and we'll point out that on the drive Ben Flores and Sutherland and Graves and Corey Lee and Devante Crew and Jarmarcus Erskin had nice plays on defense.
Webb stepped off a 24-yard gain on the next Bulldog possession, with Terrebonne and Reynolds throwing lead blocks. A pass to Reynolds gained 10 yards; Whitely got three yards; McNeal scrambled down the left sidelines on a tight-rope run to the 21; and Jeremy threw to Collins for a first down at the 16. But a subsequent pass was picked off, and the Titans started a drive at their own six. It ended with their first TD of the game, with just 22 seconds left before halftime.
We will note here that Whilley and Erskin and Crew and especially Erskin again made big defensive plays, but a personal foul call gave the Titans new life. On that call, a Port Arthur receiver was hurt, and there was a 15-minute delay as he was taken off the field via ambulance. We are happy to report that the young man is expected to make a full recovery, as the trip to the hospital was precautionary.
At any rate, the Titans managed to get the ball into the end zone on a fourth-and-inches try. The halftime score was 14-7.
It was important for the Bulldogs to reclaim the momentum as they took the third-quarter kickoff, and they did just that. Moving from their own 28, they found paydirt for the third time. The first big play was a 40-yard run by Webb--although the ref called a personal foul during the play, so move it back 15 from the end of the run. No problem, however, as the Dogs kept it on the ground, and the drive culminated in as 22-yard field goal by Medina to move the lead to 17-7.
After Eric booted the kickoff into the end zone, the defense again did its job. Whilley, with help from Graves and Wesby and Thad Green, made a stop, and when a couple of passes missed, the Dogs got the ball on their own 39.
They did not stay there long. Webb took a handoff up the middle and literally bolted up the middle. He did not stop until he was 61 yards down the field in the end zone, and Medina booted another extra point for a 24-7 advantage.
Memorial tried to respond, but a pass deep in Dog territory was picked off by Graves and returned down the left sidelines to the Memorial 10. It was a great pick and an even greater return, and the Bulldogs took advantage. Webb got four yards to the six, then followed Briones the rest of the way on second down, getting the TD with 11:55 left in the game. The extra point try failed, but La Porte was up comfortably at 30-7.
Memorial responded with its second, and final, TD, with 9:59 left in the game, and tried to make it even more interesting, but Bulldog quarterback McNeal became Bulldog defensive back McNeal, and he put the Titans away. Jeremy picked off a Titan pass and returned it some 50 yards to paydirt. It was a beautiful play, and when Medina booted the extra point through, the Bulldogs had their 37-13 win.
We will note as well that Webb came on in the final possession to get 11 yards and move to 202 total on the night. It was a fitting ending for this outstanding senior running back.
So bring on West Brook Friday, then let's get the playoffs started.