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‘Madness’ game will test PN-G, Nederland players’ ability to focus

November 9, 2018

Mid-County Madness culminates Friday night in a high school football game that young Southeast Texans dream about playing in and many fans will camp out in line to buy tickets for.

“I believe it’s the familiarity, many of our kids grew up together,” Port Neches-Groves coach Brandon Faircloth said by way of explanation. “They’ve played on the same little-league team, they go to church together, and a lot of their parents work together.”

Nederland and Port Neches-Groves have played 94 times. This Friday’s game will determine the District 12-5A-II Championship.

It’s a rivalry game on the field and in the stands, a topic of conversation around dinner tables, in the workplace and even at church.

Nederland Coach Monte Barrow has played in and coached during the Madness. His wife is a former PN-G cheerleader.

“You learn a lot from being a player,” Barrow said. “You think about what you would’ve done differently and apply those things to the players you’re trying to help navigate this week. You want to get to Friday night with the same mental and physical preparation that you’ve had for all the rest of the games.”

Last season, Nederland won at home against a Port Neches-Groves team that was district champion. The epic showdown featured a game-winning touchdown with 13 seconds remaining in the game.

This season, PN-G plays at home against an undefeated Nederland team.

Both teams this year are coming into the game playing some of their best football of the season.

“I don’t know if there can ever be an upset in Mid-County Madness,” said Barrow, whose team is favored. “9-0 versus 0-9 or 9-0 versus 9-0, all of that you can you throw it out of the window. Whichever team can maintain their focus for those four quarters and not let their emotions get to them will have the best chance to win the game.”

PN-G’s defense had a rocky start but has played better down the stretch. Nederland hasn’t been in a close game since Oct. 5.

Nederland’s offense is led by senior quarterback Blaysin Fernandez, who threw the game-winning touchdown pass in last season’s Madness game. He said he is treating this year’s contest like a Super Bowl.

“It was a great experience that I was able to play in that game,” Fernandez said. “It will be a lot that carries over from knowing the atmosphere and knowing what it takes to come out on top.”

Nederland will be without primary ball carrier in Kade Scott, who broke his collarbone last Friday against Crosby and had to have surgery on Wednesday. Josh Mazyck will start in his place.

“We are going to go out there and do what we do every week with or without Kade,” Mazyck said. “Prayers are going to him, but we have to win this game for him and the seniors.”

Mazyck, a sophomore, will be playing in first Mid-County Madness. He’s been playing most of the season and is the team’s second-leading rusher while battling through injuries himself.

PN-G could at least share the district championship with a win.

Faircloth emphasized to his players that the district title is on the line. He believes his players will be able to block out distractions and focus on the game.

“It’s week 10, they’ve been practicing since Aug. 4 and they’re used to it,” Faircloth said. “This isn’t a brand-new game. They’ve played Nederland every year. They know during the day there will be some distracting things going on, but once they get out here to the field house it’s time to go to work.”

He said playing great defense and winning the turnover battle will be key, as always in big games.

“It’s the biggest game of the year and it’s important to us,” Faircloth said. “No matter what, we are both in the playoffs next week. But there is a lot on the line tomorrow, and we’ve done the best that we can to prepare ourselves to try to win the game.”

meshach.sullivan@beaumontenterprise.com

twitter.com/Its_Meshach

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