With at least 15,000 fans packed into the stadium and the atmosphere feeling like a big college football game, the newly named Bum Phillips Bowl is the one of the most anticipated rivalries every year in the state of Texas. This 93-year-old rivalry features Nederland High School versus Port Neches-Groves High School in an all out battle.
These two towns have a combined population of about 30,000 and only a set of railroad tracks separating them. The tradition of this game is something you see in movies; from the dress up days at school all week to the pranks that each football team does to each other all year. The Bulldogs vs. the Indians: in this town, you grow up with those mascots ingrained in your head.
PN-G leads the series 48-36- 7, but Nederland won the first ever Bum Phillips trophy in 2014 and is going into the game this year with 6 straight wins against PN-G. None of those wins have come easy though, especially last year’s nail biter only winning by a PN-G lost some key seniors last year including their quarterback Adam Morse and wide receivers, Caisen Sullivan and Jack Giblin who are now playing for Lamar University.
The most recent loss was senior fullback Jace Runnels and linebacker Parker Shults to ACL injuries over the summer. Even after these setbacks, Head Coach Brandon Faircloth has an optimistic outlook going into the season. Faircloth said,
“We lost some really good players last year but we had a great offseason and summer. I feel good about our players. They are coachable, they have had great energy and enthusiasm these first three days so where we are right now I feel good about it.”
Nederland lost their star running back, Austin Krautz to graduation and Lamar University. They have some big shoes to fill, but Head Coach Larry Newman thinks leadership will be the winning factor this season. Newman said,
“Every team is different. It doesn’t matter whether you have 20 starters back or 2 starters back. Your leadership base changes and in football, the ultimate team sport in my opinion, that makes all the difference in how your team is going to be that year. I am just as enthused about this team as any team we have ever had.”
The Bum Phillips Bowl is already such a big game that I didn’t think you could make it much bigger, but this year it is the very last game of the season. Waiting ten weeks for this game is going to make the fans and players so anxious that it could be one of the biggest games of the rivalries’ history. The outcome could possibly have an effect on the district championship and playoffs. When asked about the rivalry and the residual effects, Coach Faircloth said,
“It being the last game of the season, it can definitely have an effect, absolutely. PNG vs. Nederland is the number one rivalry in the state of Texas for a reason. I didn’t think it could get anymore special or pressure packed but moving it to week ten, I mean I don’t know what else we could do. It could have some playoff and district championship implications so we will see. It is a great game. Nederland always has a great team and it’s going to be a battle. Hopefully we will be going into the playoffs that following week no matter what.”
Newman echoed that by saying,
“Here is the sure thing about it, both teams after two scrimmages and nine football games will be different than they are today. When you’re in the tenth week of the schedule you have a different football team than you started with in the offseason. It is a great rivalry. It could have playoff implications but we will just have to wait and see. I know they are a quality football team and it will be another festive affair like it is every year.”
No matter what the situation it is going to be a great game. If you are anywhere near Port Neches, TX on November 4th stop by the reservation to see the tradition for yourself, I guarantee you it will be rockin’!