HOUSTON—For anyone in attendance at NRG Stadium Friday afternoon, they would be willing to tell you that the 5A Division 2 area game between Manvel and Nederland was nothing short of shock and suspense. Manvel would go on to beat Nederland 51-26 in what would be a not-so-close game late in the fourth quarter, although much was left to be decided for most of regulation play.
Manvel dominated the first quarter in all areas—from the scoreboard to the stats box, it was not close. Mavericks quarterback Kason Martin threw three touchdowns to three different receivers in the first quarter alone, scoring 21 unanswered points while Nederland struggled to attain a first down.
“[Kason] did a great job of throwing to whoever was open,” said Manvel head Coach Kirk Martin. “They had a great night versus a great football team.”
Manvel won a great game, yes. However, what transpired between the second and third quarter left more questions than answers following the win.
Nederland began their scoring campaign with a wide open 28-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Devon Simmons in the back-right corner of the end-zone, silencing the Manvel sideline with 10:11 left to play and a then manageable 21-6 game on their hands. Moments later, as the Bulldogs attempted a PAT, the ball slipped from the holder’s hands and Mavericks defensive lineman Kam Scott scooped the ball as he sprinted down the sidelines for the two-point score.
The third quarter would be even wilder.
On the opening drive for Nederland in the third quarter, a simple slant route was thrown to go-to pass catcher Kevon Latulas. Two steps later Latulas would pitch the ball to teammate Devon Simmons in what would be one of the most beautiful hook & ladder plays I’ve seen this side of the Mississippi; Simmons would be caught 40 yards down the field. At this point, the crowd on both sides echoed a shriek confusion, joy, fear, and football. The drive would be capped off by a five-yard rushing score from Simmons.
Two drives later, Nederland punted the ball away. Special teams had been a weak link for the Bulldogs all night (i.e. failed PAT attempt) but had mellowed as the game progressed.
Then came along Jalen Preston.
Preston would catch the ball at his own 35-yard line and proceed to go untouched 65-yards to the house, electrifying the crowd and once again making a solid rebuttal to any Nederland success.
Nederland would answer back. After a lengthy drive, a 4th and 16 situation near the goal line appeared for the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs attempted to throw a touchdown near the front right pylon but the ball was overthrown and out of bounds. But, there was laundry on the field.
A defensive pass interference was called and Nederland was awarded a fresh set of downs on the 1-yard line with three seconds to go and scored on the next play after Simmons was pushed into the end-zone by his own lineman, making it 30-20 just before halftime.
This would be the tensest portion of the game as Manvel and Nederland would exchange blows before Manvel finally pulled away in the last several minutes of regulation.
“I’m real, real proud of these kids. They played their hearts out. And hopefully we’ll keep this thing going,” said Martin.
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