We decided to get out and watch a couple of football games in person last weekend and headed West to Beaumont on Interstate 10 Friday night and East to Lake Charles Saturday night.

Friday night my golf sidekick Craig Couvillion and I were impressed when we got to see the renovated Provost-Umphrey Stadium where the West Orange-Stark Mustangs met Liberty in the bi-district round of the Class 3A Region III state football playoffs.

Saturday I went solo to watch our alma mater McNeese State play Texas State on Louis Bonnette Field in Cowboy Stadium and utilized my media credentials to watch the game comfortably in the press box high above the playing field.

In both cases the team I came to watch won very handily. Both teams started very slowly and had to overcome a couple of first period turnovers, but once they got rolling they were almost unstoppable.

The Mustangs didn’t score until the second period, but by the intermission they had crossed the goal line five times and led 35-0 at halftime. WO-S offensive coordinator Toby Foreman’s game plan worked to perfection and when the final gun mercifully sounded, Liberty’s tired defense had surrendered 533 yards and 63 points to the Mighty Mustangs.
Head Coach Dan Hooks was able to look into the future as some of the youngsters who toiled at the sub-varsity level this season had their time to shine in the second half and didn’t disappoint the dean of Southeast Texas coaches.

Defensive coordinator Cornel Thompson had a defensive scheme that stymied most of what Liberty tried to do when the Panthers had the football. His Chain Gang Defense limited the Panthers to a touchdown on a fumble recovery, five first downs–with a couple of them coming by virtue of a Mustang penalty—and 110 total yards.

Things will be much tougher Friday night when the District 21-3A champions collide with the Brookshire-Royal Falcons (8-3) at Woodforest Stadium in Shenandoah near The Woodlands. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

McNeese entered Saturday’s contest in a first-place tie with Stephen F. Austin and Northwestern State in the Southland Conference, so it was imperative to win and remain in contention for an FCS playoff berth.

The Cowboys fumbled deep in Texas State territory but turned it into a safety when Bobcat quarterback Tim Hawkins was tackled in the end zone. Texas State scored its only touchdown in the second period, but the half ended with the Pokes on top 22-6.

McNeese turned its defense loose during the second half, which is sprinkled with Southeast Texans in the starting lineup. Former West Orange-Stark standout Seth Thomas has been starting for two years at cornerback, despite the fact he’s only a sophomore. Josh Ellison from Houston and Terrence Freeman of Newton are the defensive ends.

Former Beaumont Ozen stars Deron Minor and London Durham start at linebacker and cornerback, respectively with Jasper ex Malcolm Bronson at free safety and Darrell Jenkins of Newton at weak safety.

McNeese used a school-record 87-yard kickoff return by Bernardo Henry and a 74-yard interception return by Bronson to win the game 36-6 and remain alive mathematically for the SLC crown, tied only with SFA which crushed Southeastern Louisiana 51-14. Northwestern State was defeated by Nicholls State 37-7 to fall by the wayside.

The Cowboys travel to Central Arkansas Saturday in their final game of the regular season while SFA hosts Northwestern State. If both teams win, SFA is the Southland Conference champ and gets an automatic bid into the FCS playoffs. But if the Lumberjacks falter, the Cowboys win the SLC and the automatic bid. There would be an outside chance of the Cowboys receiving an at-large bid to the playoffs.

We got to sit next to Ralph Wright in the press box whose job is to evaluate the game officials on the field. He said that Big 12 Conference officials work with the Southland officials in most of the SLC games. He added that the next step up for an SLC official is the Big 12.

The football games continued to be exciting Sunday as we turned into a couch potato and watched the Houston Texans play at Jacksonville followed by the Dallas Cowboys against New York in the Meadowlands.

The Texans got off to their usual lethargic start and trailed 17-3 at the intermission. But the offense came alive in the third period with two touchdowns that tied the score at 17-17.
The two teams exchanged touchdowns in the final quarter with Houston scoring with 4:19 left in the game. The score remained tied at 24-24 and the Texans had one final chance to win in regulation.

Tight end Joel Dreessen fumbled after catching a third-down pass that was recovered at midfield with eight seconds left.

Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard threw a desperation “Hail Mary” pass toward the end zone and had five receivers and six Texans’ defenders waiting for the football at the goal line.

Houston cornerback Glover Quin had a shot at the pass and did what he has been coached to do—bat the football to the turf like a volleyball spike. He batted the football right into the midsection of Jacksonville’s Mike Thomas, who cradled the ball against his belly as he crossed the goal and made the game-winning touchdown before realizing what he had really done.

Game over. It’s still another heart-breaking loss (31-24) for the Texans, who now are reeling at 4-5 after starting the season 2-0.

Both teams were leaning toward overtime with one team raising their arms toward Heaven while the other hung their heads in disbelief.

There was much disbelief among NFL fans in the Lone Star State in the second game Sunday. But what they weren’t believing was the way the Dallas Cowboys were manhandling the talent-laden New York Giants.

It seemed like every play the Cowboys ran worked like a charm. New head coach Jason Garrett did in six days what it took fired coach Wade Phillips nine weeks to do—win one game.

When owner Jerry Jones handed over the team to his offensive coordinator he told Garrett he could earn the job permanently by eliciting “extraordinary effort” from the Cowboys. Garrett accomplished that mission in less than four hours.

The Cowboys’ 38-year-old veteran quarterback Jon Kitna bounced around in the backfield like a youngster half his age and completed his passes with the accuracy of a surgeon. Kitna connected on 13-of-22 aerials for 327 yards and three touchdowns in the 33-20 Poke victory that was not nearly as close as the final score indicated.

“The intensity was there in all three areas,” Garrett said after the game. “Guys fought each and every play, they fought for each other and they fought through different adversities.” The Cowboys (2-7) snapped a five-game losing skid and ended a five-game winning streak for the Giants, who dropped to 6-3.

Apparently the Cowboys bought into Garrett’s hard-nosed approach, which was quite the opposite of Wade Phillips laid-back demeanor. With seven games remaining, perhaps the Cowboys may still be able to salvage a decent season for their nervous owner.

JUST BETWEEN US…Despite the distraction from the news of the death of his beloved grandfather, Orange’s Earl Thomas was the leading tackler in the Seattle Seahawks’ 36-18 upset victory over the Arizona Cardinals Sunday afternoon. Thomas had eight solo tackles to raise his total for the season to 40 solo stops and 47 tackles, which is second behind team leader Marcus Trufant with 50 tackles. Seattle, which went into the game as a three-point underdog, now stands at 5-4 and is leading the NFC West Division by a game over St. Louis.