PN-G football dealing with new reality
Every part of Port Neches-Groves High School football coach Brandon Faircloth’s postgame ritual went according to plan Friday evening.
He shook hands with Baytown Sterling’s coaches and players, gathered his team in the fieldhouse for a speech, then met with his wife before speaking with the media.
Those moments - and the preceding 55-31 victory at Indian Stadium - provided a dose of familiarity for Faircloth and his players.
It was merely temporary.
Faircloth received about six inches of water in his home and a combined 15 of his players and coaches endured water damage to theirs because of Tropical Storm Harvey.
The season-opening win over Baytown Sterling was the Indians’ only Friday night game until mid-October, so a routine of Friday night football won’t return for a while either.
“I’ve never been a part of something like this,” Faircloth said. “I feel like everyone did a good job of blocking everything out during the game - but things aren’t going to be back to normal for a while.”
PN-G’s sentiment is one that’s similar to the other District 22-5A teams in Southeast Texas.
Lumberton was the only other local district team to host a game Friday while Nederland played at Dayton.
Port Arthur Memorial, Central and Ozen all canceled their games and won’t start their season until Sept. 20 - a Wednesday.
Vidor won’t open its season until Sept. 27 and not even half of the team is back in town after flooding forced them to evacuate.
The District 22-5A executive committee met Friday and voted to compress the district football schedule, which rescheduled games for every day of the week except Sunday.
PN-G, for example, has to play at Livingston on Oct. 2 - a Monday.
“We had a weird week,” senior receiver Preston Riggs said. “Between what we were dealing with at home and then finding out about the football schedule, it was definitely weird.”
The week leading up to the Baytown Sterling game was unique.
Starting junior quarterback Roschon Johnson, who spent most of his summer days at Indian Stadium, was away from Southeast Texas for more than a week.
Johnson and his father, Ronald, went to Dallas on Aug. 26 to watch the Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather fight and couldn’t return home until last Sunday because of the flooding.
Once Johnson and the rest of the PN-G team returned to practice Monday, they spent their hours away from football helping with cleanup of houses in Port Neches and Groves.
Sophomore running back Gavin Deslatte, who made his first regular-season start against Sterling, doesn’t expect to ever have another week where his routine consists of helping people gut their houses instead of attending school.
“We had a lot of full days as a team,” Deslatte said.
“Even after the game, I still don’t feel like we’re going to be back to normal anytime soon.”
Faircloth considers his team lucky, even if adversity persists throughout the season.
Three district coaches - Vidor’s Jeff Mathews, Ozen’s Ed Taylor and Memorial’s Kenny Harrison - received major flood damage to their houses.
Faircloth had his full team Friday and it looked, even for three hours, like a team that can continue to uplift the community.
“It could be worse,” Faircloth said.
“We’re dealing with a lot and will continue to for a while, but I think we were able to be a bright light for a lot of people for a few hours and that’s all we can do.”