Port Arthur Memorial quarterback Keitha Jones suited up for Friday’s Class 5A, Region III, Division I area round game battling the flu. By the end of the first half, Ball High was left wishing he had stayed in bed.
Jones both ran and passed for a touchdown and set up a third with a 45-yard run during the Titans’ 28-point second quarter avalanche en route to a 45-14 win that ended the Tors’ first playoff run since 2009 and closed the book on a 6-5 season.
“We just couldn’t get anything going,” Ball High coach Kimble Anders said. “We had opportunities to get back into the game, but just weren’t able to capitalize. Give credit to Port Arthur Memorial (10-1). They did a pretty good job of some of the things we did.”
While Jones (14 carries, 126 yards) provided the ignition for the Titans’ success, running back Elijah Hines was the driving force behind an offense that put up 413 total yards. Hines rushed 23 times for 143 yards and scored four touchdowns, including a pair in the decisive second quarter.
Memorial scored the game’s first points on Kenny Pham’s 24-yard field goal with 5:02 left in the first quarter. The Tors took advantage of Jones’ one first-half misstep when defensive back Deonza Yoakum stepped in front of his pass and ran 11 yards to the Port Arthur Memorial 1-yard line. Clarence Dalton plunged into the end zone on the very next play that gave Ball High a 7-3 lead with 3:34 remaining in the first.
Momentum began to swing against Ball High when a hurdling call against the Tors on a fourth-and-3 at the Ball High 49 gave the Titans new life on the ensuing drive, one that saw Jones account for 46 of the 56 yards that gave Memorial the lead for good, including the final 20 on a sparkling run to put the Titans up 10-7 with 8:15 left in the first half.
The Titans needed only 27 seconds to score on their next possession, as Jones scampered 45 yards to the Tors’ 6-yard line on the opening play of the drive, setting Hines’ run up the middle on the next play to extend the margin to 17-7.
Things went from bad to worse for Ball High. A low snap on an attempt punt resulted in a 21-yard loss that put Port Arthur Memorial at the Tors’ 12. Hines needed just one touch to find his way in the end zone, giving them a 24-7 edge with 4:16 to go.
Jones used his arm to break the game wide open when he found Teajawon Mack for a 34-yard touchdown pass with 1:04 remaining before intermission, swelling the Titans’ lead to 31-7.
As prolific as the Memorial offense was in the second quarter, the defense was just as dominant, holding Ball High to 13 total yards of offense and no first downs. The Tors were able to finish with 233 yards on the night.
Javontae Hopkins’ interception of a Martavian Jackson pass set the stage for Hines to sprint 35 yards for a touchdown on the very next play to make it 38-7 with 8:50 left in the third quarter. The Titans closed out their scoring when Hines went in from a yard out at the 10:20 mark of the fourth quarter before Ball found the end zone on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Thomas Farmer to Tony Robbins with 4:21 remaining.
Despite the loss, Anders was proud of how his team kept fighting in the same manner they had all season.
“They put in the work all season,” he said. “This was a great experience for all of us, so now we will continue to grow as a team. We’re going back to Monday morning. We’re going to bust out butts. If we win in the offseason and win in the summer, we’re going to be able to win in the fall.”
Ball High will return 46 of the players that suited up on Friday.