If there was any doubt the Huntsville Hornets are a legitimate state title contender, they eliminated it Friday night with a dominant showing against a perennial Southeast Texas power. 

One week removed from a season-opening blowout win over Willis, Huntsville defeated a Port Neches-Groves team that’s made nine playoff appearances and notched more than 80 wins over the past decade.

And the Hornets made it look easy.

Playing without starting quarterback and reigning District 10-5A Division II Offensive MVP Matthew Southern, Huntsville cruised to a 27-10 win over the Indians — who comfortably beat 2018 Class 4A Division II semifinalist Silsbee a week earlier.

It all started on defense for the Hornets, who held PNG to just three first downs and 53 yards in the first half, as they jumped out to a 27-0 lead.

“They’re a good football team, and we had their number in the first half,” Huntsville head coach Rodney Southern said. “We did what we had to do to win. We didn’t score any points in the second half, which was disappointing. But at the same time, I’ll take 27-10 over a top-15 team any day.”

Huntsville’s defensive dominance over the Indians was rooted in its preparation throughout the week. 

Coach Southern and defensive coordinator Scott Schroeder devised a game plan that spotlighted PNG’s offensive tendencies, while the players made an emphasis to gain an edge in the film room. The results were seen instantly, as the Hornets began the first drive by barking out their opponent’s plays before the snap — bewildering the PNG offense.

“It started out the film room,” Huntsville senior linebacker Jordan Brown said. “We were watching film every single day, calling out what plays they were going to run and where we thought they were going. … We really came out and showed them on the first drive.”

“We prepared a lot more, and you could definitely see it out there,” added Hornet senior safety Jaden Schroeder. “We were ready for almost everything they threw at us. Almost every down, we knew what play they were going to run. Having the right mindset throughout the week and getting things done really helped us.”

Despite missing its starting quarterback and most proven returning playmaker, the Huntsville offense controlled the tempo with ease against a defense that boasts at least two Division I prospects in the front seven.

Senior running back Cameron Myers continued to emerge as the go-to guy for the Hornets offensively, rushing for two touchdowns and catching another for the second week in a row. Senior Tyrique Carter passed for 122 yards and a score while filling in at quarterback, and added 50 more yards on the ground. Meanwhile, senior receiver Nate Hambright showed off his big play ability, recording 77 yards from scrimmage on four touches.

Carter points to the Hornets’ defensive prowess as a motivator for when they have the ball.

“It makes us know that we can dominate them,” he said. “If you have a defense that’s stopping them, and we just keep scoring, that’s how the score turns into 27-10. We came out slow in the second half … but we came out in the first half and hit them in the mouth.”

Huntsville entered its game against PNG as the No. 4 team in Class 5A Division II.

The Hornets find some familiarity surrounding them at the top, too.

District foe A&M Consolidated sits at No. 6, with a showdown against the Tigers looming on Sept. 27 in Huntsville. A pair of 2018 playoff opponents, Fort Bend Marshall and Manvel, come in at No. 2 and 5, respectively. And of course, defending state champion Aledo — who hasn’t lost a regular season game to a 5A school since August 2015 — remains the team to beat at No. 1.

But with yet another dominant victory, this time over an annual playoff contender that is gunning for its fourth straight district title, the Hornets showed why they belong among the best in the state.

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