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Indians Continue Tradition Ahead Of Lindale

By I.C. Murrell | PA News

PNG (8-3) vs. Lindale (7-4)
• 5A Division II area round; 8 p.m. Friday, NRG Stadium, Houston; KCOL-FM 92.5

PORT NECHES — Ron Bost wishes every high school football team could enjoy Port Neches-Groves’ Thanksgiving tradition: Keep playing, and invite the community to an open Turkey Day practice. “It’s awesome,” he said. “I wish there were more schools that would get involved with this. It does bring the community together, and it’s an awesome thing that when you get this far in the playoffs, you get more people involved.”
Bost has had three grandsons practice on Thanksgiving — 2012 graduate Chase Bertrand, 2018 grad Austin Bost and now sophomore quarterback Blake Bost. Austin, now playing baseball at Panola College, came back for his third straight Thanksgiving practice — this time as a fan. “It was fun coming out here on Thanksgiving, the two years I was here,” Austin Bost said. The Indians made the area round in 2015, when he was a sophomore. “And, now, I get to come out here and watch some of the guys I played with and even my brother put on for the community. It’s really cool.” Such an event has become a staple for many families of Indians players, including that of senior running back Rhett Green.
“It’s kind of like a big reunion,” Green’s grandmother, Camille Jones, said. “You kind of know everybody. All these kids and everybody, we’ve been together since they were little bitty boys coming up through PNGYFL [Port Neches-Groves Youth Football League] and middle school, and now high school.”

PNG players walk to the sideline during Thanksgiving morning practice. (I.C. Murrell/The News)

Tenth-year Indians head coach Brandon Faircloth started the Thanksgiving practice tradition. This year’s edition was in preparation for Friday’s area round game with Lindale (7-4) in the 5A Division II playoffs at Houston’s NRG Stadium. PNG (8-3) and Nederland are playing on the same day at the Houston Texans’ home for the second year in a row, with PNG vs. Lindale serving as the 8 p.m. nightcap of a tripleheader at the dome.
“These last three years, we’ve been really blessed to make it this far,” Faircloth said. “… It’s one of our goals to practice on Thanksgiving Day. To reach those kind of goals, I’m really happy for our team and our fans.” PNG will take on the winner of 5A fourth-ranked Fort Bend Marshall (11-0) and A&M Consolidated (10-1), who are playing Friday at Tomball. It would be the third straight trip to the Region III semifinals for the Indians, who last reached a regional final in 1999 and fell to College Station the past two years.
Coming off a 48-7 win over Houston Northside, PNG has been healthier at wide receiver with the return of junior Kaleb Wuenschel, who caught five passes for 110 yards and a touchdown last Friday. “Coaches just told us to act like it’s a normal game, and we took that to heart,” Wuenschel said. “We just took that to heart, and we went out there and did our stuff.”
Lindale will travel nearly 3½ hours to NRG Stadium, more than twice as long as PNG’s voyage. The Eagles, who finished second in District 9-5A Division II, played in the postseason for the first time since 2015 and defeated Montgomery 52-38 for its first postseason win since 2011.
“We didn’t know a lot [about Lindale] before we got the film,” Faircloth said. “They’re a dangerous football team. They scored a lot of points last week. They’re really talented, and they’re going to be tough on us tomorrow night.”
Quarterback Dillon Heinaman passed for 289 yards and four touchdowns last week for Lindale.
“He’s about 235 [pounds], big kid,” Faircloth said of the 6-foot-1 Heinaman. Good receiving corps, good offensive line … very similar to us, quite honestly.” Eagles coach Chris Cochran compared going to NRG Stadium to fictional Hickory High School’s march to the Indiana state basketball title in a Lindale News-Times article, but he added the Eagles must “guard against the feeling” they’ve accomplished everything they wanted to this season.
Down in Southeast Texas, a proud program once known for its “Astrodomination” days of the 1970s just wants to take further steps toward its first championship in 43 years and first state final in 19 years. “It’s fun to play at NRG, but what I told our kids, it’s more fun to win at NRG,” Faircloth said. “We still have to go play a football game and win, but we’re definitely going to enjoy the experience.”

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