The Battle Line on 59 rivalry game has never been bigger.
New Caney and Porter are both undefeated in District 9-5A (Div. I) play and have essentially been on a collision course throughout the season while asserting their dominance.
The Eagles (9-0, 6-0) and Spartans (8-1, 6-0) will square off at 7 p.m. today at Randall Reed Stadium. The winner will lay claim to the outright district championship and bragging rights for the next year.
New Caney is ranked No. 4 in the latest Houston-Area Media Poll, and Porter enters the game at No. 8. The contest will pit the high-octane Eagles offense against the stifling Spartans defense.
“It’s just ideal for our community and both of our football programs because there is so much riding on the line,” New Caney coach Brady Pennington said. “One of the things that I feel is a unique deal is — what a ballgame to play before you go into the playoffs. It’s going to be a playoff-caliber game. Iron sharpens iron. You’ve got two great football teams and two great coaching staffs, and regardless of whoever comes out of this thing on top, both teams are going to get better from it.”
Porter won just nine games during its first six seasons after the program debuted in 2010. But the Spartans have been on the rise during their four years with Holley at the helm with a combined record of 28-13. Porter has already eclipsed the program record for wins in a single season and is looking for more.
New Caney is not too far removed from some hard times, either. The Eagles collected just 10 wins from 2011 to 2014, but then they got on the roll. The program is now seeking its fourth straight district title.
“The atmosphere is going to be electric,” Porter coach Jim Holley said of the matchup. “Just the noise and the crowd and the excitement that’s created over there in that atmosphere makes it a special game. “I’m really excited for our school district to have the two schools playing for the district championship. I think a lot of people, four or five years ago, if you told them Porter and New Caney were going to play for the district championship, they would have looked at you like you were crazy.”
New Caney has the No. 1 offense in the district at nearly 490 yards per game. Quarterback Zion Childress leads the way for the Eagles with more than 2,800 total yards and 33 touchdowns. New Caney has been held below 40 points just once this season and is averaging 50 per game during district play.
The Eagles also rank third in the district on defense in terms of yards allowed. That unit has been by Derrick Harris Jr. and Caleb Rhodes, who have combined for nearly 150 tackles and 33 tackles for loss.
“They don’t have any weaknesses,” Holley said. “It starts with their coach. Coach Pennington is a great coach, and they have a great coaching staff. They are solid in all three areas of the game — special teams, offense, defense. They’re legit. They’ve got several DI football players, and there are just no weaknesses on this football team. They have the potential of going really, really deep in the playoffs.”
Porter has leaned on its defense throughout the season and is surrendering a measly 130 yards per game. The unit is allowing just 7.5 points per contest and has limited five of its opponents to single digits. The Spartans have counted heavily on the leadership and playmaking ability of linebacker Zhyon Bell.
Porter ranks fifth in the district in total offense, but the team has made plenty of improvement on that side of the ball since the season began. Quarterback Jack Reilly has been efficient with 15 touchdown passes to just one interception, and Baron Bradley leads the district with 628 receiving yards and 11 scores.
“Much respect for their coaching staff and the job they do,” Pennington said. “Their kids are disciplined, they play extremely hard, and that’s a credit to their program and their coaches and how they lead over there. Coach Holley and his staff have done a tremendous job. One of the most impressive things is their defense. They are really special, and the kids play really, really hard. They run a really hard scheme to play against. They pin their ears back and blitz a lot, but they’re also very sound.”