The Orange Leader
LITTLE CYPRESS —
For a little more than three and a half quarters, the Little Cypress-Mauriceville Battlin’ Bears had the eighth-ranked Nederland Bulldogs sweating it out.
Then Bulldog senior linebacker Korbin Stampley put a “stamp” on yet another Bulldog win when he picked off LC-M quarterback Caleb Harley and returned the interception 39 yards for a touchdown with 4:16 left in the game to push a 21-14 Bulldog lead to 28-14 and Nederland went on to fight off the Bears 35-21 in District 20-4A play.
The Bulldogs (5-1, 3-0) forced the Bears (2-4, 1-2) into three late turnovers and LC-M completed just two of its final 17 pass attempts as Nederland continues to be impressive in trying to defend their 20-4A title of a year ago.
“I told our kids at halftime that we were in for a battle,” said Bulldog mentor Larry Nuemann. “Give Coach (Randy) Crouch and the Bears for battling hard all the way to the end. They really, really schemed us well like nobody has all year. We proved again that we’re a second-half football team. Our kids played so darn hard too. We always seem to get everybody’s best when they play us. Teams are gunning for us and the kids realize that and they stepped to the plate and got it done again tonight.”
The tilt featured two of 20-4A’s finest running backs in the forms of LC-M senior Alex Sezer and Bulldog junior Kendrick Hopkins.
Sezer chewed up 179 yards and scored two touchdowns on 27 carries, including a 57-yard touchdown gallop to tie it at 14-14 with 6:57 left in the third period. Meanwhile, Hopkins shredded the Bear defense for 143 yards on 25 carries and scored a touchdown.
Nederland quarterback Carson Raines completed 10-of-19 passes for 76 yards and a interception and ran for two touchdowns.
Harley finished 7-of-28 for 115 yards and three picks, and tossed a 27-yard touchdown to receiver Shea Richards with 0:11 remaining in the game.
“I told the kids that this one was on me,” said Crouch. “I didn’t coach them up enough to make them realize how big this game was. I felt like I made a few bad decisions tonight that cost us. I know one thing, our kids played hard the entire way. We struggled early, letting them (Nederland) get up on us pretty quick. But they responded and fought their way back in it and we’re extremely proud of that.”
Nederland went into the intermission with a 14-7 advantage but Sezer got the Bears right back in it when, despite getting his facemask grabbed at the line of scrimmage, he was able to bolt away and streaked down the right sideline for a 57-yard jaunt to the end zone.
The Bulldogs’ forced a big turnover to get the lead back at the end of the third.
Nederland defensive back Colton Kimler picked off a Harley pass at midfield with 0:13 in the third. The Bulldogs then caught the Bears “napping” when Raines handed the ball off to Hopkins, who then handed the ball to receiver Michael Shaw on a reverse and Shaw took it 50 yards down the left sidelines for the score on the last play of the period.
The Bears tried to get some momentum back but misfired when Stampley stepped in front of a Harley pass in the middle of the field at the Bear 39 and bruised his way down the left sideline for the critical 39-yard interception return.
“Korbin, what else can you say about him, he’s a battler,” said Nuemann. “He made up for a unsportmanlike penalty that hurt us a little bit there. He’s a volatile kind of kid and he loves to compete. So what does the knucklehead do, he makes that great pick and put all the momentum back in our hands late.”
Shaw picked off Harley at the LC-M 41 and returned it to the 16 with 3:57 remaining and three plays later Raines took a keeper around the left end for a four-yard touchdown run with 2:29 left to make it 35-14.
The Bears closed it out with a 10-play, 67-yard scoring march when Harley found Richards near the end zone. Richards outleaped two Bulldog defenders for a 27-yard touchdown strike.
“The turnovers were costly there at the end and so was that reverse that they turned into a touchdown,” said Crouch. “Defensively, I thought we played pretty well. We moved the ball pretty well on offense too, we just didn’t turn it into enough points. We had a field goal blocked and gave them a short field a couple other times.”
Both teams finished with exactly 296 total yards.
The Bulldogs made it look easy in the early going, scoring on two nice long drives the first two times they had the pigskin.
Raines engineered a 10-play, 77-yard scoring march on the first series of the game. Raines completed four passes for 37 yards, including a big 19-yard completion to Seth Barrow to keep the drive alive. Hopkins had a superb 28-yard scamper, breaking several Bear tackles all the way to the LC-M 16. Four plays later, Raines bolted around the right side for a four-yard touchdown keeper. Kicker Tanner Noel nailed the extra-point to give the Bulldogs the 7-0 edge with 8:28 left in the first period.
After holding the Bears to a three-and-out on their first series, the Bulldogs hit paydirt again, chewing up 52 yards in eight plays to find the end zone again.
Raines hit receiver Shaw with a 22-yard dart over the middle that set the Bulldogs up at the Bear 9. Hopkins bruised his way into the end zone two plays later, going four yards up the middle to up the margin to 14-7 with 3:49 in the first.
The Bears capitalized on a Bulldog turnover to pull to within seven early in the second quarter.
Bear defensive back Dylan Gruber, who had two interceptions against Port Neches-Groves last week, picked off Raines along the Nederland sideline at the Bulldog 44 and returned it to the 20 with 0:30 in the first.
Harley hooked up with receiver Billy Jones on a nice 13-yard pass over the middle that got all the way to the Nederland 3 and Sezer capped it with a three-yard dart around the left end. Kicker Trent Manuel made the extra-point to pull the Bears to within 14-7 with 11:29 in the half.
The Bears navigated 49 yards on their next series, moving from their own 21 to the Bulldog 20. Harley completed three passes for 32 yards and Sezer had a 17-yard run but LC-M came away empty-handed when the Bulldogs blocked a 37-yard Manuel field goal attempt with 4:03 in the half.
Nederland outgained the Bears 165-107 in the half.
Raines completed 8-of-14 passes for 70 yards. Shaw had three catches for 33 yards while Hopkins had 81 yards on 12 carries.
Harley completed 5-of-12 passes for 61 yards while Sezer had 49 tough yards on 13 carries.
The Bears will travel to Beaumont next Saturday when they face the Ozen Panthers in a 1 p.m. tilt while the Bulldogs head to The Reservation Friday night to take on Mid-County rival Port Neches-Groves.
LC-M 0 7 7 7— 21
Ned 14 0 7 14 — 35
Ned: Carson Raines 4 run. Tanner Noel kick.
Ned: Kendrick Hopkins 4 run. Noel kick.
LC-M; Alex Sezer 3 run. Trent Manuel kick.
LC-M: Sezer 57 run. Manuel kick.
Ned: Michael Shaw 50 run. Noel kick.
Ned: Korbin Stampley 39 interception return. Noel kick.
Ned: Raines 4 run. Noel kick.
LC-M: Shea Richards 27 pass from Caleb Harley.
First downs 16 18
Rushes-yards 32-181 36-220
Passing 115 76
Comp-Att-Int 7-28-3 10-19-1
Fumbles-Lost 10 10
Penalties-yards 3-20 4-35
Rushing: LC-M, Alex Sezer 27-179, Caleb Harley 3-1, Brandon Toliver 1-2, Dalton Doyle 1(-1) Nederland, Kendrick Hopkins 25-143, Michael Shaw 1-50, Carson Raines 9-25 Brandon Dial 1-2.
Passing: LC-M, Caleb Harley 7-28-3 115; Nederland, Carson Raines 10-19-1 76
Receiving: LC-M, Billy Jones 2-40, Shea Richard 2-37, Dalton Doyle 2-28, Casey Viator 1-10; Nederland, Michael Shaw 5-39, Seth Barrow 2-20, Colton Kimler 2-10, Brandon Self 1-7.