(Orange, Texas)

October 23, 2013

Red-hot Bears ready for struggling Raiders

Van Wade
The Orange Leader

LUMBERTON — It’s been 18 grueling games in a row for the Lumberton Raiders.

Meanwhile, the Little Cypress-Mauriceville Battlin’ Bears are inching closer and closer to a goal they’ve been seeking for 16 years.

The two teams will collide Friday night at Raider Stadium in District 20-4A action.

The Bears (3-3, 3-1) certainly control their own destiny as far as the playoffs are concerned after they took down Beaumont Ozen 24-7 last week.

The top four teams will make the playoffs and the Bears are currently in a second-place tie with Beaumont Central. A fourth win at Lumberton could provide huge dividends for the Bears, who are seeking their first postseason appearance since 1997.

“We’re not looking ahead at anything, we’re considering this game as the fifth game of a seven-game journey,” said LC-M coach Randy Crouch. “The kids really played well last week and that win over Ozen was a big one. The Lumberton game is just as big and so are the two after it. This district usually goes down to the final week for the playoff spots and this year could be no different. We’re pleased with the effort of the kids and hopefully we can pull out another one this Friday.”

Raider coach Larry Haynes continues to try to turn Lumberton around in his first year back after a successful stint in the 1990s but the Raiders continue to struggle.

Haynes inherited a program that had lost 11 straight entering the season and the “bleeding” hasn’t stopped as Lumberton (0-7, 0-4) has extended the losing streak to 18 straight games after a hard 16-9 loss to Livingston last week.

“We’ve watched plenty of Lumberton on film and their kids play hard,” said Crouch. “They’re capable of scoring some points. They’ve hurt themselves with some turnovers and some dropped passes but they do have some good-looking kids. Really, they should have beat Livingston last week if it wasn’t for a few tough breaks.”

The Raiders remain hungry as they look to set up a “bear trap” but the Bears have even loftier goals in reaching the postseason.

The Bears are coming off a “complete game” victory over Ozen in a battle in which the LC-M offensive line totally overpowered the Panthers.

“Our offensive line has really been our strength the last few weeks and hopefully that can continue,” said Crouch. “They’ve controlled things up front. (Brandon) Toliver has been running well and had a huge game last week. We like what we have with our backs.”

Tailback Brandon Toliver cut up the Panthers for 219 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries and now leads the ground game for the season with 454 yards and five TDs on 64 carries.

Fellow back Jalen Griffin has 440 yards and three TDs on 94 totes as the Bears are averaging 276.7 yards a game. The Bears will face a Raider defense that is giving up a whopping 451.2 yards a game.

Quarterback Caleb Harley has completed 43-of-92 passes for 412 yards and four TDs with two picks. Dalton Doyle leads all Bear receivers with 18 grabs for 275 yards and three scores.

There’s no doubt that the Raiders like to throw the leather even though they’re averaging a district-worst 210.8 yards an outing.

Quarterback Drew Manley has completed 65-of-146 passes for 810 yards and has four TDs and four interceptions.

His favorite targets have been Dalton Borne (32-365-3) and Chase Griffin (19-270-0). The Raiders only average 50.7 yards a game. After holding Ozen to just 260 yards last week, the Bears are giving up 321.5 on the year.

“We are healing up a few nicks and bruises this week,” said Crouch. “You run into that this time of the year but the kids continue to battle and their focus has been really good in practices.”

The Bears burned the Raiders 37-6 last year, limiting Lumberton to 121 total yards.

LC-M returns home next week in a vital game against Beaumont Central while the Raiders visit first-place Nederland.