(Orange, Texas)

October 30, 2013

Playoff-bound Bears await Central challenge

Van Wade
The Orange Leader

LITTLE CYPRESS — For the first time since 1997, the Little Cypress-Mauriceville Battlin’ Bears have punched in their playoff ticket.

It’s even more impressive that the Bears (4-3, 4-1) got it accomplished with still two games remaining on their District 20-4A schedule.

Now LC-M wants to fine-tune for the playoffs and that starts with a home game Friday night against Beaumont Central (5-3, 4-1), who the Bears are tied with for second-place and then a road trip to Vidor (3-5, 1-4) to wrap up the regular season.

The Bears clinched the berth with a 38-12 victory over Lumberton while the Jaguars sealed their berth with a 64-12 blowout win against Livingston.

“I couldn’t be happier for the kids,” said LC-M coach Randy Crouch. “They’ve been getting after it at practice week after week and it’s paid off for them. They’ve reached one goal and now they’re shooting for more.”

The Bears still have an outside shot of winning the 20-4A title or at least a piece of it if they win out and first-place Nederland (7-1, 5-0) drops a game or two.

“The key for us is not looking ahead to the playoffs, we just have to look at the team that sits in front of us,” said Crouch. “We’ve got an amazing opponent sitting in front of us with Central. The Jaguars will be a huge challenge. I watched them personally against Livingston Saturday. They’re extremely fast at the skill positions and they have tremendous size. I really don’t see any weaknesses.”

The Jaguar defense will face a LC-M running game that has found its top gear in recent weeks.

Tailback Brandon Toliver set a new single game school-record rushing mark with his 368 yards and five touchdowns on 31 carries in the win against Lumberton. He now has 835 yards and 10 TDs on 97 carries.

“Brandon has really ran hard and he’s finding the holes and getting through the running lanes,” said Crouch. “He will also be the first one to tell you that the offensive line is the major part of it. Those guys up front have been tremendous.

The Bear line features the likes of Ethan Reed, Dustin Daigle, Tyler Hayes, Taylor Hulsey, Marvis Brown Lincoln Causey, Blake LeBlanc and Matthew Chitty.

“Those guys have really been physical, controlling the line of scrimmage,” said Crouch. “They just seem to get better with each week and each practice.”

Bear quarterback Caleb Harley has completed 48-of-102 passes for 467 yards and four TDs with four interceptions. His favorite targets have been Dalton Doyle (19-290-3) and Coby Roddy (17-170-1).

Jalen Griffin also sparks the ground game with 451 yards and three TDs on 100 carries.

The Bears will face a stout Jaguar defensive unit that is allowing just 260.9 yards a game to rank second in 20-4A behind Nederland.

The LC-M defense will have to contend with some speedy offensive weapons for the Jaguars.

Quarterback Michael Jacquet has come into his own in recent weeks. He’s completed 65-of-106 passes for 1,111 yards and has 16 TDs and seven interceptions.

His favorite target is trackster Garrison Mitchell who has piled up 29 catches for 537 yards and eight TDs.

The Jaguars also have a dangerous back in Damon Thomas. Thomas has 605 yards and three TDs on just 77 carries. Kamon Darby has rushed for 357 yards and five scores on 44 totes while Jacquet has 337 yards and six TDs on 58 carries.

“I know our running game has gotten a lot of attention the last few weeks but the unsung guys have been on the defensive side of the ball for us,” said Crouch. “Those guys have really played well. They’ve really buckled down to make some big stops in pressure situations. They’ve been able to get turnovers at opportune times. We’re really proud of those guys.”

Central downed the Bears 44-28 in a shootout last year in which the two teams combined for nearly 800 yards.

The Bears will close out their regular season on the road at Vidor Nov. 8 while the Jaguars will entertain Nederland.