LITTLE CYPRESS —
One of Little Cypress-Mauriceville’s tallest tasks will be Friday night when the Battlin’ Bears welcome in the eighth-ranked Nederland Bulldogs for a critical District 20-4A tussle.
The Bulldogs (4-1, 2-0), led by long-time head coach Larry Neumann, enter the game with a 13-game 20-4A win streak and are on a quest to defend their 20-4A title.
The Bears (2-3, 1-1), however, might have something to say about that.
You see, Coach Randy Crouch’s Bears have notched two big wins at home and are carrying plenty of momentum into this one.
The Bears certainly have some things going for them. They’ve already defeated a ranked team (Class 3A Coldspring 35-20) and have already defeated one Mid-County team already (Port Neches-Groves 35-6 last week).
The Bulldogs are alone in first-place after two games after getting a big 20-13 road win at Vidor and then defeating Livingston 23-7 at home last week. The Bears’ lone 20-4A loss was at the hands of Livingston 42-35.
The Bulldogs use a balanced offense and a huge but speedy defense to turn back opponents.
“As usual, the Bulldogs have plenty of bark,” said Crouch. “They have the complete package on both sides of the ball. They mix the run and the pass well and they have offensive and defensive line, especially the defensive line, that can block out the sun. They are huge and very physical.”
Bulldog quarterback Carson Raines has completed 47-of-89 passes for 646 yards and eight touchdowns and has five interceptions. He has two nice receiver targets to work with in Seth Barrow (15-204-3) and Michael Shaw (13-190-4).
“The Raines kid is very sharp back there and has plenty of experience playing in big games, including the playoffs,” said Crouch. “They really execute their offense well and really mix it up.”
Tailback Kendrick Hopkins has been on fire of late as well, rushing for 590 yards and a TD on 95 carries. He had 200 yards and a TD on 29 carries in the win against Livingston. Raines has 94 yards on the ground on 39 carries but does have five TDs. Hopkins will look to attack a Bear defense that has allowed 235.8 yards a game on the ground.
“Hopkins is a load,” said Crouch. “He runs physical and has deceptive speed. You’ve got to wrap him up because he’s always churning for those extra yards.”
The Bulldogs will face a Bear defense that has caused its share of turnovers this year, including picking off five PN-G passes last with Dylan Gruber picking off two of those.
“Defensively, the kids played a tremendous game last week against PN-G,” said Crouch. “We’ve got to have that same kind of intensity again and the same kind of physicality because Nederland will be the most physical and biggest team we’ve faced thus far.”
The Battlin’ Bear offense has produced 142 points in the last four games and has started to find its groove.
Senior tailback Alex Sezer shredded PN-G for 217 yards last week and now has 681 yards and nine TDs on 105 carries.
Junior quarterback Caleb Harley has made tremendous strides throughout the campaign. He completed 8-of-10 passes for 183 yards and three TDs against PN-G. For the season, he’s completed 38-of-68 passes for 681 yards and seven TDs with four interceptions.
No receiver in the area has been hotter than Dalton Doyle the last two weeks. Doyle has 14 catches for 333 yards and four TDs for the season but in the last two weeks he’s hauled in 10 catches for 277 yards and four TDs in the last two games.
Casey Viator leads the Bears with 18 receptions for 218 yards and a TD and fellow receiver Billy Jones has caught 10 balls for 160 yards and two scores.
“Offensively, we’ve got to continue to be patient, move the sticks and get ourselves in those short second and third down situations,” said Crouch. “We’ve been really good of late, cutting down on the turnovers and we’ve got to continue that.”
The Bears will travel to Beaumont next Saturday to face Beaumont Ozen in a game that kicks off at 1 p.m. while the Bulldogs head to The Reservation Friday to face PN-G for Mid-County Madness.