Still in the hunt.
That’s where the Little Cypress-Mauriceville Battlin’ Bears stand after they sweated out a 21-15 District 20-4A victory over the Beaumont Ozen Panthers Saturday at Thomas Stadium.
The Bears (3-4, 2-2) rode the legs of senior tailback Alex Sezer and made some tough defensive stops down the stretch to nab the win.
Sezer went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season as he shredded the Panthers (2-5, 1-3) for 188 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries. He now has 1,048 yards and 12 touchdowns for the season.
“This was a huge, huge win for our program and the entire community,” said LC-M coach Randy Crouch. “Alex ran superb and was a workhorse today. The key was getting off to that good first half start. Ozen has so much talent and they moved the ball well on us in the second half but the kids rose up when they had too.”
It was Sezer who looked like he sealed the game midway through the fourth period when he ate up all 47 yards in eight touches and capped off the LC-M drive with a four-yard touchdown blast up the middle. The Bears missed the extra-point but led 21-8 with just 5:55 remaining.
However, with 1:52 remaining, Ozen defensive back Tony Brown plopped on a fumble by LC-M fullback Andrew Meyers at the Bear 32.
Four plays later, Ozen standout running back JaKobi Jones, who rushed for 180 yards on 22 carries, busted loose for a 16-yard touchdown dart up the middle to trim the gap to 21-15 with 1:18 left.
The Bears then would survive some controversy to nail down the win.
The Panthers went for the onside kick on the ensuing kickoff. LC-M’s Dylan Gruber looked as if he had the ball safely wrapped up for more than a second but the officials said that Panther Jeremiah Guillory had the ball. Ozen got the ball despite Gruber having absolute possession as Guillory took it away from him late.
Jones had a 13-yard pass reception from quarterback Jordan Ozen that got to the Bear 34. Ozen gritted out a first down to the Bear 23. On the next play, Ozen hit a wide-open Chris James in the end zone for a sure 23-yard touchdown but James dropped the ball with 0:20 left.
Jones hauled in another 13-yard pass that gave Ozen a first down inside the Bear 10 with 11 seconds left.
After an incomplete, the Panthers went for the win with 7.7 seconds left. Ozen hit Jones with a perfect strike in the right corner of the end zone but Jones dropped what would’ve been the game-tying touchdown.
Guess you can call those two dropped passes “poetic justice” for the Battlin’ Bears.
“The onside kick was a tough one but I blame myself a lot too,” said Crouch. “Our clock management skills weren’t where they needed to be there at the end. Ozen has the type of talent that can score on every single play. They had a few drops there at the end that hurt them. We’re fortunate to get out of here with a win. We beat a pretty darn good football team here, that’s for sure.”
Ozen completed 10-of-24 passes for 77 yards and was picked off twice by the Bear secondary.
Ozen had moved the ball from their own 28 to the Bear 25 with 3:57 left in the game but was thwarted when Bear defensive back Teondre Gant picked off Ozen at the LC-M 12.
Trailing 15-0 at intermission, the Panthers got to within 15-8 early in the fourth period after completing a 13-play, 90-yard touchdown march. Jones had 46 yards on the drive and finished it off with a four-yard dart, taking the snap from the Wildcat quarterback spot. Jones then hit receiver Myles Mouton on a a two-point conversion jump pass to make it 15-8 with 10:17 remaining.
After LC-M’s Casey Viator brought back a short kickoff 24 yards to the Ozen 47, Sezer “seized” the day for the Bears. Enjoying his biggest workload of the season, Sezer bruised his way for 34 yards on seven carries and caught a 13-yard screen pass from quarterback Caleb Harley. Sezer finished it with his four-yard TD blast.
Harley completed 10-of-14 passes for 102 yards. Receiver Billy Jones had four catches for 43 yards while Sezer had three for 40.
The Panthers finished with 333 yards of total offense while the Bears had 285.
LC-M took over at its own 26 with 1:25 left in the first period and chewed up 74 yards in 15 plays and ate up 7:41 of the clock to take command early.
The Bears utilized the screen game well on the march. Harley completed six passes for 61 yards on the drive with Jones catching three of them for 32 yards. Harley capped it when he hit receiver Viator in the right flat and Viator went eight yards untouched into the end zone. Sezer scored on a two-point conversion run to give the Bears a 8-0 edge with 5:44 left in the half.
Harley completed 9-of-12 passes for 89 yards in the first half.
The Bears took advantage of good field position to set up their second score.
Panther punter Anthony Sylvester received a bad snap on fourth-and-4 from the Ozen 33. Sylvester did manage a two-yard completion to Guillory on the play but the Bears took over at the Panther 35 with 4:13 in the half.
Sezer found some daylight on first down, zipping 32 yards down to the Panther 3. Three plays later Viator took a sneak over from a yard out. Sezer had 71 yards on 16 carries in the first half. Backup kicker Slade Ferguson booted the extra-point to give the Bears a 15-0 edge with 2:27 in the half.
The Bears’ defense stifled the Panthers in the first half, limiting Ozen to just 94 yards and two first downs.
On their first series of the game, the Panthers moved from their own 42 all the way down to the Bear 7 with the big play coming on a JaKobi Jones 37-yard run. However, a holding penalty thwarted the Panthers and on fourth-and-16 from the Bear 20, Ozen was picked off by LC-M defensive back Brandon Toliver at the Bear 15.
LC-M finished with 156 total yards in the first half.
The Bears return home Friday when they welcome in the last-place Lumberton Raiders (0-7, 0-4) for Homecoming.
“This win was so critical for us,” said Crouch. “This is one we had to have and the kids went out and accomplished it. With three games left, we feel like our destiny is in our hands and not someone else. We’ve been there and done that before and it’s no fun. We’ve just got to go out there and continue to play hard and come up with some more Ws.”
Ozen will head to first-place Nederland (6-1, 4-0) Friday.
Still in the hunt.
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