LITTLE CYPRESS —
The 16-year playoff drought is over for the Little Cypress-Mauriceville Battlin’ Bears as they will be entering the playoff waters for the first time since 1997 Saturday.
The last time the Bears stepped on to a playoff field, they fell to eventual Class 4A Division II state champion LaMarque in the Region III Finals 41-20 on the floor of the Astrodome.
The Astrodome may not exist much longer but the Battlin’ Bears would like to think that there solid season will continue after this weekend.
“The kids are excited and the community is excited and everyone is really anticipating it,” said Bear coach Randy Crouch. “The kids have put forth a tremendous effort all season and have shown a lot of improvement from those early days in August. It’s a new season now and we’ve got a good Dayton team we’ve got to go up against.”
The Bears (5-4, 5-2), the third-place team out of District 20-4A, will take on the Dayton Broncos (5-5, 4-4), the fourth-place team out of District 19-4A, Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Carroll “Butch” Thomas Center in Beaumont in the 4A Region III Division II bidistrict round.
The Bears are coming off a dramatic 17-13 regular season finale win over Orange County rival Vidor while the Broncos absorbed a 41-27 loss to 19-4A champion Summer Creek, which is ranked No. 5 in the 4A state ranks.
“That was a tremendous win to go to Vidor and come out with one at their place,” said Crouch. “Anytime you get a win in our tough league, it’s great. Dayton, they’ve been through some big battles as well. That 19-4A league is loaded with talented teams and it’s a nine-team league, so you’re going through eight big battles in district over there.”
Coach Jowell Hancock’s Broncos like to put the ball in the air, led by quarterback Tristan Baughman.
The Broncos are averaging 329.8 yards a contest and will face a Bear defense that has allowed 313.3.
Baughman has completed 143-of-246 passes for 1,662 yards and eight touchdowns. He does have 12 interceptions and will face a ball-hawking Bear secondary that can pick with the best of them.
Baughman’s favorite targets have been Jacarius Keener (45-624-3), Lucious Rhone (45-539-3) and Kyle McBride (35-412-2).
McBride leads the Bronco ground attack with 511 yards and eight TDs on 91 carries. Baughman has rushed for 264 yards and three TDs on 68 totes.
“Dayton likes to spread you out and they have excellent athletes,” said Crouch. “Dayton has always been known for good athletes and making the playoffs. For years, it was Coach (Jerry) Stewart (now the Dayton AD) that led them to a lot of big wins. Coach Hancock knows what the tradition is like there and he was with Coach Stewart for almost 20 years. They just have an excellent program.”
The Bears will check in averaging 303.6 yards an outing and will face a Bronco defense that gives up 319.6.
“Defensively, they’re very sound up front in the defensive line,” said Crouch. “Their linebackers are pretty good. Watching them on film, they have not been exploited very much. Size-wise, I think we match up with them pretty well. We’re going to try and prepare well for them and the kids are looking forward to going out there and competing hard.”
LC-M running back Brandon Toliver has been on a tear since the 20-4A campaign started. He now has 1,241 yards and 13 TDs on 145 carries.
Bear quarterback Caleb Harley has completed 67-of-145 passes for 673 yards and has five TDs and five picks.
Dalton Doyle has been his favorite target. Doyle has 32 grabs for 401 yards and four TDs.
LC-M High School invites the entire community to join them for a “Bust the Broncos” pep rally on Thursday. The pep rally will begin at 6:30 p.m. and will be held in Battlin’ Bear Stadium.
Look for information on tickets and Playoff shirts soon on the Little Cypress-Mauriceville CISD Facebook page.
The LC-M-Dayton winner will face either Brenham or Georgetown East View in the area round next week.