The Orange Leader
LITTLE CYPRESS —
Defense was the theme at the Orange Bowl at Battlin’ Bear Stadium Friday night but it was a young West Orange-Stark “Chain Gang” defense that eventually outplayed a hard-nosed Little Cypress-Mauriceville unit.
The Mustangs, who replaced nine starters off a defensive unit that posted nine shutouts last year, held the Bears to 164 total yards and the WO-S offense got a pair of touchdown runs by Chris James as the Mustangs downed the Bears 21-3 in the opener for both teams.
“Defensively, we have some youngsters that got their feet wet tonight,” said Mustang coach Cornel Thompson. “Coach (Randy) Crouch and the Bears gave us a lot of looks, we knew that coming in here. They hurt us with a few screens and could’ve hurt us even more if they would’ve caught a few more of them,”
James raced for 90 yards on 12 carries, scoring on runs of 16 and 2 yards. Mustang quarterback Chase Rutledge ran for a score and finished with 59 yards on the ground to go along with 112 in the air on 10-of-18 passing.
“Offensively, we’ve got to make some improvements,” said Thompson. “We’re lucky those two turnovers in the first half didn’t come back to bite us. We did see some positive things too. Give LC-M credit, they played good defense tonight too.”
The Bears received an excellent performance from senior tailback Jalen Griffin, who finished with 87 yards on 17 carries. However, the Bears never could get their passing game going. Quarterback Caleb Harley was 8-for-24 for 43 yards and had six of his passes dropped.
“We blew our chances at several golden opportunities tonight against a very good team,” said Crouch. “There were a lot of positives. Defensively, we were pretty good. I think we can do some good things, we’ve just got to go out there and make some plays in crucial situations.”
WO-S limited the Bears to 57 total yards in the first half enroute to a 14-3 lead at intermission.
The Bears struck early in the first period after getting a big special teams play when they tipped a Mustang punt that gave them the ball at the WO-S 39.
The Bears received 28 strong rushing yards on four carries from Griffin as they got down to the WO-S 11. LC-M got a tough delay of game penalty and had two incompletes but received a nice 33-yard field goal by kicker Trent Manuel with 8:04 remaining in the first.
The Mustangs moved from their own 48 to the Bear 13 on their next series but Rutledge fumbled it over to LC-M linebacker Troy Angelo at the Bear 24.
WO-S cashed in on their next possession, going 49 yards in eight plays to grab the lead. Rutledge got it going with a 10-yard pass to receiver Will Johnson. Two first downs later James took a handoff from Rutledge, got bottled up in the middle, but was able to shake off three Bear defenders and got around the right end for a 16-yard touchdown sprint. Rodrikson Cano booted the extra-point, making it 7-3 with 0:57 in the first.
The Mustangs executed a nice eight-play, 63-yard touchdown drive in a little over three minutes in the second quarter.
Rutledge connected with receiver Chris Horn on a 13-yard dart and he ran for a 12-yard first down and John Scott followed with a 10-yard burst. The big play came when Rutledge teamed up with receiver Dillon Sterling-Cole on a 28-yard strike over the middle to the Bear 3. Three plays later James was able to bolt up the middle for a two-yard TD blast as the Mustangs led 14-3 with 2:01 in the half.
The Bears’ Dalton Doyle picked off Rutledge on the last play of the half at the Bear 29 and returned it to the Mustang 32.
WO-S had 161 total yards in the half.
Rutledge completed 8-of-13 passes for 92 yards in the first half with Horn catching two passes for 37 yards while James had 28 yards on the ground and Scott 21. Harley was 4-for-10 for 16 yards in the half while Griffin had 34 yards on eight carries and Robert Green had 23 yards on three totes.
After holding the Mustangs deep in WO-S territory, the Bears took over at the Mustang 33 with 8:43 in the third. After netting a first down at the WO-S 17 Bears picked up a critical holding penalty. Manuel then missed a 36-yard field goal that barely went wide left with 5:53 left in the third.
The Bears saw a perfectly executed 41-yard screen pass from Harley to tight end Matthew Chitty that went all the way to the Mustang 17 get called back due to a holding call with 2:02 left in the third. They ended up going for it on fourth-and-2 from the WO-S 49 but only watched another dropped pass.
The Mustangs wasted little time getting on the board, going to the end zone in five plays from 51 yards away.
James helped set things up with a 36-yard dart to the 17. Rutledge capped it off with a three-yard QB keeper up the middle, making it a 21-3 lead with 9:59 left in the game.
The Mustangs will head to The Reservation next week while the Bears will welcome in the Silsbee Tigers.
WO-S 7 7 0 7 — 21
LC-M 3 0 0 0 — 3
LC-M: Trent Manuel 33 field goal.
WO-S: Chris James 16 run. Rodikson Cano kick.
WO-S: James 2 run. Cano kick.
WO-S: Chase Rutledge 3 run. Cano kick.
First downs 18 12
Rushes-yards 39-172 31-115
Passing 112 49
Comp-Att-Int 10-18-1 9-25-0
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 0-0
Penalties-yards 7-55 4-30
Rushing: WO-S, Chris James 12-90, Chase Rutledge 19-59, John Scott 8-23; LC-M, Jalen Griffin 17-87, Robert Green 6-36, Dalton Doyle 1-6, Caleb Harley 2-0, Brandon Toliver 1-0, Jake Sonnier 4-(-14)
Passing: WO-S, Chase Rutledge 10-18-1 112; LC-M, Caleb Harley 8-24-0 43, Jake Sonnier 1-1-0 6
Receiving: WO-S, Will Johnson 3-18, Chris Horn 2-37, Dillon Sterling-Cole 1-28, Dwain Boullard 1-9, Tre Spencer 2-17, Chris James 1-3, LC-M, Coby Roddy 2-16, Matthew Chitty 2-11, Trey Chandler 2-10, Robert Green 2-1, Dalton Doyle 1-11.