PORT NECHES, Texas —
District 20-4A football is considered among the best in the state, and it has been that way for decades. So for a team that hasn’t seen the playoffs in 16 years, the question is whether the underdog has a legitimate role to play.
In a district packed with tradition, talent and perceived outcomes, Little Cypress-Mauriceville proved there is room at the top for an underdog.
The Bears traveled to the unfriendly confines of The Reservation on Friday night to face a Port Neches-Groves team celebrating homecoming and a 1-0 district mark In the end, LC-M walked away with a shocking 31-14 decision over the Tribe.
LC-M, now at 2-0 in district play, could well shed its underdog role as it heads to face Nederland next Friday at Bulldogs Stadium.
“Any week that you get a win in this district, it is a huge victory,” Bears coach Randy Crouch said. “This district is tough every night. The task doesn’t get any easier. In this district, it’s like a marathon.”
Offensively, the Indians had been leading that marathon, averaging better than 400 yards of total offense each game, heading into Friday night’s contest with just one loss this season. And early on, it appeared the Indians would continue their domination.
The PN-G defense broke through the line to tackle LC-M punter, dropping him at the Bears 25. Two plays later, the Indians capitalized when Reece Wordlow went 23 yards for the touchdown. A two-point conversion pass failed, leaving PN-G up 6-0 with 6:23 left in the first quarter.
On LC-M’s first play of its next possession, Corbin Coy picked off Bears quarterback Caleb Harley and it appeared the rout was on.
Suddenly, the LC-M defense came alive, allowing just three yards on the next PN-G possession and forcing a turnover on downs.
In response, the Bears offense orchestrated a 9 play, 65-yard drive punctuated by a 1-yard dive by Harley for the score. In that drive, Robert Green ran the ball five times for 33 yards. At the end of the night, he and teammate Brandon Toliver each passed the 100-yard mark with Green running 22 times for 101 yards and Toliver leading all rushers with 148 yards on 22 totes.
“In the first quarter, we gave up field position and we struggled,” Crouch explained. “But after we weathered that, and we finally got something going, I told our guys that I thought the worst of it was behind us.”
With the defense standing strong on the next PN-G possession as Toliver picking off PN-G QB Ky Walker LC-M marched the field again, going 52 yards in 9 plays as Toliver pushed in from two yards out for a 14-0 Bears lead.
“Somewhere, after that early possession, we lost the momentum and had trouble getting it back,” PN-G coach Brandon Faircloth said. “LC-M had a great plan and we couldn’t get anything going. You have to credit them; they did a great job.”
With PN-G on the ropes, LC-M worked to move the ball, burn the clock and eventually put more points on the board – a plan that worked to perfection.
The Bears worked nearly seven minutes off the third-quarter clock, marching 72 yards in 13 plays, ending in a 25-yard field goal by Trent Manuel.
Less than a minute later, the Bears would find the end zone again when Jake Sonnier picked up a Walker fumble, returning it 11 yards for the score and a 24-6 advantage with 4:13 left in the third quarter.
PN-G finally figured a way to move the ball against the LC-M defense but was stopped cold by another pickoff, this one by Dalton Doyle. After an LC-M punt, the Indians tried to get back on track. Again, the Bears defense came a-calling as Sonnier snagged his second INT of the night – the fourth of five turnovers by the Indians.
“They had a good offensive plan with their rushing game,” Faircloth said. “They were able to come off the ball, got us blocked and they moved the ball. The defensive secondary was really tough. There were a few balls that we just missed. It just wasn’t our night. That’s the explanation really.”
PN-G scored again late in the fourth quarter, capping a 9-play, 86-yard drive on a Brant Halfin 27-yard TD run. In that drive, quarterback Adam Morse came in and hit 3 of 5 attempts for 35 yards. He ended the game going 6 of 11 for 70 yards while starter Walker was 10 of 20 for 82 yards and 3 picks.
LC-M ended its night with a four-play, 60-yard drive that was all Toliver as he crossed from 4 yards out and the 31-14 advantage.
“We’re going to respond, and work hard. We’ll get back into practice and we’ll get back to what we’ve done well this year,” Faircloth said. “The great thing is we have five district games left. The way you respond is to have good practices. If you don’t practice well, you won’t play well.”
Little Cypress-Mauriceville 31,
Port Neches-Groves 14
LCM – 7-7-10-7 – 31
PNG – 6-0-0-8 – 14
PNG – Reece Wardlow 23 run, pass failed (6:23/1Q)
LCM – Caleb Harley 1 run, Trent Manuel kick (1:24/1Q)
LCM – Brandon Toliver 3 run, Manuel kick (6:12/2Q)
LCM – Manuel 25 FG (5:03/3Q)
LCM – Jake Sonnier 11 fumble return (4:13/3Q)
PNG – Brant Halfin 15 run, Avery Murdock pass from Adam Morse (4:05/4Q)
LCM – Toliver 4 run, Manuel kick (2:44/4Q)
Total Yards 290 241
First Downs 21 14
Rushes-Yards 52-237 24-89
Passing Yards 53 152
C-A-I 7-10-1 16-31-4
Fumbles-Lost 3-0 4-1
Penalties-Yards 6-40 5-50
Rushing – LC-M: Brandon Toliver 22-148, Robert Green 22-101, Caleb Harley 7-6, Trent Manuel 1-(-18); PN-G: Brant Halfin 15-100, Reece Wardlow 1-23, Kody Cropper 1-3, Kaleb Sparks 2-(-3), Adam Morse 2-(-11), Ky Walker 3-(-23).
Passing – LC-M: Caleb Harley 7-10-1 53; PN-G: Ky Walker 10-20-3 82, Adam Morse 6-11-1 70.
Receiving – LC-M: Coby Roddy 4-44, Dalton Doyle 1-8, Robert Green 1-4, Brandon Toliver 1-(-3); PN-G: Jeremiah Rose 6-68, Dylan Gruber 4-49, Kaleb Sparks 3-21, Jack Giblin 1-9, Reece Wardlow 1-4, Brant Halfin 1-1.