Bridge City preview: Cardinals looking to make another run at 10-4A crown

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, August 30, 2017

BRIDGE CITY — It’s certain that football fans in Bridge City would love to have an encore of last season’s superb run to the District 10-4A Division I crown.

What a year it was for Cardinal Country in 2016.

The Redbirds went a perfect 5-0 to capture the 10-4A crown for Coach Dwayne DuBois and Co., including a dramatic 42-41 home victory over Silsbee to seal it. It was their first district title since 2002.

The Cardinals were not through either, advancing to the third round of the playoffs for the first time since 2005, nabbing their first playoff wins in 11 years in the process.

The Cardinals, 9-3 last season, will be on a quest of back-to-back 10-4A titles. Bridge City has not won back-to-back district titles since 1966.

“We have some seniors, that have confidence, after being in the playoffs the last couple years and winning a district title and seeing what it feels like to win a playoff game and that’s a huge plus,” said DuBois. “They know what it takes and hopefully their leadership and energy will trickle down to our younger guys.”

This year, they should be sparked by a defensive unit that returns a whopping nine starters.

Bridge City will likely lean on the defense early as a young offense gets going.

The Cardinals return just three offensive starters and lost its entire offensive line that had basically started the last three seasons together.

“We’ve got some work to do up front on offense, you just don’t replace five guys like that, three of them started for three years,” said DuBois. “It’s going to take awhile for those guys. They are busting assignments and not stepping right but that’s correctable as we go along. One thing for sure, they’re up here early everyday by themselves working on it and we know they’ll get better once they get game reps.”

The Cardinals do have several key weapons returning at the skill positions, despite losing 1,000-yard backs Cayce Draper and Patrick Morris.

Senior tailback Max Baker neared the 1,000-yard mark a year ago, rolling up 935 yards and 12 touchdowns. Jack-of-all-trades Hunter Denton returns after zipping for 480 yards, averaging over 12 yards a carry, he also was a strong receiver and return man as well. Sophomore Andy Lara could shine at fullback after rolling up 420 yards and four TDs as a freshman. A versatile Logan Hamm could see plenty of carries as well along with Caleb Honeycutt and George Fleming.

“We feel fortunate that we do have depth in the backfield,” said DuBois. “Baker is quick and elusive and almost made it to 1,000 yards last year. Denton, he’s valuable in all phases on both sides of the ball and we intend to use him more out of the backfield this year. Keep an eye on Andy Lara, he had his moments as a freshman last year and he’s bigger, stronger and faster this year. Hamm, who played defense for us as a freshman, will get some good looks as well.”

Senior quarterback Caleb Dubois, DuBois’ son, will look to guide the Cardinals’ smooth Slot-T rushing attack after missing last season due to an injury.

“Caleb is so anxious because it was so tough on him watching last year, I was hurting for him too,” said DuBois. “He came back strong in the spring and summer playing baseball. The best thing is that he’s not showing any rust. He knows the offense so well and has been running it since seventh grade.”

Dubois will also look to receivers Kelton Brooks, Marqus Abrego and Cory Westlund to get the ball too.

The offensive line got some nice reps during the scrimmages and will look to rise up and get better each week during the course of the campaign.

The line will include the likes of centers Adam Snyder and Jacob Cunningham, tackles Josh Sanders, Jack Fontenot, Manuel Gomez and Kody Mann , guards Kevin Ross, Blaze Montagne and Christian Young and tight ends Brennon Tregre and Ethan Hamm.

The defensive line should be strong with the return of all-district picks Ethan Hamm, Eziquiel Mendez and Stetson Wilson.

Blake DiChiara, who was all-district and made 115 stops last season is back at linebacker. Logan Hamm will return after starting every game as a freshman last year and will be at outside linebacker. Tregre will be back at linebacker as well as playing some in the defensive line. Others expected to contribute at linebacker includes Fleming, Young, Baker, and Jackson Tims.

Justyn Romero and Denton combined for seven interceptions last season and will spark the secondary at the safeties after making all-district.

“Both of those guys will be starting for the third season and we expect a lot out of them,” said DuBois. “They have the potential to be one of the best tandems in Southeast Texas and we’re looking for some leadership out of those guys.”

Honeycutt and Cace Skinner will also see time at safety.

The Cardinals have a gauntlet of a non-district schedule especially a three-week span when they go to defending 4A Division II state champion West Orange-Stark (Sept. 15), at home against Newton, 3A Division II regional finalist (Sept. 15) and at defending 8-4A Division II champion Jasper (Sept. 29). They also host Hamshire-Fannett in their opener Sept. 1 and will also visit North Forest (Sept. 9), a playoff unit last year.

“Four of our five opponents were in the playoffs last year and made deep runs,” said DuBois. “Fannett’s going to be better. The trip to North Forest will be tough because we know they have the athletes. West Orange, well enough said there, they may be young but they’re always loaded. We get an excellent Newton team here at home and then go to Jasper. It’s a schedule that is loaded for sure but looking back on it last year, it paid off for us in the long run.”

The Cardinals open 10-4A play Oct. 13 at Cleveland and also make a long trip to Navasota (Nov. 3). They will have a showdown at Silsbee (Oct. 27), and will host Orange County rival Little Cypress-Mauriceville (Oct. 20) and will close at home against Huffman (Nov. 10).

“The district is going to be super competitive for sure,” said DuBois. “Everyone is going to want what we had last year, a district championship. Silsbee will have a very athletic bunch and they will be ready when the Cardinals roll in over there. Navasota is loaded with talent from a team that was extremely young last year. LC-M is going to be tough, especially with all the kids that Coach (Randy) Crouch has at the skill positions. Huffman will bounce back after injuries got to them last year and then there is Cleveland, who is loaded with athletes. We like the group we have to and we feel we’re going to be right in the mix. We respect everyone we play.”