LC-M preview: Bears ready to make waves in competitive 10-4A

Published 10:36 am Wednesday, August 30, 2017

LITTLE CYPRESS — They are hungry at the Bear Den” for a playoff victory.

The Little Cypress-Mauriceville Battlin’ Bears have entered the postseason fray three out of the last four years but the program is still seeking its first playoff victory since 1997, which saw the Bears reach the 4A Region III Finals.

The Bears (5-6) finished strong at the end of District 10-4A Division I to go 3-2 in a competitive loop before bowing to a powerful Henderson unit in the bidistrict round of the playoffs.

Coach Randy Crouch will look to lead the Bears to their fourth playoff berth in five years in his ninth season and he and the coaching staff will welcome back five starters on each side of the ball.

LC-M will be looking for a new quarterback to step in to run its spread offense after Beau Bickham started for two years, making all-district last year as a senior.

Getting good looks at the position include Ethan McCollom, Brayden Babineaux and Adam Pope.

“Each one of those guys have worked hard to improve and they all have good arms, it’s just getting control of the offense and getting reps,” said Crouch. “They are all capable and one will come to the front soon.”

The Bears certainly bring back plenty of talent at the skill positions.

Senior tailback Chris Winters should certainly spark the offense as the First Team All-District selection returns after rolling up almost 1,000 yards on the ground a season ago. His backfield mate the last two years, fullback J’Lon Douglas returns with over 500 yards last year when he wasn’t busy being the District 10-4A Division I Defensive Most Valuable Player from his linebacker position.

“Those two guys know what it is all about and will definitely be instrumental to our success,” said Crouch. “They are two that practically live on the field and both were all-district on defense last year too. We want to get the ball into their hands for sure.”

Crouch likes the depth in the backfield too with the likes of Ethan McKay, Shawn McKay and Cameron McIlwain looking to get touches as well.

Receiver Katon Brown, also a standout on the basketball court, joined the fray midway through non-district and became the most dangerous receiver in the district to earn First Team All-District accolades. Dameon Morris, Mark Netherley, Tyreke Brown and Brandon Dunbar are also speedy guys that will look to haul in some passes.

The Bears offense will be led in the trenches by the likes of All-District lineman Mike Davis along with teammates senior Truman Franklin, Colt LeBleu and Zack Robin. Cole Killian, Grant Lacour and Michael Johnson will also see time up front.

“We’ve got several guys that might be playing both ways so we’re really looking to find some depth, especially along the defensive line,” said Crouch.

Defensively, the Bears will look to slow down offenses, especially behind the leadership of Douglas, who racked up close to 100 tackles a year ago. McIlwain, Reid Saperstein, Blake Pruitt and Malik Griffith will also look to throw their weight around at linebacker.

Franklin, who made All-District on the defensive line along with Davis and LeBleu, will be the key guys up front. Shawn McKay and Ethan McKay will both work at defensive end. Johnson and Trent Brown will also be worked in a defensive tackle.

Netherly and Winters, both Second Team All-District selections in the secondary will look to lead the way there. Morris, Netherley and Tyreke Brown will also work in the secondary.

There are several starting spots to be filled before the Bears face Jasper in their opener Sept. 1 at home.

“We’ve got some young kids that are going to have to help us,” said Crouch. “We’re still trying to zero in on a few positions and the competition level is high.”

The Bears’ non-district schedule is loaded with playoffs teams from last year. They open it up with Jasper at home, visit defending 4A Division II state champion West Orange-Stark, then they will visit Hardin-Jefferson and Orangefield before closing out the slate with a home date with St. Pius, which was a TAPPS Division I state semifinalist.

“Every team we face made the playoffs last year, some of them went deep,” said Crouch. “Many of them went deep. WO-S, enough said there. St. Pius was a state semifinalist and has a quarterback (Grant Gunnell) who has committed to Texas A&M and is just a junior. Jasper has a lot of kids back and that will be a tough opener. We also have two tough road trips at Hardin-Jefferson and Orangefield. That will certainly will get us ready for what should be a very competitive district race.”

The Bears will look to navigate their way through what looks to be another rugged District 10-4A Division I as they will look to take down returning champion Bridge City, a stout Silsbee unit, along with what should be a much-improved Navasota team along with Huffman and Cleveland.

The Bears open up10-4A play Oct. 13 at home against Silsbee. They have road trips at Bridge City and Cleveland and will host both Huffman and Navasota.

Three homes district games gives the Bears some what of a favorable schedule after making long trips to Huffman and Navasota last year.

“We like how it is set up for us this year but we have to make it happen,” said Crouch. “Bridge City is the defending champ and they have a good group back. Silsbee is loaded with athletes again. I expect Navasota to bounce back after they played a ton of sophomores last year. Huffman was banged up a lot last year and they’re usually a playoff team every year. Cleveland, they have athletes, some off a relay teams that qualified for the State Track Meet. It’s going to be competitive to the very end, it’s a tough challenge every week but we feel the kids will be ready for it.”