Check out strengths of Bears defense, new running back approach, what new QB brings

Published 12:12 am Thursday, July 27, 2023

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LITTLE CYPRESS — The Little Cypress-Mauriceville Bears have looked like a different football program during head coach Eric Peevey’s short tenure.

The Bears are coming off back-to-back winning seasons for just the third time in school history.

With the 2023 campaign fast approaching, the third-year coach sees an opportunity to establish a standard of excellence and take the program to the next level.

LCM’s Luke McDow (5) and Jarvis Riley (19) make a stop on a Splendora back in 2022. (Mark Pachuca/Orange Leader)

“It’s really about how you build through the season,” Peevey said. “The best playoff teams improve every week. Instead of just getting through practice, they’re getting better at practice. That’s the key. So, what we are really going to press this year is making sure the kids understand that we’re gonna push them to get better each week.”

The 2023 Bears have a slightly younger team than usual, but they’re still returning plenty of experience. Ten returning juniors started on last year’s varsity squad, and they’ll be joined by a handful of seniors.

Stifling defensive play has been a defining part of the Bears’ identity. That isn’t expected to change, despite major losses in stars Amier Washington and Da’Marion Morris.

There’s plenty of talent remaining in the green-and-gold.

The entire linebacker corps is returning, with senior standout Luke McDow calling the shots from the middle.

LCM’s Eddie Winters (40) and Tucker Floyd (28) put the clamps on Splendora running back Dominic Rodriguez (5). (Mark Pachuca/Orange Leader)

Eddie Winters could be a name to watch on the defensive line. Peevey said he has been impressed with Winters’ explosiveness and strength and expects him to be a major contributor.

Cornerback Daunte Greer and safety Jackson Smith are returning and primed for big seasons.

They could have one more X-factor in the secondary, as well.

“Braylon Lewis is a kid that you’re gonna see all over the field,” Peevey said. “He is a tremendous free safety force and should have a great year. He’s a sophomore, though, so there may be times he has to learn and get those kinks out early.”

As for the LCM offense, fans likely notice some new wrinkles added to the gameplan.

For starters, Peevey anticipates a new approach to the rushing attack. The Bears are shifting to a three-man backfield committee rather than utilizing one workhorse.

Each running back has a unique style, so they’ll be deployed based on whether the situation calls for power, speed or something else.

This year also marks the return of the rushing quarterback. Senior Dylan Payne had a great offseason and won the starting job following an open competition.

He brings a rare blend of size, rushing ability and arm talent to the table.

“With Dylan being a senior, this was his opportunity to earn the job,” Peevey said. “What separated him was his ability. We know what we’ll get with him running the ball, but his ability to throw the ball and his accuracy have gotten a lot better. We feel very comfortable with him going to the quarterback position.”

Given the strengths of the roster, it’s likely the Bears spread the ball around more with a diversified offense. Peevey mentioned the possibility of using multiple tight ends, as well as heavy packages and multiple-back sets.

LC-M’s head coach was complimentary of his players’ work ethic throughout the offseason. He said they’ve had a great turnout, and the team has been focused on building discipline and adding weight.

Developing leadership and accountability have also been focal points.

“Leadership comes from the people that are setting the example, more than the people that are talking,” Peevey said. “If we can have a team full of leaders with young men that are owning their responsibility, then it all kind of works its way out.”

LCM’s district is among the most competitive in Texas’ 4A-I class.

Lumberton is returning most of a deep playoff team, while Vidor and Huffman are always in the mix. The Bears will certainly be back with some extra motivation, especially after last year’s disappointing first-round playoff exit.

“What we’ve got to do is worry about our team and our focus,” Peevey said. “It doesn’t matter what jerseys the other teams wear or what color helmets they have. We still have to treat this play by play. We’ll do what we’ve got to do to get our job done.”

— Written by Keagan Smith