Gerry L. Dickert
The Port Arthur News
The Nederland Bulldogs won their 20th straight District 20-4A game with their 27-14 decision over Little Cypress-Mauriceville at Bulldog Stadium. But Nederland head coach Larry Neumann made it clear ... the win against the Bears was the only one that mattered Friday night.
The Bulldogs stole away with a two-touchdown win after trailing early and turning the ball over four times, as they kept their district record perfect before a standing-room-only homecoming crowd.
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve won 20 games or 200 games, the only way you’re going to win in this district is to play a hard-fought game,” said Neumann, who is in his 21st year as Nederland’s head coach. “That’s what we were determined to do tonight and at the end of the night, we found a way to win.”
Early on, it appeared that the upstart LC-M Bears would find a way to knock off their third district foe in as many weeks. The Bears defense picked off Nederland quarterback Preston White on the Bulldogs’ first two possessions, taking the second free opportunity to move into the end zone.
Brandon Toliver pulled in the interception for LC-M, then Jalen Griffin ran the ball and Caleb Harley threw it to move the Bears down the field for a 7-0 lead with 11:47 left in the first half. The TD came on a 3-yard run by Griffin, who finished the night as LC-M’s top rusher, though he only managed 25 yards on eight carries.
It would be Harley, though, who managed to get the LC-M offense moving forward with 99 yards on eight completions. One of those was a 31-yard pass completion to Coby Roddy for the Bears’ other TD of the game, coming at the 3:41 mark of the second quarter.
“In the first half, we were just pressing too hard,” Neumann said. “It wasn’t lack of effort, we were just trying too hard to win the game too fast. We were doing some things mentally, and there was a lot of verbalization of that frustration that doesn’t happen ordinarily.”
The Bulldogs kept the game close with a score to make the game 7-7 with 6:05 left in the first half when Kendrick Hopkins almost single-handedly moved the ball down the field, capping the drive with a 1-yard run. During that drive, White redeemed his earlier aerial turnovers with a key 43-yard pass completion to Brandon Dial on a third-and-13 situation.
It was Hopkins who was the workhorse in the game with 36 carries for 170 yards on the ground for the Dogs.
As much as the first half belonged to LC-M, the final two quarters went to the Bulldogs. Hopkins ran the ball nine times in Nederland’s first possession of the second half but it was White’s 5-yard pass to Colton Kimler that tied the game at 14-14.
While neither team was able to move the ball much through the rest of the third quarter, Nederland would benefit from an incredible “accident” when a Nederland punt hit an LC-M player downfield, bouncing off his back and into the hands of a Bulldogs player at the Bears 42.
After a 36-yard pass completion from White to Kimler, Hopkins took it the rest of the way from the 6 for a 21-14 Nederland lead with 7:25 left in the game.
“That was a momentum-hurter,” LC-M Head Coach Randy Crouch said of the turnover. “But it’s football, you have to overcome things like that. Maybe a crazy thing like that goes in our favor next time but tonight it didn’t.”
With the first lead of the game for the Bulldogs, the Nederland defense clamped down, sacking Harley for a 9-yard loss on first down, then eventually forcing the punt.
On the next possession, the Bulldogs put it out of reach of the Bears, scoring on a 6-yard run by 300-pound fullback Caleb Malveaux, giving Nederland its 27-14 decision.
“We didn’t do much on offense in the second half. Their defense really got a lot better,” Crouch said. “We couldn’t move the ball and because of that, our defense had to play too much in the second half. The third quarter was the difference. We just ran out of gas.”
LC-M hopes to get back on track with a game at home against Beaumont Ozen next Friday night while Nederland must gear up for its annual cross-town showdown with Port Neches-Groves at Bulldogs Stadium. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. for both games.