The Port Arthur News
LITTLE CYPRESS —
For a little more than three and a half quarters, the Little Cypress-Mauriceville Battlin’ Bears had the eighth-ranked Nederland Bulldogs sweating it out.
Then Bulldogs senior linebacker Korbin Stampley put a “stamp” on yet another Bulldog win when he picked off LC-M quarterback Caleb Harley and returned the interception 39 yards for a touchdown with 4 minutes, 16 seconds left in the game to push the Bulldog lead to 28-14, before Nederland went on to beat the Bears 35-21 in District 20-4A play.
The Bulldogs (5-1, 3-0) forced LC-M (2-4, 1-2) into three late turnovers and the Bears completed just two of its final 17 pass attempts as Nederland won its 13th straight district game.
“I told our kids at halftime that we were in for a battle,” Nederland head coach Larry Neumann said. “Give Coach (Randy) Crouch and the Bears credit for battling hard all the way to the end. They really, really schemed us well like nobody has all year. We proved again that we’re a second-half football team. Our kids played so darn hard too. We always seem to get everybody’s best when they play us. Teams are gunning for us and the kids realize that and they stepped to the plate and got it done again tonight.”
The tilt featured two of 20-4A’s finest running backs in the forms of LC-M senior Alex Sezer and Bulldog junior Kendrick Hopkins.
Hopkins shredded the Bear defense for 143 yards on 25 carries and scored a touchdown. Meanwhile, Sezer gained 179 yards and scored two touchdowns on 27 carries, including a 57-yard touchdown gallop to tie it at 14-14 with 6:57 left in the third quarter.
Nederland quarterback Carson Raines completed 10-of-19 passes for 76 yards and a interception and ran for two touchdowns.
Harley finished 7-of-28 for 115 yards and three picks, including a 27-yard touchdown to receiver Shea Richards with 11 seconds remaining in the game.
“I told the kids that this one was on me,” LC-M head coach Randy Crouch said. “I didn’t coach them up enough to make them realize how big this game was. I felt like I made a few bad decisions tonight that cost us. I know one thing, our kids played hard the entire way. We struggled early, letting (Nederland) get up on us pretty quick. But they responded and fought their way back in it and we’re extremely proud of that.”
Nederland went into the intermission with a 14-7 advantage but Sezer got the Bears right back in it when he was able to streak down the right sideline for a 57-yard jaunt to the end zone.
The Bulldogs’ forced a big turnover to get the lead back at the end of the third.
Nederland defensive back Colton Kimler picked off a Harley pass at midfield with 13 seconds in the third. Kimler leads 20-4A with five INTs this season.
The Bulldogs then caught the Bears “napping” when Raines handed the ball off to Hopkins, who then handed the ball to Michael Shaw on a reverse. Shaw took it 50 yards down the left sideline for the score on the last play of the period.
The Bears tried to get some momentum back but misfired when Stampley stepped in front of a Harley pass in the middle of the field at the Bear 39 and bruised his way down the left sideline for the critical 39-yard interception return.
“Korbin, what else can you say about him, he’s a battler,” Neumann said. “He made up for a unsportmanlike penalty that hurt us a little bit there. He’s a volatile kind of kid and he loves to compete. So what does the knucklehead do, he makes that great pick and put all the momentum back in our hands late.”
Minutes later, Shaw picked off Harley at the LC-M 41 and returned it to the 16 with 3:57 remaining and three plays later Raines took a keeper around the left end for a 4-yard TD run with 2:29 left to make it 35-14.
The Bears closed it out with a 10-play, 67-yard scoring march when Harley found Richards near the end zone. Richards outleaped two Bulldog defenders for a 27-yard touchdown strike.
“The turnovers were costly there at the end and so was that reverse that they turned into a touchdown,” Crouch said. “Defensively, I thought we played pretty well. We moved the ball pretty well on offense too, we just didn’t turn it into enough points. We had a field goal blocked and gave them a short field a couple other times.”
Both teams finished with exactly 296 total yards.
The Bulldogs made it look easy early, scoring on two nice long drives the first two times they had the ball.
Raines engineered a 10-play, 77-yard drive on the first series of the game. Raines completed four passes for 37 yards, including a big 19-yard completion to Seth Barrow to keep the drive alive. Hopkins had a superb 28-yard scamper, breaking several Bear tackles all the way to the LC-M 16. Four plays later, Raines bolted around the right side for a four-yard touchdown keeper. Kicker Tanner Noel nailed the extra-point to give the Bulldogs the 7-0 edge with 8:28 left in the first period.
After holding the Bears to a three-and-out on their first series, the Bulldogs hit paydirt again, chewing up 52 yards in eight plays.
Raines hit Shaw with a 22-yard pass over the middle that set the Bulldogs up at the Bear 9. Hopkins bruised his way into the end zone two plays later, going 4 yards up the middle to make it 14-7 with 3:49 left in the first.
The Bears will travel to Beaumont next Saturday when they face the Ozen Panthers in a 1 p.m. tilt while the Bulldogs head to The Reservation Friday night to take on Mid-County rival Port Neches-Groves.