Dallas South Oak Cliff Bears presents major challenge for Port Neches-Groves
Published 12:16 am Tuesday, December 13, 2022
PORT NECHES — It has been a stout playoff run for the Port Neches-Groves Indians to say the least.
Huge playoff win after huge playoff win the last five weeks set the Indians up for the ultimate game: the Class 5A Division II State Championship Game.
The Indians (13-2), led by first-year head coach Jeff Joseph, have sat down some of the most highly-rated opponents along the way, beating ranked teams LBJ Austin , district rival Fort Bend Marshall and, last week, a huge 42-14 semifinal win against a tradition-rich Liberty Hill.
The only team that stands in the Indians way are defending Class 5A Division II state champion Dallas South Oak Cliff Bears (12-3). The two will duke it out Friday night at 7 p.m. at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium.
“Not too many teams know when they will have their last practice of the year, but our kids know we have three more now,” said Joseph after Friday’s win. “It’s an awesome feeling, and I’m so excited for our seniors and our community right now.”
It was tough sledding in the early going for the Bears, who arguably played the toughest non-district schedule in the state.
Oak Cliff dropped its first three games against powerhouses. The Bears fell to Duncanville (15-0) 23-10, Lancaster (9-3) 21-3 and to DeSoto (13-2) 42-23.
And there’s a couple big tidbits. DeSoto will be playing for the Class 6A Division I state title Saturday and Duncanville will be involved in the game right after that – the 6A Division I state title game.
The Bears gained momentum after that, winning 12 straight. They cruised past their six district opponents, outscoring them 302-10.
Oak Cliff has had their mettle tested in the postseason as they have won several nailbiters against formidable programs, just like PNG.
They nipped Mansfield Summit 12-7 in bidistrict. They held off Lucas Lovejoy 42-37 in the area round. They then came up with big plays late to subdue Midlothian Heritage 42-37 in overtime.
The Bears took care of Melissa 30-16 in their regional final and then fought off powerhouse Argyle 14-6 in the state semifinals in the fog at Crowley Stadium last week.
Coach Jason Todd and the Bears staff have had plenty of experience in big games. Since Todd took over the program during the 2014 season, the Bears have compiled a 91-26 mark, with their worst record of 8-4 coming in the 2015 season.
Oak Cliff has at least reached the second round of the playoffs the last nine seasons.
The Bears have utilized a slew of skill players on offense, as it has been hard for opposing defenses to hone in on any specific superstar. They like to run the spread for the most part but have tended to lean on their run game to control the tempo. The Bears are averaging 352.5 yards a game, 249.1 on the ground and 103.4 in the air.
As a matter of fact, the Bears have utilized three quarterbacks this season.
Junior William Little has completed 65-of-104 passes for 798 yards with seven touchdowns and five interceptions as he has gotten the most reps. Senior Trey Walton has completed 44-of-85 passes for 540 yards with seven TDs and four picks, while sophomore Carter Kopecky is 32-of-53 for 501 yards with six TDs and just one pick.
The Bears spread the wealth in the backfield.
Senior Tedrick Williams has galloped for 1,056 yards and 10 TDs on 172 carries. Junior Danny Green Jr. has darted for 1,055 yards and 12 TDs on 152 totes.
The Indians can’t get too comfortable in just trying to stop that tandem, as the Bears have two speedsters that can take it the distance. Senior Izale Williams Jr. has 507 yards and five TDs on just 49 carries, while senior Jayvon Thomas has 406 yards and five TDs on only 33 carries.
Senior Corinthean Coleman leads all Bears receivers with 22 catches for 366 yards and a TD. Jamyri Cawley has 19 catches for 309 yards and four scores, while Joshua Manley has 18 catches for 281 yards and two TDs.
The Bears have made key plays on defense, especially late in games in the postseason. However, last week they may have saved their best for the semifinal. Argyle entered with a 14-0 mark, but the Bears defense held them to 188 total yards and just 87 yards on the ground.
— Written by Van Wade