Bears hope to battle for district title
Last updated 8/8/2023 at 11:29am
After its strong run in the playoffs two years ago, last season was a little disappointing for Little Cypress Mauriceville in football. The Bears finished third in their competitive district and were eliminated in the first round of the state playoffs by Kilgore.
Head Coach Eric Peevey of LCM called last year a positive season. "We had a winning record at 6-5 which was only the third time in school history the Bears have had back-to-back winning seasons. I think our expectations for the year were much higher than just one round of the playoffs. There were some positives also some negatives," Peevey recalled.
Graduation took away several very good Bears, but a key to building this season's team are the ten sophomores that started for Little Cypress Mauriceville during the previous campaign and are now juniors. Peevey identified, "DeMarco Bandiero started eleven games last year at defensive tackle so we really expect a lot from him coming back."
Also starting eleven games was Eddie Winters in the defensive line. Winters will play both at tackle and at end on defense like he did last season.
Newcomer of the Year in the district on defense was Jackson Smith at free safety. Smith played all eleven games on defense and will see some time on offense as a wide receiver.
Starting at center this season is Carson Phelps who played every game for the Bears at guard last year. "At 6-4, 290 pounds, I'm really excited what I'm seeing from him after we moved him to center. I'm very happy with that decision, and I think he's going to be very solid for us in that spot," Peevey stated.
After three games last season the sophomore Clayton Farwell took over at right tackle. Now Farwell is playing like a seasoned veteran and doing quite well.
Tucker Floyd will return as an outside linebacker where he was second team all-district for the Bears. A two-way player is Jonah Fuller who will be more of a primary running back for the offense and will see time as a weak side linebacker on defense.
Mason Floyd played three or more games on varsity and is back. Carson McIlwain played tight end the last five games for LCM. Keagan Cockerham at receiver saw time on the field the last four games.
Peevey elaborated, "All these kids they don't look like sophomores any more, they don't even like the juniors that they are, it almost looks like we have seniors on the field. We've got a bunch of them and that's a positive for us because we're going to need that experience."
Leaders on defense for the Bears definitely will include senior Luke McDow at middle linebacker. McDow led the district last year with over 150 tackles. "Luke returning at 'Mike Linebacker' is just fantastic for us. He is a general out there on the field and is one of the few seniors returning with a ton of experience," Peevey pointed out.
In the offensive line is senior Jovany Molina who started the last four or five games at guard. Peevey described Molina as a road grader after losing some weight in the off season and is a force up front for LCM.
Another senior Devin Dunman is the other starting guard. Peevey added, "We don't have a ton of seniors all over the place, but in those few spots that we have them we're really counting on them."
A senior who has not played football the last couple of years is Braydon Guillory who was all-district in baseball as a freshman. Guillory will play at wide receiver and could be a big play specialist.
Coming back at a cornerback is Daunte Greer, and he will play a little at running back as well. Seniors Cameron Dougharty and Jeremiah Arnold will be filling in at positions in the defensive line.
The linebackers should be a strength for Little Cypress Mauriceville. Of course starting with Luke McDow in the middle, Jonah Fuller and Tucker Floyd on the outside. Dylan Payne started at an outside linebacker last year but will be seeing more time on offense at quarterback.
Coach Peevey said they had a competition for the quarterback position around Christmas of last year, and Payne took it over. Dylan has always been able to run the football well and was nicknamed 'The Payne Train' because he is very physical with the ball scoring six touchdowns last season running for the Bears.
Peevey updated, "His throwing ability has gotten ten times better. Dylan will take the reigns at quarterback, and I've been very pleased so far. The work he's put in, the leadership role he's taken, and I think he's going to go far."
The football program is solid at Little Cypress Mauriceville with the underclassmen coming up. The Bears' junior varsity won district last year, and the freshmen team went undefeated on its season.
About seven more sophomores are up on the varsity for this season with LCM. Peevey wants sophomores on the varsity who will see playing time otherwise he would prefer them to be on the junior varsity where they will get some game action.
Possibly starting at free safety and some at wide receiver will be sophomore Braylon Lewis. He is very athletic and is very good with the ball in his hand. Lewis has the instinct of knowing how to get to the ball when he is playing defense.
Working out wide as a receiver will be Khayden Reed who had a great summer and has carried through to the first week of fall practices. Peevey believes Reed even though he is only a sophomore can continue to develop and could make himself into a starter with plenty of playing time.
At cornerback and at running back J'Lynn Morris will get looks to play. "He is very explosive with the ball in his hands. I see us finding ways to get him the ball," Peevey replied.
Sophomores moving up from the undefeated freshmen team include Parker Freeman who is a big sophomore working to play tight end. Sophomores Justin McCarver will see time in the defensive secondary as will Ian Loncon and Trevor Lloyd in the defensive or offensive lines.
"These are all kids that I see making moves for us as sophomores. We haven't played very many sophomores here, my first year we didn't have a sophomore on varsity. Last year we had to play a lot of sophomores because there was not a lot of juniors, and this year we have to play a lot of sophomores again because we don't have a lot of seniors. After this year my whole team is back so we probably won't have very many sophomores moved up unless somebody can just really play," Peevey explained.
Kaden Boatman is a junior who has worked extremely hard through the spring and the summer. Boatman will see time on defense at safety and also on offense as a receiver.
Hunter Johnson was on the junior varsity as a sophomore and could see time this season as a junior playing as the weakside linebacker to give Jonah Fuller a breather. Johnson could take Dylan Payne's spot at the other outside linebacker spot and make a positive contribution.
The emphasis for Coach Peevey and his coaching staff prior to the first game is directed at getting extreme effort from the Bears at all points. Peevey described, "We've got a team that may make mistakes with all the young players we have especially early in the year, but as long as we're giving extreme effort and attacking the football things seem to work their way out."
Peevey is looking for growth each week from the players. The coach is eager to see how especially his younger Bears are getting adjusted to the Friday night lights as the season progresses.
Ball control is being preached by Peevey to make sure the Bears on offense are holding on to the football. The Bears' defense is working on stripping the ball to create turnovers for them to make takeaways. Peevey exclaimed, "Every day at practice we're looking for turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, and that's something we'll be preaching all year definitely."
Getting better at the little things is the other priority during the three weeks before the season opener. Peevey insisted when your young like the Bears are you have got to be great at the little things because when you get the little things right the big things seem to work out better.
The district in which Little Cypress Mauriceville competes is very tough. Some people in the rest of the state may not give District 10-4A Division I all the respect it deserves but that's only because of the traditionally state ranked teams in the district it has to play in the first round of the state playoffs every year.
Peevey analyzed the quality of teams LCM plays in district. "You look at our district and we're playing really good football everybody is, but my expectations don't change. It doesn't matter if we're young, old, whatever, we're here to win now. That's how we're coaching them. We're expecting the most out of our kids, and our goal is to win a district championship and our goal is to make a run in the playoffs every year," Peevey concluded.