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By Dan Perrine
For The Record 

Cardinals capture Bayou Bowl


Last updated 8/29/2023 at 12:39pm

Bridge City had a long wait but Friday night at Larry Ward Stadium it accomplished something it has been hoping for years to do again. The Cardinals beat the Orangefield Bobcats in football 26-9 to capture the coveted Bayou Bowl.

The Cardinal victory means they get to take possession of the Buzzie Gunn Trophy which is awarded to the winning team in the football game between Bridge City and Orangefield. The Bobcats held the trophy for several years having won the last several games and a brief period when the rivalry was suspended for a couple of years.

The game was exciting from start to finish as Orangefield took the early lead while Bridge City stayed close for three quarters. The Cardinals exploded for three touchdowns in the final period to pull away from the Bobcats late.

The first quarter looked like it might be a repeat of the last two years when Orangefield beat their rivals from across Cow Bayou. The Bobcats ran seven plays and scored a touchdown just 3:21 into the game.

Bobcat Kane Smith who was expected to start at quarterback was shifted to a running back so freshman Carson Gonzales could start instead. Smith made the change pay off when he took a handoff from Gonzales and flew 42 yards on the second play of the game for Orangefield.

A Bobcat fumble cost them eight yards, but Smith cut loose for 14 yards setting up a fourth-and-inches from the Cardinal 21. Fernando Sandoval Rodriguez gained 8 yards for the first down.

The next play Mason Manning carried the ball into the end zone for Orangefield. Ty Butler added the point-after to make it a 7-0 Bobcat lead.

Bridge City managed a first down its first possession and then punted. The Cardinal defense was better at limiting Orangefield to just 5 yards on its second possession and forcing the Bobcats to punt.

Quarterback Hutch Bearden started to flash some magic this time the Cardinals had the ball. Bearden completed three straight passes and ran for 11 yards to pickup three first downs moving the ball to the Bobcat 19.

A Cardinal penalty pushed them back five yards before Bearden ran for a first and goal at the five. A short run and two incomplete passes setup a 25-yard field goal attempt which Victor Hernandez converted to make the score 7-3 with thirteen seconds left in the first quarter.

The Orangefield defense created the first turnover of the game with a fumble recovery early in the second quarter. The Bobcats picked up three first downs and moved the ball to the Bridge City 19.

On third down Gonzales fumbled the snap and the Cardinals Rayburn Hebert recovered the loose ball. A penalty on first down by Bridge City did not help the poor field position moving the ball back inside the ten.

Kaleb Menard of the Bobcats then sacked Bearden inside the one. Kyle Michael blitzed from his linebacker position and tackled the Cardinal ball carrier in the end zone for a safety to give Orangefield a 9-3 lead with three minutes left before half time.

The free kick after the safety gave the Bobcats the ball at the Bridge City 45. On first down Gonzales was hit while trying to pass and fumbled with the Cardinals Nicholas Lejeune scooping the ball up and returning it to the Orangefield 29.

Once again Bridge City started the drive with a penalty, but Bearden got those five yards back on the next play with a run. He then passed seven yards to Jerris Brown followed by Hutch running ten yards for a first down to the 12 of Orangefield.

Three pass plays netted five yards for the Cardinals. Hernandez came in again and booted a 24-yard field goal to cut the Orangefield lead to 9-6 with only 31 seconds left in the half which the Bobcats ran out by taking a knee after the kickoff.

The second half began with Bridge City receiving the football but a fumble on the Cardinals' third play was recovered by the Bobcats' Lane Gipson. Orangefield had its first pass completion of the game when Gonzales hit Manning sprinting out of the backfield for a 43-yard gain to the Bridge City 37.

The drive stalled there and the Bobcats got a good punt from Caleb Fregia pinning the Cardinals at their 12. Bearden ran for two first downs the second for 28 yards to the Orangefield 44.

Merik Aras ran the ball twice for eight yards and Bearden went seven yards for another first down. Two plays later Bearden fumbled and Menard recovered for the Bobcats.

After a punt by Orangefield the Cardinals took possession at their 20 with 2:03 left in the scoreless third quarter. Gavin Bodin caught a pass for a first down and a pass interference penalty called on the Bobcats gave Bridge City a first down at the Cardinals 46.

Freshman Bryce Breeden made a sensational catch good for 27 yards to the Orangefield 27. Aras gained a first down on the ground to the Bobcat 15.

The Cardinals avoided disaster when they recovered their own fumble at the 13. The next play Bearden found Brown with a pass near the left sideline where Jerris dodged a tackler and went into the end zone for the touchdown that gave Bridge City its first lead of the game 12-9 with 10:36 left in the fourth quarter.

Its next possession down by three points with only eight minutes left Orangefield was forced to gamble on fourth-and-five. Punter Fregia who is also a quarterback faked a punt and attempted to run for a first down but was stopped well short by the Cardinals' Ayden Richardson.

Bridge City marched 47 yards using runs from Aras and Bearden plus a 23-yard completion to Bodin on third and twelve to move to the Orangefield 13. Bearden got the touchdown on a 10-yard scramble to make the score 19-9 with 3:35 to play in the game.

The Bobcats were now desperate and forced away from their ground attack needing to throw the ball on every down. Three sacks by Richardson and Blaze King turned the ball back over to the Cardinals at the Orangefield 6.

Bearden put the icing on the victory cake for the Cardinals with a 6-yard scamper for the final score of the game. The Bobcats ran out the final 1:51 on the clock but the celebrations were all on the Bridge City side of the field.

The star of the game was very obvious at the end of the game with the Cardinals' Hutch Bearden accounting for all three of his team's touchdown with one score through the air and the other two with his feet. Bearden gained 109 yards on 20 carries while completing 13 of 25 passes with no interceptions good for 163 yards on the night.

The Bridge City passing game was spread around with five different Cardinals catching passes. Brown grabbed 5 for 64 yards, Bodin nabbed 3 for 49 yards, Breeden caught 3 for 40 yards, while Abraham Mungia and Ethan Peet each had one reception for 8 and 2 yards respectfully.

The Bobcats did have over 70 yards passing, but their normally vaunted running game netted 165 yards on 33 designed running plays. Seven sacks of their quarterback actually subtracted 34 yards from that Bobcat rushing total.

In Week 2 the Bridge City Cardinals will try to make it two wins in a row as they travel to Buna. The Orangefield Bobcats play at home against the private school Legacy Sports.


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