Smalley Starts 11th Year at Orangefield
Last updated 6/28/2022 at 3:44pm
The Orangefield Bobcats have been under the leadership of Athletic Director Josh Smalley the last ten years. This upcoming school year will mark the eleventh season for Smalley as their head football coach.
For the second time in five years the Bobcats have been lowered in classification because of enrollment numbers in the Orangefield Independent School District. The next two years at least Orangefield will compete in the Class 3A level for all University Interscholastic League events.
Orangefield will go from being one of the smallest schools in every sport in its classification to being among the largest student bodies in all sports. "The big deal about being 3A for us is we're just on a more level playing field as far as numbers. We're no longer playing teams with three hundred more kids in high school than us. In football we won't be the only team with eight guys going both ways offensively and defensively, now the other teams do too," Coach Smalley analyzed.
Being one of the bigger schools is no guarantee of success for the Bobcats. When Orangefield dropped in classification prior to the 2018 football season the Bobcats struggled and did not even make the playoffs that year.
Smalley accepted the blame for that failure because he was complacent, and the Bobcats did have a successful season the next year in 2019 by going to the post season. Smalley evaluated, "It took a rough year in football for me to realize that complacency is the devil, but hopefully we've corrected that."
A big difference for this season is the Bobcats will be the big fish in the small pond, so to speak, and as a result they will be the ones with a target on their backs. "We haven't had a whole lot of years where we've been the hunted, we've always been the hunters. That's going to be a little different mindset for our kids for sure," Smalley observed.
Continuing with that theory Smalley informed his student athletes during the summer workout on Monday that "Dave Campbell's Texas Football" has picked Orangefield as the favorite in District 10-3A Division I this season. The Bobcats will be trying to win their first district championship since 1988.
Scheduling games for the lower levels like junior varsity and ninth grade teams will be more difficult Smalley admits. Many of the schools Orangefield plays in Class 3A may not have enough kids to field lower level teams, so Smalley will need to recruit games with larger schools in order to have opponents every week for each of the Orangefield teams.
Coach Smalley has surrounded himself with a great group of coaches in his tenure at Orangefield. Todd Trawhon has been with Orangefield the entire ten years since Smalley became athletic director. Trawhon coaches defensive line and doubles as the coach for the boys golf team which sent two Bobcats to the state tournament last year.
The Offensive Coordinator is Chris Pachuca who will be in his fourth year at Orangefield calling the plays for the Bobcats' offense. Head Baseball Coach Tim Erickson joins Pachuca in working with the offensive line.
David Kendrick is the Defensive Coordinator in his second year with the Bobcats. Kendrick also serves as the strength and conditioning coach making the current summer workouts an important time for him.
Filling out the varsity football coaches are Peyton Berg coaching defensive cornerbacks, Troy Sumrall works with inside linebackers, Jake Nash handles outside linebackers, Michael Bethea will coach running backs, and Kolby Morgan coaches offensive ends. The coaching staff will be working with the Bobcat players to try to make the playoffs for the ninth time in eleven seasons.
Goals are set every year by coaches and players for every sport each season and this year will be no different. "One area that I've been disappointed in and we've talked to the kids about all the time is we haven't won a district championship here since 1988. Although that's always our goal, we haven't been able to accomplish that goal. We haven't won a lot of playoff games since I've been here and that's been a disappointment and an area I feel like we need to get better at, we've won two in ten years. Obviously, we'd like to improve that," Coach Smalley summarized.
As athletic director Smalley believes he has done a good job in recruiting quality individuals to serve as coaches not just for the football team but for all the teams at Orangefield. Smalley explained, "I feel like we've hired good people. Not just good coaches, but good people that are quality human beings and quality coaches. That's our number one objective. Yeah, we want to win games and we want to go as far as we can and win district championships, but we've got to put people with character and integrity in front of our kids so they can see what that looks like and people who not only talk it but walk it, and I feel like we've done a good job of bringing those type of people in during the ten years I've been here to help keep Orangefield relevant."
Orangefield has been competitive in all sports both boys and girls during Smalley's ten years as the school district's athletic director. With the lowering in classification the Bobcats should be contenders for several district titles.
Coinciding with football season is volleyball for the girls. The Lady Bobcats are led in volleyball by Ashlee Broussard Peevey who got married over the summer. She is an Orangefield graduate and has coached at her alma mater since graduating from college.
Smalley said Peevey is knowledgeable and energetic while implementing a special exercise program for her student athletes. "We're excited to have her here as our volleyball coach, she does a great job with our kids, and we look forward to good things this year during volleyball season," Smalley responded.
There is a significant change in girls' sports at Orangefield with Eric Girola as the new girls sports coordinator and basketball coach. Girola comes from the Buna girls basketball where he had around 250 wins many of those in the playoffs.
Girola takes over a successful girls basketball program with the Lady Bobcats. Smalley elaborated, "Eric's got some kids coming back, and he's excited about the girls since he's watched them playing summer basketball."
Heading up the boys basketball program for Orangefield is Jake McDonald. The Bobcats have done a great job making the playoffs during the time McDonald has been there. The last time Orangefield was at the 3A level the Bobcats went several rounds deep in the post season under McDonald's guidance.
Two time district champions the Orangefield Bobcats advanced to the fourth round of the state baseball playoffs the last two seasons. Tim Erickson is the head coach of Bobcat baseball and has helped create a winning tradition with that program at Orangefield. "The best thing that I ever did was hire Tim Erickson and just get out of his way and let him do want he is good at doing," Smalley confessed.
Coming from a family of coaches is Rebekah Ragsdale who heads the Lady Bobcats softball program. The Lady Bobcats were young last season and fought for a playoff spot before falling just short of making the post season. There are a bunch of freshmen, sophomores, a couple of juniors that will be joined by girls moving up from the eighth grade that are going to help them rebound from last season and be successful.
Smalley compared Ragsdale with Erickson. "You don't question their work ethic, you don't question their knowledge of the game, you don't question their love for the kids because you see it every day and how they live it out being here all the time doing what they need to do," Smalley praised.
In addition to being the defensive coordinator for the football team David Kendrick coaches the Orangefield power lifting team with Chris Pachuca. The Bobcats have had a lot of their athletes go to the state meet including three last year, and they performed well.
As mentioned Todd Trawhon heads the boys golf program. Ashlee Peevey also is the girls golf coach.
Heading up the cross country and track programs is Conner Wilbur. Brittney Stevens oversees the girls in track and field. The tennis program is led by Richard Drouillard.
In the last two decades Orangefield has seen an upgrading of the athletic facilities around the campus. All of them are top quality to serve the student athletes and give the fans a great place to watch the Bobcats perform.
The first game at Bobcat Gym was in the 2007-2008 school year when it replaced the old gym adjacent to the high school. The building includes offices for many of the coaches, is the site for Orangefield basketball and volleyball home games, and is also the home for the Orangefield Marching Band. "We take a lot of pride in that gym and how it looks," Smalley stated.
The tennis courts across the street from the Orangefield athletic field house were redone in 2020. The United State Tennis Association assisted the Orangefield Independent School District with funding to do the upgrade on the courts.
Both the baseball and softball fields are grass surfaced. Coach Smalley thinks they are two of the best facilities in the area. Smalley added, "When you come out to watch a baseball or softball game you'll see the way the fields look with the grass mowed and the maintenance around it, and that they are kept up really well."
The track and field facility is located behind the Paul Cormier baseball and softball fields. The track was resurfaced about five or six years ago and was repainted this past summer so it has been upgraded.
Artificial turf has been or is being added to every high school football stadium in Orange County except one. F. L. McClain Stadium at Orangefield is the only field where games will be played on real grass this coming football season.
There has been talk especially among Bobcat football fans who want synthetic turf installed at F. L. McClain Stadium. Coach Smalley indicated administrators in the Orangefield ISD have discussed it. The bottom line though is the cost.
Smalley described the difficulty for answering those requests to add artificial turf at the stadium. "Wanting it and being able to do it the right way are two different things. You've got to put what's best for the community, what's best for the school district above what's best for your football program. Finding ways to pay for it and to be able to afford it without putting people in a financial hole is risky, and it's a tough thing to do and especially in these times with inflation and the prices where they are. It would be kind of selfish to insist on what I want, but there are other things more important right now," Smalley allowed.
With a month before the start of football season Coach Smalley and Bobcats are getting themselves ready with summer workouts. Fifty to sixty high school and another twenty to thirty junior student athletes spend two hours a day in the weight room and once a week they can conduct sport specific drills. Smalley said they are emphasizing work on the passing game to augment the Bobcats' Slot-T Offense running game.
Preseason workouts commence for the Orangefield Bobcats the first week of August followed by scrimmages. The first game of the new high school football season kicks off on Friday, August 26, at F. L. McClain Stadium. The opponent will be the Bobcats' biggest rival the Bridge City Cardinals.