Bobcats to defend the Bayou Bowl
Last updated 8/23/2022 at 2:33pm
This is Week One of the Texas high school football season. Two local teams kick off the year with a great rivalry game between the Orangefield Bobcats and the Bridge City Cardinals.
Orangefield completed its last week of preparation before the start of the season with a scrimmage against the Silsbee Tigers. The Bobcats had a tough battle going against the Tigers who come into the new season ranked in the top ten of a higher classification than Orangefield.
Coach Josh Smalley said the Bobcats played well during the scrimmage with Silsbee. "I was happy with the intensity, happy with how physical we got after it," Smalley responded.
Running back Cameron Dischler broke a couple of long runs for Orangefield in the scrimmage. Gavin Perry-Koci ran the ball hard for the Bobcats. The passing game clicked several times for the Bobcats with quarterback Brayden Parker throwing the ball and split end Morgan Sampson catching it to show some versatility to the predominantly running attack of the Orangefield Slot-T Offense.
Senior tight end Koen Maddox was a leader in the very young Bobcat offensive line blocking extremely well. Smalley analyzed, "Up front I think our guys improved from the LCM scrimmage to the Silsbee scrimmage. Obviously, we're not exactly where we'd like to be up there. They're still learning, but I did see some improvement so that was good."
The Bobcats' defense faced a really big challenge in Silsbee's Dre'lon Miller who did catch some passes but none of them were deep take it to the house type plays. "As far as the overall scrimmage, I was happy with our effort," Smalley stated.
Going into Week One Orangefield is still a work in progress. Smalley evaluated, "Our special teams need a lot of work, we need to get better at punting, and be more consistent at extra points and field goals. We've still got some spots in the offensive line that we've got to shore up. Outside defenders did a better job of getting off blocks and coming downhill to make tackles, but we're still lost in space sometimes as far as finding receivers."
The Bobcats open the regular season with their neighbors the Cardinals. The two teams were district opponents the last two seasons until Orangefield had its classification lowered this year by the University Interscholastic League.
Bridge City operates its offense out of the Spread. The Cardinals like to throw the ball a lot using three receivers on one side and one wide out to the other while shifting sometimes to dual receivers on both sides of the ball.
The Cardinals do run the ball on occasions. Coach Smalley pointed out they actually had some designed runs for their sophomore quarterback Hutch Bearden in the Bridge City scrimmage with Woodville. "They look like they're getting him a little more involved in the offense. You can see a lot of greatness in him when you see him play. He throws the ball well, he's got good feet, he's going to be a really good football player as he gets more and more reps and more exposure in varsity situations," Smalley observed.
Bearden does have some good receivers to throw the ball. Gavin Bodin makes a lot of catches so is somewhat the Cardinals' possession receiver. Jerris Brown has very good speed and is the big play pass catcher for Bridge City including a touchdown last year against Orangefield. Sophomore Case McGuire should have some passes thrown to him.
Other Cardinals that will catch passes are letterman Braylen Collins and Cale Breaux who tore his ACL last year but has recovered to do a good job at wide receiver. Smalley added, "They've got receivers and skill all over the place. Running back wise they've got a kid named Caden Welch that runs for them and Rayburn Hebert has taken some snaps for the Cardinals on offense."
Bridge City's offense moves the ball behind a good line led by senior Matt Livingston. New Offensive Coordinator Jason Aubry has only been with the Cardinals since the summer, but Smalley indicated there is evidence the Cardinals are improving week-by-week and getting more comfortable with their offense under Aubry's direction.
Last season Bridge City ran an even front on defense while this year the Cardinals have gone to an odd front similar to Orangefield's 3-4 look. Coach Cody McGuire and assistant coach Shea Landry have taken an active role in coordinating the Cardinals' defense.
First thing Smalley noticed on film of the Cardinals is their intensity on defense. The Cardinals run and get after opposing ball carriers. "It's eleven hats to the football. They play a physical, aggressive style of defense," Smalley described.
Standouts on the Bridge City defense start with senior linebacker Mason Pruitt who was one of the team's leading tacklers last season.
All-state last year at outside linebacker was JS Bearden. He has been recovering from an injury, but if Bearden suits up he will cause problems for the Bobcat offense according to Smalley.
Ayden Sanders an inside linebacker has played well in the videos Smalley has watched of the Bridge City scrimmages. Safety Rayburn Hebert is all over the field making tackles for the Cardinals.
Anchoring the Bridge City defensive line is noseguard Nicholas LeJeune. Former Bobcat Kayden Kibodeaux can cause problems for the Orangefield offense from his position in the d-line. Smalley attested, "They've got a lot of good players defensively. What makes them really good and a threat to us is the intensity they play with and the physical style they play. They don't mind blitzing. They'll come after you through the A-gap as many times as they need to. They played Vidor which runs the same Slot-T as we do really well for a half."
Friday night is another edition of the Bayou Bowl between Orangefield and Bridge City. The Buzzie Gunn Trophy will be awarded to the winning team. The Bobcats won last year 23-14, but the Cardinals have won nine of fifteen games played between the two schools since the trophy was created in 2001.
Season openers are always important to get the season off to a good start but this game has even more significance. "Both communities take a lot of pride who wins this game. Whoever goes out there and plays the best on Friday night is the one that's going to walk away the winner, and then you've got nine more games still left on your schedule to play. Win or lose there's still a season after this game. Is it important? Yes! So, that's why we want to win it, not necessarily because of who we're playing but because we are playing a football game and we want to win," Smalley concluded.
The Orangefield Bobcats play the Bridge City Cardinals at F. L. McClain Stadium in Orangefield on Friday. The kickoff will be at 7:30 PM.