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By Dan Perrine
For The Record 

Bobcats hope to retain the Bayou Bowl


Last updated 8/22/2023 at 2:05pm

Summer workouts have concluded and scrimmages have been played leading to this Week 1 of the Texas high school football season. The Orangefield Bobcats open their season against the Bridge City Cardinals on Friday night.

Orangefield faced two teams from higher classifications in its scrimmages. First was the Little Cypress Mauriceville Bears from Class 4A Division I followed last week with the final scrimmage against the Silsbee Tigers a top team in Class 4A Division II in the state.

Coach Josh Smalley of the Bobcats located in Class 3A categorized the scrimmages as a tale of two efforts by Orangefield. "I thought our kids competed real well against a much bigger school like Little Cypress Mauriceville. We played hard and got after it. I was really happy coming out of the LCM scrimmage. Then we went to Silsbee and played a top five team in the state of Texas, and reality set in. The Tigers got after us pretty good. Some of that is the fact they're a really good football team and some of it is the fact we just didn't perform very good. I was a little disappointed with our effort coming out of the Silsbee scrimmage," Smalley evaluated.

Highlights of at least the scrimmage with LCM was that Bobcat sophomore running back Mason Manning scored a touchdown behind the Orangefield offensive line which did some good things. Smalley said his defense also played really well.

There were no major injuries sustained by Orangefield in the scrimmages. Smalley indicated two Bobcats Mason Houghton and Rylan McAlpin had shoulder surgery from injuries incurred during workouts in March and are waiting to be cleared to suit up and play.

The Bayou Bowl will kick off the new football season in Bridge City for Orangefield. The two rivals separated by Cow Bayou will compete for possession of the iconic trophy which goes to the winner of the game each year.

The Bridge City Cardinals will use the same offense as they did the last couple of seasons with the Spread, but have added a new offensive coordinator. Chris Towery has moved to Bridge City from Sulphur, Louisiana, to direct the Cardinals' offense.

Under Towery the Cardinals run the Spread from the shotgun with an H-Back, three wide receivers, and a running back. Smalley said he is impressed with what Towery is doing at Bridge City.

Smalley elaborated, "They've got a lot of skill guys, a lot of weapons, and the Cardinals spread you out like on a basketball court but on turf. They've got some weapons and it starts with their quarterback Hutch Bearden."

This will be Bearden's second year as the starting quarterback for Bridge City after his first season was abbreviated by an arm injury. "He's grown a lot in the last year. In scrimmages during the previous seasons opponents were not allowed to hit Bearden because the officials would blow the whistle before Hutch was hit. This year Bridge City has taken the handcuffs off and have let Bearden run the football in scrimmages, and boy has he done well with that. He has shown not only can he run with designed plays, but when he breaks containment he can run for first downs and does a really good job, so that scares me," Smalley indicated.

Outside the Cardinals have some potent receivers starting with the lanky Gavin Bodin who can go up for the ball with any defender. Speedy Jerris Brown has been a thorn in the Bobcats' side for the last two years according to Smalley. In the slot is sophomore Abraham Mungia who was very noticeable catching the ball in scrimmages against Vidor and Woodville.

The H-Back for Bridge City probably will be freshman Bryce Breeden who does a good job. Also seeing time at H-Back is Bryce Linder who is a starter on defense for the Cardinals.

Jamel Charles will carry the football as the running back and will be a target for screen passes from Bearden. "They give you a lot to prepare for, and Coach Towery has done a good job organizing the Cardinals on offense and motivating them because you can see they play with a lot of confidence in what he is doing with them. Defensively we've got our work cut out for us to stop those guys," Smalley admitted.

The Cardinals line up on defense with a five-man front with two inside linebackers either a 50 or a three-four. Assistant Coach Shea Landry has taken over as defensive coordinator at Bridge City. Smalley complimented, "I've always had a ton of respect for what Shea can get kids to do. They play extremely hard for him, and he's a smart guy having learned from Cornel Thompson."

The defensive line is the strength for Bridge City. Nicholas Lejeune the noseguard at about 300 pounds is tough to move. The two tackles Ayden Richardson and Bryce Linder are really good.

The Cardinals have moved Rayburn Hebert from the defensive secondary to an outside linebacker spot. "Hebert causes havoc, he seems to always be around the football and he's just got a motor that makes him stand out," Coach Smalley stated.

The Cardinal defense is much improved over last year. Smalley predicted, "I'm sure Shea Landry and Bridge City will have a really good plan for us coming into Friday night."

Turnovers, penalties, and the hot weather will all be keys in determining the winner of the Bayou Bowl on Friday night. "We prepare the kids the best we can conditioning wise, but scrimmage conditioning and practice conditioning are a lot different than game time stuff. When you're in the game with the adrenaline going and it's hot like this we've got to make sure that we're able to do it for forty-eight minutes not just for one quarter," Smalley concluded.

The Orangefield Bobcats travel to Bridge City to play the Bayou Bowl. The game is scheduled for Friday with a 7:30 PM kickoff.


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