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By Dan Perrine
For The Record 

Bobcats battle Buna in district opener


Last updated 9/19/2023 at 12:03pm

Kane Smith has been a leader for Orangefield on offense as a running back, on defense in the secondary, and a kick returner on special teams

The final game before the start of district action was a disappointing loss for Orangefield. Now the games really begin to count for the Bobcats with the first district game on the road this Friday night.

The Bobcats played the Woodville Eagles last week and actually led late in the first half. Woodville scored in the last minute of the second quarter and then got another touchdown on its first drive of the second half after recovering a Bobcat fumble to win 19-7 at Orangefield.

Coach Josh Smalley was proud of the Bobcats' effort against a very good Woodville team. "The Eagles put up almost forty points against Newton, forty plus points against Franklin, over fifty in their win against Liberty, and we held them to nineteen. I thought defensively we played really well. We gave up two big plays and that was the difference," Smalley indicated.

Not a lot of people gave Orangefield a chance to compete against the Eagles. Smalley replied, "The same problem is biting us with turnovers costing us. We've got to fix that. We harped on Saturday with the players and we'll harp on it all week. You can't win a high school football game in Texas when you're losing the turnover battle every week, and that's what we're doing."

Three turnovers by the Bobcats compared to one take away by the Orangefield defense helped determine Woodville would be the winner of the game. "To the credit of our kids we competed for 48 minutes, we didn't quit, we continued to fight the whole game, so I am seeing some progress and the coaches are seeing some improvement, but we've just got to keep getting better each week," Smalley responded.

Coming off the bench to have a good game for the Bobcats on defense was Zach Morrow. Smalley recalled, "Morrow wasn't even a starter for us. Zach came in during the second half and he ended up making some good plays for us."

The coach recognized Kane Smith as the Bobcats' best football player playing offense, defense, special teams, and scored Orangefield's lone touchdown while making a lot of tackles against the Eagles. Sophomore Kaleb Menard at linebacker made 13 tackles and recovered a Woodville fumble for the Bobcats to receive special mention from Smalley.

"We have some guys that are playing really well, and as a team we're getting better. It's just we've got to cut down mistakes. Hopefully, we can solve them this week," Smalley summarized.

This week marks the start of district for Orangefield against Buna. The Cougars have started the season 3-1 with their only loss by eight points coming at the hands of the Bridge City Cardinals in Week 2 after the Cardinals beat the Bobcats to open the season.

Buna in its three impressive wins have scored 121 points while only allowing 27 to its three opponents. The Cougars are good on both sides of the football.

There are several very talented skill players on offense for the Cougars. Operating out of the shotgun and running the Spread offense for Buna is senior quarterback Toby Marse.

Smalley described, "Marse is kind of a dual threat quarterback. He throws the ball really well, and if you make him run he will run it. They do have some designed runs with him. Marse scrambles really well when you do get pressure on him, and he never takes his eyes off the Cougar receivers so he will throw it if one of his receivers comes open late."

The leading Cougar running back is senior Jacob Johnson who ran for over two thousand yards and 21 touchdowns as a junior. The best pass catchers for Buna are wide out Kayden Dill and slot receiver Billy Robinson.

"They're really loaded offensively. A lot of those skill players are seniors who have played since they were sophomores so they have a lot of experience. It's going to be a challenge for us to try to slow them down at their place," Smalley analyzed.

On defense Buna bases out of a three-man front. The Cougars will also get into a four-man front which is how Coach Smalley believes they will be aligned against the Bobcats on Friday or maybe a 5-3 stack look.

One of the two-way players for Buna is Billy Robinson who plays slot receiver on offense and strong safety on defense. "He's always around the football. Robinson is a cannon to the ball, he's always there. It seems like he's in on every tackle. Robinson is one of their better defensive guys," Smalley evaluated.

Inside linebackers Cooper Wolfe and Brennan Hippler are two Cougars that play hard and guard the middle for Buna. In the defensive line are Nick McKinney and Hunter Crane that are big and tough to move to create running lanes.

Smalley said, "The Cougars do a good job of coming and getting you with their defense. They're not going to show you the same front all night. They're going to show you multiple fronts. They're going to make your linemen think by blitzing linebackers which we've seen the last three or four weeks so I think our Bobcats are getting a little bit better at picking that stuff up. They're an aggressive defense, so that's what we've got to prepare for."

Orangefield versus Buna not only initiates the district schedule for both teams it is a renewal of probably the oldest rivalry for the Bobcats. Smalley stated, "If you talk to the Orangefield folk about who their biggest rival is they don't really mention Bridge City, they mention Buna. There have been maybe fifty to sixty games played between the Bobcats and Cougars."

Orangefield hopes to turn around its season with the start of district like it did last season when the Bobcats went undefeated in district. "We seem to be trending in the right direction even though our record may not say that, but we seem to be playing better each week," Smalley concluded.

The Orangefield Bobcats play the Buna Cougars on Friday. The kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 PM in Buna.


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