Bobcats hold homecoming against Hardin
Last updated 10/10/2023 at 4:36pm
Orangefield continued to roll in district last week. The Bobcats will try to stay undefeated in district this week against a team not to be taken lightly.
The Orangefield offense ran for good yardage against the Tarkington Longhorns to secure a 43-17 victory. Through three weeks of district competition the Bobcats are the only team without a loss in District 10-3A Division I.
Coach Josh Smalley of Orangefield thought the game would be competitive between the Bobcats and Tarkington. "It was a physical tough football game at their place. The Longhorns were a lot bigger than we are physically and they hammered their fullback all night at us. They limited our possessions to seven in the whole game. We did score points on six of the possessions and we had a pick six in the second half," Smalley recapped.
Smalley continued, "I'm happy for our kids and our coaches to hang in there getting another district win which is ultimately the most important thing. We were happy to get out of there with a win."
The Bobcats are in first place with wins over Buna, Anahuac, and now Tarkington. "To be sitting three and oh with the way we started the year with a young group of kids it's been good to see our young Bobcats grow each week and get better cutting down on the mistakes they were making early in the season," Smalley analyzed.
The bad news during the Bobcat victory was an injury to a leader on defense. Cornerback Zach Morrow broke his collarbone making a tackle and will be out for about four to six weeks. Morrow is leading the district in pass coverage by breaking up four passes in Orangefield's three district games.
The Hardin Hornets come to Orangefield on Friday. The Hornets have lost their first two district games being shutout by Anahuac and losing to Tarkington on the last play of the game two weeks ago.
The Hornets are under a new head coach Chad Taylor who was at Tarkington previously. Taylor has brought the heavy run oriented Double Wing Offense with him to Hardin.
The offensive linemen for Hardin will be lined up shoe to shoe across the front and are very big. From tackle to tackle the Hornets average 260 to 270 pounds a blocker. Smalley described, "They're big and physical and are happy with three yards and a cloud of dust type stuff."
The Hornets use a lot of quarterback sneaks, inside power tosses, and do not throw the football very much. Sophomore quarterback Hunter Whitehead has thrown five touchdown passes on the year three coming in Hardin's district win against Tarkington.
Multiple backs will run the football for Hardin. The leading rusher on the season is Ryelee Kubeczka with 403 yards and a 6.5 yard average. Josue Ibarra also averages 6.5 yards a carry. A third back Javeon Watley has seen more action since the start of district with 20 carries for 77 yards and a touchdown.
The best receiver for the Hornets is Anthony Walters who has a district leading 23.2 yard per catch average. Walters caught the three touchdown passes from Whitehead in the game with Tarkington.
"They kind of lull you to sleep with three yards in a cloud of dust, kind of like we do. The Hornets take time off the clock, they limit your possessions, kind of like what Tarkington does, so it'll be a challenge for us to get them off the field and get the football back to our offense," Smalley evaluated.
The key for the Bobcat offense is to take advantage of every possession they get. What worries Coach Smalley just like last week against Tarkington is Orangefield will have a limited number of possessions against Hardin.
The size of Hardin's players concerns Smalley. "We've got to hold up to their size. We are coming into this game under sized compared to Hardin," Smalley explained.
The Hardin offense and defense work hand-in-hand. The Hornets offense tries to limit possessions for the other team's offense and the result is clear in the statistics as Hardin has yielded the fewest yards per game in the district. They are averaging allowing 209 yards a game in two district outings.
The Hornets base their defense out of an odd front kind of a 50 look or a 3-4 alignment. Hardin has played well all year on defense with even fewer yards per game in the non-district averaging about 147 yards a game in six games.
Catching Coach Smalley's attention is Hardin's defense against the run. On the season the Hornets have averaged allowing only 96 yards a game on the ground. The figure has gone up to about 124 yards in two district games which is still the best rush defense in District 13-3A.
The focal point of the Hardin defense are the linebackers Grayson Creel and Landon Ponton. Those are the two leading tacklers for the Hornets. Up front are Adrian Ibarra at defensive end and Nathan Holst at noseguard.
Smalley stated, "The Hornet defense is their bread and butter. It's going to be a challenge for us to move the football against a team who through six games is the leading defense in the district."
Orangefield will need to play the full forty-eight minutes to get the better of Hardin. "I feel like our district as a whole is pretty competitive top to bottom. When you look at who's leading and who's at the bottom I feel like any team on Friday night really could beat any other team if you don't show up and play. Friday night is homecoming for Orangefield which concerns me because of the distractions it can impose on the kids. Our job as a coaching staff is to keep the players focused on the job at hand and not let all the festivities distract from their play," Smalley concluded.
The Orangefield Bobcats will battle the Hardin Hornets on Friday. The game begins at 7:30 PM in F. L. McClain Stadium.