The Orange Leader
The Vidor Pirates have made the playoffs three out of the last four years and back-to-back for the first time in the school’s history.
Four out of five would certainly be sweet for the Pirates and long-time head coach Jeff Mathews.
“We’ve got some great kids coming back,” said Mathews. “The kids have that mindset of winning and they set high expectations for themselves. They saw the players before them win. A lot of them have won a lot of games at the subvarsity levels. These days, they just don’t want to be kids that just want to win, they expect that they can go out there and win.”
The Pirates will be looking for someone to step up and fill the leadership shoes of quarterback/linebacker Montana Quirante and All-District defensive lineman and tight end John Boy Smith.
“You just can’t replace a guy like Montana,” said Mathews. “Those are huge shoes to fill. You’re talking about the kid that won both the offensive and defensive awards at the Willie Ray Smith Awards. But, we’ve got some kids and a good group of seniors that are ready to step up and lead the way.”
Geth Simmons, who played running back last year, rushing for 438 yards, will step in and run the offense.
“Geth is great kid and knows our offense very well,” said Mathews. “He’s really cat-quick and can really cut well. He’s 30 pounds lighter than Montana so he’s not one that’s going to run over you but he can get past you. We tell him every day, don’t try to be Montana, just be Geth Simmons. He’ll be just fine and he will help us in the defensive secondary too.”
Sage Smith, who rushed for close to 500 yards last year, returns at fullback and is a all-district type of linebacker. Jeremy Stephenson, who started most of the games as a sophomore, returns to the backfield as a senior after a ankle injury hampered throughout much of 2012.
The bulk of the offensive line is back to aid the bruising Pirate running game.
“We have most of our big guys up front back and you gotta love it,” said Mathews. “We came out here in our first practice and everything seemed to be clicking right off the bat. The kids know the system well and they know what they’re doing. They find some things different that works well and they even try to coach us sometimes.”
Mathews knows the Pirates still have a lot of work to do before they open up what will be a rugged District 20-4A again.
“It’s going to be interesting for sure,” said Mathews. “We have two new coaches in Beaumont leading Ozen and Central and a new one in Lumberton. It seems like just about every team lost their main what you would call ‘superstar’. So there will be a lot up for grabs. We’ve been waiting for it to happen where three or possibly all four playoff spots could be up for grabs that final week. We definitely want to be one of those and the kids are really working hard to do it again.”
The Pirates scrimmaged Orangefield Friday and will host West Orange-Stark Thursday at 7 p.m.