Bobcats ready to take the field to face Bears

Published 9:18 am Wednesday, September 20, 2017

ORANGEFIELD — It’s been a long road to recovery after Hurricane Harvey for the Orangefield Bobcats but the crew in Orange and White will get to take the field for real for the first time Friday night when they welcome the Little Cypress-Mauriceville Battlin’ Bears.

“Our district definitely took a big hit but our community has rallied strong,” said Orangefield coach Josh Smalley. “It’s a slow process, but there is no doubt we’re going to bounce back from this.”

There is no doubt that the Bobcats are eager to take the field.

“We had some good voluntary workouts and the kids are so ready to play someone else in a different uniform,” said Smalley. “Once we get back to school full-time, it will get even better for everybody.”

The Bobcats have made the playoffs every year since 2013 after going through a 10-year drought.

In 2016, the Bobcats went down to the last week in District 12-4A Division II play with a chance to snare the outright title before falling to eventual state champion West Orange-Stark.

The Bobcats (5-6) went on to finish in a three-way tie for second-place and bowed out to eventual 4A Region III Division II semifinalist Bellville in the bidistrict round of the playoffs.

The cupboard is far from bare for Coach Smalley and Co. as six starters return on each side of the ball.

As usual for most teams, several key figures must be replaced but Smalley likes the younger talent the Bobcats have coming up to fill major roles.

Two quarterbacks will likely see time early on in Mason Gonzales and Christian Louvier. Gonzales played some at quarterback last season while also making All-District on the defensive line while Louvier had solid moments playing at tailback in the Bobcats’ vaunted Slot T offense.

“Both of those guys are really capable of getting the job done,” said Smalley. “They both contribute in so many ways and both will see time on defense as well. Mason was a all-district defensive end last year and Christian played well as a running back. We have a good mix with those two for sure.”

The Bobcats will look to find some depth at running back after losing First Team All-District tailback Christopher McGee, who had nearly 1,200 yards last year.

Blake Bradley, who was a First Team All-District linebacker, will look to help at fullback along with Kadeon Evans, Heston Puckettt and Quy Tsan.

Zach Dischler, an all-district defensive back and Kayson Dubois will see time at halfback. The tailback spot will likely feature the likes of Dylan Williams. Clayson Choate and Chase Broussard.

“We have a host of backs that we’re going to count on,” said Smalley. “We may not have what you would call a bell cow at this moment but they’re all working hard, plus they will all help us on defense as well.”

The Battlin’ Bears (0-1) were finally able to get their season going last week, despite the LC-M school district being hampered as well with a ton of Harvey recovery.

After putting together voluntary and makeshift practices, the Bears were able to host Woodville last Friday, falling short to the Eagles 28-14.

The Bears piled up nearly 300 yards in the tough loss.

Quarterback Ethan McCollum completed 12-of-15 passes for 141 yards. Receiver Dameon Morris hauled in seven catches for 123 yards while tailback Chris Winters zipped for 91 yards on 17 carries.

LC-M allowed the Eagles 324 yards. Woodville rushed for 304 yards on 56 carries as they were able to control the clock as the Eagles only attempted one pass.

Last year’s game was one of the best games of the season as the Bears were able to pull out a 43-42 overtime victory at home.

“It was a great game last year, just wish the outcome was a little different,” said Smalley. “LC-M has a bunch of talent. The Chris Winters and J’Lon Douglas kids, they can flat-out go on both sides of the ball. Their young quarterback (McCollum) played really well against Woodville. It’s going to be a nice challenge for us for sure.”