Bradley, Gonzales set to lead Bobcats into Class 3A

Published 9:40 am Saturday, August 25, 2018

By Caleb Adams

Orange Leader


ORANGEFIELD – The Orangefield Bobcats had a tough season last year dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey finishing 3-5 on the year, but did make playoffs to lose in the first round to Bellville for the second consecutive season.

This year, the Bobcats are giddy about dropping down to the Class 3A level and will look to extend their playoff streak to six straight years.

This season the Bobcats want to highlight change, not only on the field with new plays and schemes, but in the locker room and with the players this season.

Head coach of the Bobcats Josh Smalley has about 14 starters coming back this season, with that comes the experience and knowledge of what it takes to win and how to learn from losses throughout the season.

Two seniors leading this team are senior quarterback and defensive end Mason Gonzales with senior middle linebacker and fullback Blake Bradley.

“Having that experience back, we won’t have those jitters anymore and we’ll know what to do, said Gonzales. “With the flood last season, we can all get a few extra games under our belt and know what’s expected.”

“Our backfield had a few sophomores get experience last year, so now we are looking to our offensive line to step up and fill their roles coming into this season.,” said Bradley, on the impact of the returning players.

In their five loses the Bobcats were just one score away in a few of those games but couldn’t find those points in the clutch. Gonzalez says that it’s just the little things that could help.

“It’s just the little things, it’s the third down losses that can get you (the defense) off the field,” said Gonzales. “You know just one extra stop could give you that last score you need to win.”

Knowing that you will have low points in a season is important for a team, knowing how to get passed those points can make all the difference on Friday nights. Bradley believes that hard work and the veteran leadership will make a difference for them this season.

“We pride ourselves on working hard, you have to just keep going at it and you can’t just quit and we like to pride ourselves on that,” said Bradley.

Last season the Bobcats scored 134 points on offense, and plan to help alleviate the defense with better production and versatility,

“We will still be running the wing-T and under the center, but we are going to open it up with some run-options and pass-options to open up the box.”, said Gonzalez. “We won’t have to prepare for third-and-13 as often. We will actually have a couple options, and that should help us in the playoffs and make a deeper run.”

On the defensive side of the ball the Bobcats gave up 253 points throughout the season, Bradley says that experience is their best friend this season.

“We had a ton of sophomores last season on that side and only a couple of seniors starting, so just them getting the feel for varsity and the Friday night lights, they’ve changed a lot,” said Bradley. “They’ve been more determined, have more grit and just know what other teams are able to do now.”

This season the Bobcats were moved to a new district, District 12-3A with Anahuac, Buna, Hardin, Kirbyville, Warren, Winnie-East Chambers, Woodville. Looking ahead Bradley is ready to take on the best this district has to offer.

“We definitely want to play Woodville, they are projected to win this season, and we like being the underdog, we heard they are pretty good so we want to step up,” said Bradley.

The recent rivalries between closer teams might be gone, but some old ones have shown their faces with the realignment. “Back in the 80’s and 90’s they were our district so a bunch of our dads and relatives got to play against them and they (their family) have been dogging us trying to get us to win”, said Bradley.

As far as goals for the team go, it’s clear where they want to end up.

“This season we want a district title and we want to go farther in the playoffs than we have in the last two years,” said Bradley. “We are taking it game by game and trying to get past where we’ve already been.”.

As the leaders of the team Gonzalez, Bradley and Coach Smalley have an unspoken goal for the football program at Orangefield. “

“Blake, Coach Smalley and myself have this unspoken goal to change the culture around here,” said Gonzales. “Opening up the offense, competing at a high level and making a deep playoff run.”

The Bobcats will be hungry and working hard for that district title and beyond this season. With their veteran leadership, new versatility on offense and a healthy drive and work ethic, Orangefield is primed and ready for the season.