VAN WADE — Good luck, safe travels for Orange County football playoff teams and fans

Published 12:24 am Wednesday, November 9, 2022

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It’s that time of the year where high school playoffs get into high gear, and Orange County is represented by four teams again this season in the Orangefield Bobcats, Vidor Pirates, Little Cypress-Mauriceville Bears and West Orange-Stark Mustangs.

This season has had many peaks and valleys for our squads, but those four persevered and got into the extra part of the football season.

One thing for certain, I couldn’t be happier for the Orangefield Bobcats faithful and long-time head coach Josh Smalley.

Sure, the Bobcats have had their share of playoff appearances, but this year is special.

The Bobcats snared their first outright district championship since 1988. The boys in Orange picked up a dramatic 28-21 district-clinching win against East Chambers last week to seal the crown. The Bobcats did it with style, finishing District 10-3A Division I play with a perfect 6-0 mark.

I’m proud for the Bobcats and just as proud of Coach Smalley. He’s built a proud program in Bobcat Country. Time flies when you’re having fun because it seems just like yesterday I was doing a story on Smalley in the mid 1990s when I got him out of class when he was a gun-slinging quarterback for the Bridge City Cardinals, his alma mater.

Good luck to the Bobcats when they take on Shepherd Thursday night at  7 p.m. at Sheldon ISD Panther Stadium C.E. King in the Class 3A Region III Division I bidistrict playoffs.

It’s also thrilling to see the Vidor Pirates and long-time coach Jeff Mathews snag another playoff berth, earning the No. 2 seed out of District 10-4A Division I.

Knowing Coach Mathews since our great high school and college days, I know how proud he is of his boys.

The Pirates, after earning the No. 1 playoff seed out of the district last season, got off to a tough 0-3 start in non-district play as many folks were getting eager to get off the ship.

I had a feeling those people were way off base and that feeling held true.

All the Pirates have done since is win six out of their last seven games. Their “Slot-T Mafia” offense has been piling up the yardage and has cut down on the early season mistakes two-fold.

Let’s hope the running game keeps churning for the Pirates when they face the Lindale Eagles Friday at 7 p.m. at Bryan High School in the Class 4A Region III Division I bidistrict playoffs. The two teams battled in the same round two seasons ago, and Lindale escaped with the victory and went on to become the state runnerup.

The LC-M Bears did something that has not happened in a long time, producing back-to-back winning seasons, a first since 1994-95. Last season the boys in green and gold zipped all the way to the 4A Division I Region III Finals, going 11-3 for Coach Eric Peevey. The Bears (6-4) earned the third-place seed out of District 10-4A Division I this time out. One thing for sure, the Bears have enough talent to be a tough out in the postseason,. Let’s hope Kilgore finds that out Friday at 7 p.m. in Lufkin in the 4A Region III Division I bidistrict round.

The future looks bright for the Bears. LC-M won district titles at the junior varsity and freshmen levels this year.

Now on to the proudest program in Orange County history.

The West Orange-Stark Mustangs have been a juggernaut for years, which includes eight state championship game appearances, four state titles and the best winning percentage in our state’s history.

It’s been a whirlwind of a season for the Mustangs and first-year head coach Hiawatha Hickman as they have gone 5-5 while looking for consistency and a winning streak.

I’m certain WO-S would love to snag a two-game winning streak come Friday night when they take on the familiar Bellville Brahmas in the 4A Region III Division II playoffs at 7:30 p.m. at Splendora High School.

Coach Hickman and a few of the coaches on the staff certainly know what Bellville is all about after taking on the Brahmas four times in the postseason since 2015.

The Mustangs, 79-29 all-time in the playoffs, are 4-0 against Bellville, outscoring the Brahmas 151-41 overall. WO-S took down the Brahmas 36-17 last season.

Bellville checks into this one with more momentum as evident with a 10-0 record. However, the Brahmas have to be somewhat nervous with their past history against the Mustangs. I know I would if I had never taken down a powerhouse like WO-S. It should be a good one.

It’s going to be interesting to see how all the dust settles come Saturday morning for our squads.

Here is wishing everyone the best, including the teams, fans, bands, drill teams and cheerleaders and safe travels along our Texas highways.

Van Wade is the Orange Leader sports editor. He can be reached at