Tommy Mann Jr.
The Port Arthur News
BUNA — The Orangefield Bobcats high-powered offense ran past the Buna Cougars Friday night, and moved one victory away from a trip to the playoffs.
The Bobcats ground and pound attack, led by running back Carl Wiley’s 298 yards on 26 carries, pummeled the Cougars into submission, and claimed a 35-20 victory to put themselves one victory away from clinching a first trip to the playoffs since 2003.
The Cougars took the opening kickoff but the Bobcats defense set the tone for the night by sacking Buna quarterback Joseph Clark for a 12-yard loss on the first play of the night.
The defense held Buna (5-5, 2-4) to a three and out and, following a punt to the Bobcats 48 yard line, Carl Wiley and the Orangefield offense made the Cougars pay. Wiley took a hand-off up the middle and sprinted past the Buna defense for 52 yards and 7-0 lead with 10:08 remaining in the first quarter.
Buna responded with big kickoff return by Mason Lopez to the 49 yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, running back Justin Kennedy raced 22 yards to the 29-yard line. The Cougars offense moved the ball to the 18-yard line before an illegal motion penalty moved it back to the 23.
Facing third and 13 from the Bobcats 23 yard line, Clark hoisted a pass to the corner of end zone to Braidon Brinkman. Following the extra point by kicker Ty Cleveland, the score was tied.
The teams traded possessions as Orangefield fumbled the ball on its next possession and the Bobcats forced Buna to punt on its subsequent drive.
Orangefield took over at its own 21-yard line and used its monstrous running attack to devour the clock and yardage. The key play of the 10-play scoring drive was a 47-yard burst by Dylan Gray to the Cougars 3- yard line. Carl Wiley capped off the drive with a 1-yard plunge and a 14-7 lead.
Later in the second quarter, following an Orangefield punt, Buna’s Mason Lopez took a hand-off and squeezed his way through the Orangefield defense and sprinted 83 yards to tie the score at 14-14 with 3:16 left before the half.
Orangefield started its following drive from its own 25-yard line and expertly used clock management and big plays, including a 33 yard burst by Carl Wiley to the Buna 31 yard line, to set up its next scoring play.
A critical pass completion from Carmichael Wiley to Carl Wiley for nine yards moved the ball to the Buna 6 yard line and a first down and goal for the Bobcats. Two plays later Colby Choate scooted in from the 1 line and a 20-14 lead after Rainey’s extra point was blocked to end the half.
The third quarter featured much of what was expected from two powerhouse running teams, which was time consuming drives.
Orangefield (5-4, 2-3) scored on its second possession when Carmichael Wiley zigged and zagged his way to the end zone from 40 yards out to cap a 10-play drive and put Orangefield up 28-14, following Choate’s two-point conversion run with 35 seconds left in the third quarter.
As they did in the first half, the Cougars offense responded with their own 12-play scoring drive. The Buna drive was sustained by another pass from Clark to Brinkman for a first down at the Bobcats 17 yard line. Lopez then scooted around left side for 12 yards to the 5-yard line where Cody Ireland then scored on the next play. A failed two point pass left the Cougars trailing the Bobcats 28-20 early in the fourth quarter.
Just when it seemed the momentum might be turning Buna’s direction, Carl Wiley drove a stake right through the Cougars hearts with a 67-yard jaunt on the Bobcats second play of its next possession and a 35-20 lead which held for the final score.
“Anytime you can get a win in this district, you have to be pleased,” said Josh Smalley, Orangefield coach. “I’m proud of our offensive line. They blocked well and made our running backs look good. We cut down on penalties and turnovers tonight, and that made a big difference in our game.”
Along with Carl Wiley’s big night on offense, his brother, Carmichael Wiley, managed 103 yards on 13 carries with two touchdowns. The Bobcats offense tallied 481 rushing yards and 496 total yards on the night.
Meanwhile, the Orangefield defense did its part, too, as it held an equally potent Cougars running game to a meager 240 rushing yards and 276 total yards on the night.
“Our defense did well all night, except for two plays in the first-half,” Smalley added. “And I have to give credit to the coaching staff. They prepared well for Buna and it showed in our performance on both sides of the ball.
“We’ve still got one more game to play,” he continued. “We’re still in (the playoff race) and we have to take care of business next week.”
Orangefield will play host to Bridge City (2-7, 1-4) in the final game of the regular season in the annual rivalry game known as the Bayou Bowl. Buna’s regular season has ended and it must get some help to sneak into the playoffs next week.