, Port Arthur, Texas


November 9, 2013

Area playoff puzzle difficult to piece together

PORT ARTHUR — It was never easy to quickly find a site for a playoff football game.

    Teams always tried to meet in the middle if they could and, if that didn’t work, a coin flip sometimes decided what team had the luxury of playing closer to home. There have also been times one team hosted a playoff game due to a coin flip.

    This was all hard enough when two teams made it to the playoffs. Then, the UIL decided to allow three teams into the postseason and now four teams advance statewide.

    In the meantime, coaches are still concentrating on their first job which is to play out the regular season. Yet in this social media driven world, fans and even the media want to know where a team is headed before the final Friday comes to a close.

    “Finding a stadium is tough,” PN-G Coach Brandon Faircloth said. “The top goal is to play on a Friday night to keep the players on the same schedule they have been on all year. There are not many stadiums around to choose from, especially when you take into consideration the PN-G fan base. It is very difficult. It is not as easy as I would like it to be.

    “Then, if the coaches don’t agree, there is a coin flip. Then, like our situation Friday, we were not even sure who we would be playing. You are making calls at 11 p.m. trying to finalize deals. It is extremely difficult.”

    First-year Orangefield Coach Josh Smalley found himself backed into in a very stressful-corner over the last several weeks. The Bobcats needed wins over Buna and Bridge City in the final two games to reach the postseason. This left Smalley with little time to pick up a phone and call around looking for an open venue.

    “We weren’t even sure we were in until last night,” Smalley said. “My focus was on Buna and Bridge City. You can’t wait too long to make arrangements because if you do there are no open stadiums.”

    Smalley said he made tentative plans two weeks ago with a couple of District 22-3A coaches in the event his Bobcats reached the playoffs.

    “We were fortunate to have our location nailed down,” Smalley said. “I am a rookie at this. Honestly, my focus was on winning our final two football games. There was not time to make a bunch of phone calls, find a location, call the opposing coach back to see if they agreed and then call the location back.

    “It is a challenge. First round stadiums are hard to come by with all these teams getting into the playoffs. There is no doubt about that.”

There are four Thursday contests and two Saturday games this year just between the 5A-3A teams. Four games will be played at Beaumont ISD’s Thomas Center, with two being played at Barbers Hill High School.

    Class 1A and below still only take three teams to the playoffs.

    Even with all the chaos, Southeast Texas coaches got the job done before midday Saturday.

    District 20-3A had the craziest scenario play out Friday night. The fourth place team from the district really proves the UIL might need to reconsider how many teams advance past the regular season.

    Dilboll entered Friday’s game against Huntington with a 0-9 record. Huntington was 1-7 and both teams had yet to get a win in the five-team district race.

    So sporting its 0-3 20-3A record, Diboll defeated Huntington 41-6 Friday and won its first game of the season. The win clinched a playoff spot for the now 1-9, 1-3 Lumberjacks.

    Fairfield who is 9-1 awaits Diboll in the first round.

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From the Fieldhouse blog