Orangefield’s strength obvious in its victories

By Tom Halliburton

The News correspondent

Orangefield definitely is on track to become playoff-ready next month, and the early season has judged these 2015 Bobcats as long on strength and short on speed.

Speed undoubtedly has been the Bobcats’ enemy. They had a terrible time chasing Hardin-Jefferson’s Deshon Moreaux in last week’s 9-4A Division II district opener. Moreaux burned Orangefield’s slower defenders for three touchdowns, but the Cats still had the strength, determination and good fortune to prevail 24-23.

Speed also turned into Orangefield’s nemesis in home losses to Kirbyville (24-14) and Houston Worthing (35-31).

“It seems like we’ve been slower than every team we’ve played,” Orangefield head coach Josh Smalley said. “Moreaux is a talented young man. We had trouble with him last year, too.”

Orangefield’s opponents have had trouble dealing with the power of Bobcats fullback Austin Moore, the quickness and lateral mobility skills of quarterback Matthew Watkins.

Center Brandon Bray and right guard Jake Bradley are the lone seniors in a young offensive line that can succeed even when units crowd the line with eight and nine defenders.

Injuries have forced Smalley and his staff to plug in several unexpected starters. The Bobcats had to open their 9-4A campaign without the league’s fourth-leading rusher, junior Christopher McGee (92 carries for 512 yards and seven touchdowns).

Moore, Watkins and Triston McGee took up slack for McGee’s absence, but Smalley found another valuable contributor when freshman Blake Bradley ran eight times for 49 yards in the district opener.

Smalley has an interesting blend. The third-year head coach plays seven seniors on defense, but he insists he has a young team after graduating a strong senior crop last May.

Orangefield goes to war with senior defensive tackles Jacob Harrison and Brandon Bray. Yet they are flanked at ends by a freshman (Mason Gonzales) and a junior (Blayze Holley). Senior backers Matthew Brown and Austin Moore are asked to play major roles but so are juniors Zach Norman and Andrew Hoyland.

Watkins will help the secondary, but the leader in the back line undoubtedly is senior Chase Furlough, a league leader in pass interceptions.

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