The game against Diboll was a costly one for the Orangefield Bobcats last Friday. The Bobcats lost the game to former Coach Blake Morrison, and they lost the services of starting quarterback and defensive end Mason Gonzales (above) to a shoulder injury likely for the remainder of the season.
This Friday night is the opening game of district for Orangefield. Coach Josh Smalley said the Bobcats’ opponent the Liberty Panthers are very big. The Panthers like to run the ball behind their huge offensive line which averages between 280 to 300 pounds. Liberty will shift into the Spread and throw the ball on occasion. Smalley emphasizes, “It all revolves around that big offensive line, they just try to ground and pound you, so it’s going to be a physical ball game Friday.”
Featured in the Panther offense is J. J. Slack who has played on the varsity since he was a freshman. Slack lines up in multiple spots including quarterback and wingback. Keegan Turner will play quarterback especially in throwing situations from the Spread. At fullback River Lucy is a big part of the Liberty game plan to run the football.
On defense the Panthers line up with an odd man front. Smalley analyzes the Liberty defense. Their defense is similar in alignment to that of West Orange-Stark. The Panthers are not as big on defense as they are on offense, but they are quick, athletic, and are a well-coached ball club according to Smalley.
The leader on the Liberty defense is Wesley Scott at noseguard. Scott is a player with quickness who penetrates and disrupts things in an opponent’s backfield. Linebackers Turner and Bailey Brown are very active. Slack at safety is joined by Jeremiah Guillory in the defensive secondary, both are very good.
Coach Smalley sees the Liberty Panthers as one of the top teams in the district this year. Liberty made it to the third round of the playoffs last season and returns a lot of experience on both offense and defense.
Both teams come into the contest with similar game plans to run the football and keep the other side’s offense on the sideline. The coach sees turnovers and penalties as huge keys for both schools since each drive will be emphasized with the likely hood of fewer possessions because of the ball control focus of Orangefield and Liberty.
The Bobcats have shown Coach Smalley improvement each week that they have played, and each practice that they have gone to. The young Bobcats are starting to grow up a little bit. “So, you see us getting better, it’s not an effort thing, the kids are giving great effort, we’ve just got to coach better, execute better, and we’re going to be okay,” Smalley concluded.
The Orangefield Bobcats celebrate homecoming Friday night at F. L. McClain Stadium. The kickoff between the Bobcats and the Liberty Panthers will be at 7:30 PM.