Dave Rogers

For The Record

“Come on down!”

Johnny Olson, the original announcer on the TV game show “The Price Is Right,” said it best, but the Orangefield Bobcats should be plenty happy with the UIL’s version.

The ruling body for Texas high school sports, the University Interscholastic League, has announced that Orangefield High School will be dropping from Class 4A competition to the Class 3A level beginning with the 2018-19 school year.

“Honestly, it’s not an entitlement for instant success, but you feel like you’re on more of a level playing field,” Bobcats Athletic Director Josh Smalley said.

Orangefield ISD reported an enrollment of 499 for its top four grades. That’s five students short of the cutoff to be a Class 4A school.

“We’ve always been close to the number,” Smalley said. “I didn’t think they’d raise the cutoff enough to get us. But we get to be the big school in our district for awhile after being the little school for so long.”

Orangefield has competed well despite the size disadvantage.

The Bobcats have been to the football playoffs a school-record five years in a row. Its baseball team went three rounds deep in the playoffs last year, two performers went to the state track meet and both its girls’ basketball and softball teams saw postseason play.

The change in classification is for all UIL activities — athletics and academics.

Orangefield currently competes in District 22-4A for all sports other than football. District members include Hamshire-Fannett, West Orange-Stark, Bridge City, Silsbee and Little Cypress-Mauriceville.

In football, where Class 4A schools were divided into two sub-classes, Division I and Division II, Orangefield had been competing in 12-4A Division II with Hamshire-Fannett, West Orange-Stark, Liberty and Hardin-Jefferson.

District assignments for 2018-2020 will not be announced until February, but the move to Class 3A should put Orangefield in a district with the likes of Buna, Kirbyville, Woodville, Kountze and Warren. East Chambers, Anahuac and Hardin are other area 3A schools.

“I’ve come to find out you don’t ever know what they’ve got up their sleeve until you see it,” Smalley, a veteran of 19 years as a coach, six at Orangefield, said of the redistricting process.

In football, Orangefield will compete in Class 3A Division I.

Another area school, Silsbee, will be making a move, but for football only.

An enrollment drop will see Silsbee move from a 4A Division I district that included Bridge City and LCM into a 4A Division II district, maybe the one Orangefield is leaving.

While he waits to find out who the Bobcats’ district opponents will be, Smalley must restart on the football team’s 2018 schedule.

“All the people I had schedule for non-district games are probably going to be next year’s district games,” he said. “But I’ve called some people. I’ve got some leads.”