Bobcats not fretting about latest UIL reclassification
Dave Rogers / For The Record
While it’s true the Orangefield Bobcats enjoyed one of their winningest seasons last fall in 3A, Athletic Director Josh Smalley welcomes a return to Class 4A.
The UIL made it official Monday, releasing the tentative realignment for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years.
“We know we’re stepping up in competition, but there’s no reason we can’t continue our success,” Smalley said.
Last fall, that equated to a 9-1 regular season and 9-2 overall record. Smalley was named Super Gold Coach of the Year.
“I asked why me and not the coaches of teams that went farther in the playoffs,” Smalley said. “They said, ‘Orangefield only wins nine games about once every 20 years.”
For the last school year and through the end of this one, Orangefield will be the largest school in terms of enrolled students in its District 22-3A.
For at least the next two years, it will be the school with the least enrollment in 22-4A, where, for most sports except football, it will compete against Orange County neighbors Little Cypress-Mauriceville, Bridge City, West Orange-Stark and Vidor. Lumberton and Silsbee will complete the seven-team league.
In football, where Class 4A is split into Division I and Division II districts, based on enrollment numbers, Orangefield will join WO-S and Bridge City in District 11-4A-Division 2 along with Hamshire-Fannett, Hardin-Jefferson, Liberty and Silsbee.
LC-M and Vidor will play football in District 10-4A-I with Huffman, Livingston, Splendora and Lumberton.
“They told us in December [Orangefield was moving back up in classification],” the Orangefield coach said. “The big question was what were they going to do with Jasper.”
Jasper was relocated for football to District 10-4A-II with Shepherd, Center, Rusk, Carthage and Madisonville.
“We’re not really surprised by [realignment]. We’re fired up,” Smalley said. “It’s not like we’re unfamiliar with these teams. The last time we were in 4A, two years ago, most of the same teams were in our district.
“It helps us to travel. Obviously, we’re not traveling all over the state to play.”
Smalley said district trips the past two seasons have included games at Anahuac and Woodville.
“Right now, we’re looking at Hamshire and Silsbee, as far as we have to travel.”
As a 3A school last year, Orangefield finished first and second in district cross country for boys and girls, with three state qualifiers. The volleyball team went 12-2 in district and advanced to the third round of the playoffs.
Both the boys and girls basketball teams won 29 games, with girls claiming the district title. Softball went 23-10 and baseball finished second in district. The boys golf team won district and both boys and girls teams played at regional. Both track teams won district.
So far this school year, the Bobcats teams have finished district competition first in boys cross country, second in volleyball and football and third in girls cross country.
“When you’re the big fish, you have more kids,” Smalley said. “We finished in the top 25 for the Lone Star Cup [for all-around sports and UIL academics] and we hope to finish in the top 25 again.
“There’s no reason we can’t continue.”
Boosting Smalley’s confidence is the turnaround his football team made this year, after going a disappointing 5-5 and missing the playoffs in its first year after the drop to 3A.
“That was a huge disappointment,” the coach said. “I learned a lot about myself. We made changes in the off-season focused on mental toughness.
“Our competitive level has been high. You’ve got to credit the success to our seniors who’ve showed great leadership and to our coaching staff.”
Other area football realignments for the next two school years see Beaumont West Brook again the lone local team in a district (21-6A-II) that includes North Shore, C.E. King and four Humble schools.
Closer to home, Beaumont United and Port Arthur Memorial will play in 9-5A-I against the three Baytown schools, Friendswood, Galveston Ball and La Porte.
Nederland and Port Neches-Groves will play in 12-5A-II with Crosby, Dayton, Kingwood Park, Santa Fe and Texas City.