That O'Connor is in the football playoffs for the 10th consecutive season is a noteworthy feat for a school that opened just 14 years ago.

But while the Panthers have become a postseason fixture, they have advanced past the second round only once, in 2003, when they started their playoff streak and advanced to the Class 5A Division II state quarterfinals.

O'Connor has fallen in the second round eight times since then, with the exception coming in 2009 when it lost in bidistrict.

That's been a burr under our saddle, said David Malesky, who is in his third season as the Panthers' head coach. Our goal all season has been to get past the second round.

Standing between O'Connor and the third round is perennial playoff team Judson, which just happens to be Malesky's alma mater. Malesky was a starting linebacker on the 1983 Rockets team that won Judson's first state championship.

That makes it a little more special for me, not our kids, Malesky said Wednesday. They respect Judson because it's been good for so long. Our players know it's a big game because of who we're playing and what's at stake.

O'Connor (9-2) and Judson (8-3) clash in the 5A Division I playoffs at 1 p.m. Saturday at Comalander Stadium.

We're not only playing a very good team, we're going up against a program with a history that has been second to none in the San Antonio area since 1982, Malesky said. We're playing a proud tradition and a proud community.

As a former player, I know what it was like getting over the hump when we beat Churchill in 1982. Beating Judson would be big for us in much the same way.

Malesky shares friendship with Judson coach Smith

This won't be the first time Malesky, who joined the O'Connor staff as defensive coordinator in 2002 and is 21-14 with the Panthers, has faced the Rockets in the playoffs. Judson beatO'Connor in the second round in 2004 and 2005.

When Malesky talks about the Rockets' winning tradition, he speaksfrom experience.

Malesky was a junior starter when Judson defeated Churchill twice in 1982, 14-0 in a district game and 10-7 in the state quarterfinals. The second victory put the Rockets in the state semifinals for the first time in Judson history.

Although Judson's 1982 season ended with a loss to Beaumont Westbrook, the Rockets were well on their way to becoming a state power and having unprecedented success in the San Antonio area. Judson went 14-1 in 1982, and beat Midland Lee in the 1983 state final to cap a 15-1 season.

The thing that sticks out to me about the '83 season is that I don't know if we were the most talented team week in and week out, but we were a bunch of guys who thought we could win the state championship, said Malesky, 46. Our coaches believed in us and did everything they could to help us reach that goal.

I've tried to take the experiences I can remember as a player and relate them to the kids I coach now. I'm excited about our team at O'Connor this season. The kids believe in each other and they believe they can beat anybody. We have a lot of respect for Judson and what they've built, but we feel we've got something special over here, too.

Another compelling storyline in the O'Connor-Judson matchup is the friendship Malesky shares with first-year Rockets head coach Mark Smith. Both were teammates at Texas A&I, now Texas A&M-Kingsville, for one season and keep in touch.

Mark was a fifth-year senior when I came in my freshman year, said Malesky, who graduated from Judson in 1984. Mark was my host on my recruiting visit. He got me started on the A&I tradition. Not only is Mark a great coach, he's a good guy.

I've known Mark for a long time and talk to him regularly. He coaches the right way and his kids play the right way. I have nothing but the utmost respect for him.

Malesky son of former Kennedy, Holmes football coach

Smith, 50, was head coach at Kerrville Tivy for 10 seasons and led the Antlers to the 4A state semifinals twice.

Texas A&M redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, one of the leading candidates for the Heisman Trophy this season, is among the players Smith coached at Tivy.

There are going to be coaches who have great schemes and great players, Malesky said. Mark is a guy whose record speaks for itself. Even when he hasn't had a Johnny Manziel, his teams have been tough to beat because they don't make a lot of themselves.

The teams that do well in the in the playoffs are the ones that don't beat themselves. They make very few mistakes. Mark has brought that to Judson.

Malesky is the son of former Kennedy and Holmes head football coach Gary Malesky, who is now retired. David played at A&I from 1987-89, and was a student assistant under Coach Ron Harms in 1988 and 1989.

Malesky was an assistant coach at King High School in Kingsville (1990) and Harlandale (1991) before going to Jay in 1992. After serving as an assistant for eight seasons, he became head coach at Jourdanton in 2000.

Malesky resigned at Jourdanton in 2002 to become defensive coordinator at O'Connor under Danny Padron.

Gary Malesky hasn't been to an O'Connor game since the first Friday in September because he's been recovering from back surgery, but David expects his father to be in the stands Saturday.

He called me today and told me, 'I've got two touchdown plays for you,' David said. After every game, I'll always call him and we'll talk football. He's still very much a coach.

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