West Orange-Stark the winningest school in Texas High School football history has clinched a playoff spot again. The Mustangs won at Liberty last week 39-0 in a game plagued by questionable officiating.
Coach Cornel Thompson recapped the victory against the Panthers as another slow start for the Mustangs. They led only 12-0 at the half. West Orange-Stark played better in the second half and the shutout was never really threatened by Liberty.
The score could have been even more lopsided. The Liberty players were guilty of frequent unsportsmanlike conduct after plays were over against the Mustang players yet were only called for two penalties by the referees in the game. Thompson advised that the Mustangs held their poise pretty well considering the circumstances.
What really bothered the coach was the officiating which he flat out said was the worst he had been involved with in fifty years of coaching. Thompson explained, “We had five touchdowns called back.”
This Friday’s game will decide the district championship. Thompson evaluated the offense for Hamshire-Fannett. The Longhorns operate from the shotgun and run the Spread. They are explosive and only missed beating Silsbee last week when the Tigers blocked a potential game winning field goal which they returned for the winning touchdown as the game ended.
The hub of the Hamshire-Fannett Spread is its quarterback Marcus Morris. He is a three-year starter for the Longhorns. Morris will run the quarterback sweep, the quarterback counter, and will throw the football. Longhorns have a good football team according to Thompson, but Morris is the man to stop.
It has been years since Hamshire-Fannett competed for the district championship. This game will determine the seeding for the top three positions in the district. A win by West Orange-Stark and the Mustangs are the champions. A win by the Longhorns would create a three-way tie and point spreads would determine the district standings. “I don’t want to get caught in that situation, I’m greedy, I want to be the outright district champ,” Thompson insisted.
Defense it is said determines the winners in championship games. Coach Thompson dissected the Longhorns’ defense. They play a 50 Defense like West Orange-Stark. Hamshire-Fannett uses three or four players that play on defense that also start on offense.
The “Bell Cow” as Thompson likes to refer to the star on defense is Kyle Saurage for Hamshire-Fannett. Saurage plays linebacker for the Longhorns and runs the show for the defense. He must be blocked on every play.
Other standouts on defense for the Longhorns are Evan Viator at free safety and Anakin Hall at strong safety. Both are leading tacklers for Hamshire-Fannett, and Viator is a ball hawk with four interceptions last season.
The Longhorns are well coached on defense. The Mustangs seem to be gaining some momentum with back-to back solid wins finally getting to play consecutive weeks without postponements because of the weather. Thompson believes, “It’s going to be a heck of a football game I’m thinking, and I’m looking forward to being involved in it.”
This may be the best game of the season thus far for the Mustangs considering importance. The game will determine the top of the district standings and will be the final game before the playoffs for both the Mustangs and the Longhorns. The difference in seeding could be from first place to third place depending on the final score Friday.
West Orange-Stark has won its share of important district games over the years. Coach Thompson wants to capture another district championship with a win in preparation for the post season. He does not want to go into the playoffs with a loss. “Somebody is going to get beat in the first round of the playoffs and they shouldn’t, we don’t want it to be the Mustangs,” Thompson concluded.
The West Orange-Stark Mustangs will battle the Hamshire-Fannett Longhorns at Dan R. Hooks Stadium. The game will be carried live on KOGT beginning with the kickoff at 7:30 PM on Friday.
-Dan Perrine, KOGT-