There was good news and bad news for West Orange-Stark during the 2018 football season. The Mustangs won the five hundredth game in the school’s history making them the winningest school in Texas High School football history.
That was the good news. The bad news is West Orange-Stark did not go to the state championship game for the first time in five seasons.
Coach Cornel Thompson feels good about building his offense this year around an experienced line. Both guards come back with Jordan Garrett and Darby Jones. The two started fourteen games apiece. At right tackle is Quincy Ledet with experience in the Mustangs’ offensive line.
Last year’s center Courtney Davis has been moved to the left tackle position. Sophomore Demetrius Hunter looks like he will take over Davis’ old position at center. “The strength of our football team is going to be our offensive line,” Thompson stated.
The Mustangs are known for their defensive prowess, and Thompson analyzed this season’s defensive personnel. Back at noseguard is Steven Wilkerson. Next to him at one of the tackles will be Shemar Manaway who had 61 tackles including four sacks last season. Ledet and Davis may split time at the other defensive tackle position.
The leading tackler as only a sophomore on the defense last year was Tyrone Brown, and he is back at an inside linebacker. Thompson has moved Jamarcus Ross from a defensive end to the weak side linebacker. The coach believes that will give the Mustangs five solid tacklers inside.
The defensive end positions and the secondary will be very young and inexperienced. Thompson admitted, “I’m really concerned about them, because they’ve have got to mature football wise fast and come on quick.”
Like every season Coach Thompson will have to sift through the suspects to find some prospects to play for the Mustangs on both sides of the ball. Jalen Thompson was a part-time starter last season as a junior and should be better this year at defensive end. Elijah Gales will try to earn a spot at the other defensive end. He will be challenged by Jacob Dominguez and Jasachin Harris.
The Mustangs’ secondary will be very young. Artavious Samuel is the only one who saw any playing time with the varsity last year. “We’re trying to break in some new safeties and new cornerbacks.” Thompson said.
A player who was a backup last year and expected to start this season is Chavon Crawford. He is a senior and is moving from quarterback to a wide receiver. Crawford works hard according to his coach. Andre Thomas who has been a cornerback, but will see time as a slot receiver with his good hands. Samuel and Jubar Ross will also see time as receivers for the Mustangs. Thompson is still looking for a go-to-guy as his prime pass catcher.
There are three Mustangs according to Thompson who have all but secured their positions on the team. The starting quarterback right now is Jarren Terrell who did start three games last season. Terrell has been impressive in the workouts leading up to the preseason scrimmages for West Orange-Stark. He has thrown the ball well.
Third team all-state kicker Angel Ibara will be back. His last second field goal won the memorable five hundredth game for the Mustangs. Ibara made ten of thirteen field goals he attempted last season. Thompson feels confident to call on Ibara when the offensive gets to within the shadow of the goal post to garner points early or late in any game.
Returning as the punter is Paulino Santos. He has gotten stronger and is kicking the ball well. Coach Thompson praised, “Our kicking game I think will be pretty solid.”
West Orange-Stark begins every season with one of the toughest non-district schedules in the state. Thompson emphasized this will get the Mustangs ready for their district opponents. This year will be no exception, and the non-district ends against the preseason top ranked Jasper Bulldogs.
The outlook is for a tougher district than previously. Hamshire-Fannet in its second year under its coach should be much better. No doubt that Liberty will be strong again. Coach Dwayne DuBois is expected to make the Hawks competitive again especially in this his second year since returning to Hardin-Jefferson.
The Mustangs open the district against the Silsbee Tigers who eliminated West Orange-Stark in the playoffs last year. The Tigers are athletic and return many of their players from the team that reached the semi-finals last post season. “Silsbee’s got to be picked as the front runner with the number of people they’ve got returning,” Thompson concluded.
-Dan Perrine, KOGT-