The Orange Leader
WEST ORANGE —
Two West Orange-Stark seniors were chomping at the bit to see their first varsity action for the Mustangs when the season cranked up in August.
Well, both cornerback Thomarcus Fontenot and offensive lineman Jacob Hryhorchuk have played well beyond expectations as they get ready to take on the Jasper Bulldogs in the Class 3A Region III Division I semifinals Friday night at Humble’s Turner Stadium.
Fontenot caught WO-S head coach Cornel Thompson and defensive coordinator Mike Pierce’s eyes back in the spring offseason workouts.
“We’re really proud of what Thomarcus has brought to us,” said Thompson. “He’s a kid that showed improvement in the spring and he just kept getting better and better. He’s done really well for as at one of the corners and that’s not the easiest position in the world to play. He’s also been a very valuable special teams player for us, especially in the return game.”
Meanwhile, Hryhorchuk has flourished along the offensive line in enabling the Mustangs to have one of their best offensive season in years.
The Mustangs are churning out 393 yards a game and have been balanced doing it with 216 yards in the air a game and 177 on the ground as the offensive line has matured throughout the season in both pass blocking and run blocking.
“Jacob has really come on strong as a senior after sitting out last year after coming over from LC-M,” said Thompson. “He’s a good anchor for us up front. He’s done a good job looking over the defenses and calling out different looks for us. He’s really been a bright spot for sure.”
Hryhorchuk has enjoyed the way the line has blossomed.
“The thing about us is that we just seem to get better every week and that’s been awesome,” said Hryhorchuk. “When you go back to those scrimmages and our first game against LC-M and compare us to now, we’re so much better. Everyone knows their roles well and we all get along. What’s really improved the most is our pass protection. You give Dillon (Sterling-Cole) time, he will get you.”
Sterling-Cole has been on fire at quarterback, especially in the last two playoff games in which he has passed for 656 yards and an amazing 11 touchdowns.
“We have some tremendous athletes here,” said Hryhorchuk. “You give them any time they can go to the end zone just like that. Dillon has a great arm and is so cool and calm and I don’t care if he’s just a sophomore. Our receivers are awesome and so are our backs. Our jobs are to protect them and giving them holes to get through and I think we’ve done a pretty good job.”
Hryhorchuk has also recovered nicely from a tough ankle injury he suffered against Orangefield. He just missed the next week’s game against Buna and bounced back pretty well.
“It still bothers me at times but no way was I going to let it bother me,” said Hryhorchuk. “This is my senior year and I knew I was going to do whatever it takes to be out there. We’ve got some more winning to do.”
On the defensive side of the leather, Fontenot has embraced the challenge of being “on an island” by himself at corner.
“I knew way back in the spring that I wanted to step up and start my senior year and I went through a lot of hard work to get here,” said Fontenot. “The best thing that happened was Coach Thompson and Coach Pierce believing in me all the way through. I just kept improving and kept improving and it paid off for me.”
The Mustang defense was young entering the season, losing nine starters off a 2012 unit that produced a school-record nine shutouts. However, Fontenot knew the Mustangs would be just fine.
WO-S has allowed just a little over nine points a game this season and just 211 yards a game. They allowed West Columbia just 35 total yards in the win last week.
“We’ve had some guys step up this year, a bunch of them juniors,” said Fontenot. “We made mistakes early in the season, which was expected a little. But we kept learning and getting it done it practice. It all starts with practice here at West Orange. I had plenty of inspiration from my teammates too. Deionte Thompson, he’s so good on and off the field to me. He’s talented in so many ways and he knows how much he helps me. Chris (James) had played in a lot of varsity games before this season and was a help to me too.”
Fontenot has been big on special teams as well, getting WO-S in good field position with several returns and making excellent tackles.
Fontenot, Hryhorchuk and the Mustangs are getting prepared for a tussle with old rival Jasper Friday with the season on the line. The two missed playing each other in Jasper back on Sept. 20 due to bad weather conditions.
“It was a game we would’ve loved to have played because we would know each other’s moves a little better,” said Fontenot. “We know they have a lot of talent and are playing really well right now. I think we will be okay if we just go out and play Mustang football.”
“Jasper seems to really be playing well right now and I know we are, so it should be a good game,” said Hryhorchuk. “Right now, we feel like we can play with anybody and win every time we go out and play, we just have to continue to do it. We’ve had a great season when a lot of people doubted us when the season started and we just want to keep it going.”