WEST ORANGE —
West Orange-Stark wants to continue its dominance in District 21-3A play.
The Bridge City Cardinals, meanwhile, want to sneak into Hooks Stadium Friday night and pull off the upset of the year.
The Mustangs (8-0, 4-0) and the Cardinals (4-4, 3-1) will hook up yet again as Bridge City will once again try to defeat WO-S for the first time in Bridge City’s storied history.
WO-S checks in with the best scoring defense in any classification in the state of Texas, limiting opponents to just 20 points for the season while recording six shutouts along the way. The Mustangs have outscored their four 21-3A opponents 187-0 thus far as the Cardinals look to put up the first points on the Mustangs in 21-3A play.
“We want to go out and protect what we’ve accomplished thus far this season,” said Mustang coach Cornel Thompson. “This whole shutout deal is great and all but we’ve told the kids that it can’t last forever, we’re playing some darn good football teams coming up. I remember when we had a shutout string in 2000 (the Mustangs advanced to the 4A Division II state title game that year) and we gave up a couple scores in a game and the kids were pacing the sidelines, worried to death. We don’t want to have that type of deal.”
"Our kids know what we are up against,” said Cardinal coach Cris Stump. “We are going to go out and hit those guys but the thing about West Orange-Stark you have to remember is West Orange-Stark is going to hit you back and hit you back harder than you hit them. They will not lay down but neither will we. This is the most important game of the year only because it is the next game."
The Mustangs are allowing just 140 yards a game. The Cardinal defense ranks second in 21-3A, allowing 275.5 yards a game.
Bridge City's two consecutive shutouts are impressive in their own right but Stump knows the Mustangs six shut outs in eight games proves Thompson has his Mustangs firing on all cylinders.
"Our goal might be to get a score on the board," Stump said. "Those guys are good. If you look back over the last five, 10 and 15 years it is the same each year. The Mustangs run to the football better than any other team and it starts with those linebackers. Those guys get it going and it radiates from there. I might have to ask Coach Thompson how he gets away with playing 15 guys on the field because that is the way it seems sometimes.”
The Mustangs and Cardinals are both coming off shutout victories with WO-S defeating Buna 40-0 last week while the Cardinals blanked Hardin-Jefferson 13-0.
“Bridge City has played pretty good defense all year long,” said Thompson. “I know everyone likes to talk about shutouts around here. Well, the Cardinals have posted back-to-back shutouts themselves. They play sound defense and run an excellent scheme.”
Stump has seen his squad play some of its best football over the last few weeks, especially coming off two consecutive shutouts.
"We are coming around and that is what we expected at the start of the year," Stump said. "Each week we have been getting better in all phases of the game. It is always great to get a shut out. It always adds a little something extra to the win and it certainly makes things easier on the other side of the ball."
WO-S quarterback Jimmy Salter went over the 1,000-yard passing mark last week against Buna in a game in which he rushed for three scores and passed for another.
Salter has completed 73-of-135 passes for 1,020 yards and 13 touchdowns and has not been picked off all season. He has also rushed for 263 yards and seven TDs on 64 carries.
Mustang receiver J’Marcus Rhodes has hauled in 29 catches for 494 yards and eight TDs. Abear Simien has played well at tailback the last two weeks and leads the WO-S ground game with 421 yards and four TDs on 58 carries.
The Mustangs average 329.9 yards a game on offense while the Cardinals have averaged 241.9.
The Cardinals will try to move the ball against a fierce Mustang defense led by the likes of linebacker Joe Lynch and sophomore defensive back Deionte Thompson, who has two interceptions in the last two weeks.
The Cardinals certainly have a feature back in tailback Ashton Hunter. Hunter eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark last week against H-J when he rushed for 194 yards on 33 carries. He now has 1,010 yards and five TDs for the season on 169 carries.
“The Hunter kid runs with a lot of passion and determination,” said Thompson. “He’s deceptionally quick too. They like to spread the ball out and use that running attack. What we want to do is make them one-dimensional and that’s hard to do sometimes.”
Hunter is not the only player on offense who seems to have started to hit his stride on offense for the Cardinals.
Quarterback Daniel Faulk's numbers have seen improvement and some of his improvement cannot be seen in a stat package.
"Daniel has simply become more mature each week," Stump said. "He is becoming the guy who runs our offense. He was trying too hard at the start of the season to be the man who made the big play. We need Daniel to understand what is going on in our offense and be the leader and he is doing that much better right now than he was at the start of the year. He knows when to hit the open receiver, he knows when to push the ball down field and he understands when to just throw the ball away now."
Cardinal quarterback Daniel Faulk has completed 45-of-112 passes for 537 yards and nine TDs with just three interceptions.
Adrian Schubarth (11-123-1), Colin Smith (9-96-1) and Tanner Cervenka (8-156-5) are the top receivers.
The Mustangs close out the regular season next week in a showdown with Silsbee while the Cardinals return home in a Bayou Bowl showdown with rival Orangefield.