The Orange Leader
Many predictions across the area had the defending District 21-3A champion West Orange-Stark Mustangs and the Silsbee Tigers duking it out for the title once again at the end of the season.
However, look for the rest of the 21-3A teams to battle the top “two dogs” as an interesting race will crank up Friday night.
Both the Mustangs (2-1) and Tigers (2-1) will enter Friday night with a two-week break after both failed to get their final non-district games in last Friday due to the miserable weather.
The Mustangs, who have won eight of the last nine district titles, will hit the road as they visit the Hamshire-Fannett Longhorns (2-1) while the Tigers welcome in a tough and much-improved Orangefield (3-1) unit.
The Bridge City Cardinals (1-2) can make a nice statement after they had a bye week when they play host to hard-nosed Buna (3-1) at Larry Ward Stadium.
“It’s going to be interesting all the way through,” said Orangefield coach Josh Smalley. “Of course, WO-S and Silsbee are still the teams to beat but the district should be much more competitive across the board than it has been in the past.”
“It all gets serious now,” said WO-S coach Cornel Thompson. “Looking at it, everyone in the district was very competitive during their non-district schedule. It’s going to shape into a pretty good little race, you just have to approach each week like it’s all business and don’t look ahead.”
“It’s that time of the year when every week counts,” said Cardinal coach Cris Stump, who looks to lead the Cardinals to a fifth straight playoff appearance. “It all starts with Buna for us and the kids have been working hard and we got a few bumps and bruises that have healed up after the bye week.”
The Mustangs had some momentum going before their game with Jasper got washed out last week when they defeated Beaumont Central 31-7 in their last game played.
“Last Friday was a tough deal because the kids really wanted to play, we just didn’t want to jeopardize anyone and be healthy going into district.”
The Mustangs are churning out 343.7 yards a game while the defense is allowing 292.3.
Tailback Chris James leads the ground game with 288 yards and three touchdowns on 35 carries while quarterback Chase Rutledge has churned out 149 yards and three TDs on 35 totes.
Rutledge and fellow quarterback Dillon Sterling-Cole have combined to complete 34-of-68 passes for 448 yards and two TDs. Receivers Dwain Boullard, Will Johnson, Chris Horn and Tre Spencer have all made nice contributions early on.
The Longhorns will welcome the Mustangs with a running game highlighted by quarterback Kendrick King. King has piled up 476 yards and nine TDs on just 61 carries for a H-F offense that is churning out 378 yards per outing. King has also completed 23-of-38 passes for 327 yards and four TDs with his favorite targets being Ryan Johnson and Chris Jolley.
“Hamshire has a new attitude this year by winning a couple games because they were winless going into this one last year,” said Thompson. “Their quarterback is a good little athlete, he was Newcomer of the Year last year. They’ll spread you out and he can find the gaps and break loose on you.”
The Mustangs toppled the Longhorns 44-0 last season, limiting H-F to 174 total yards.
Orangefield survived a sloppy-weather game last Friday when they dealt Beaumont Kelly a 19-14 loss as they get ready to ride to Silsbee tot take on the explosive Tigers.
Led by tailback Carl Wiley, the Bobcats are averaging 313.5 yards a contest.
Wiley is 21-3A’s leading rusher with 595 yards on 111 carries. He has plenty of help with quarterback Carmichael Wiley, who has 283 yards on 63 carries and Colby Choate, who has rumbled for 171 yards on 21 totes.
“We feel like we can move the ball against anybody, we just have to limit our mistakes against teams like Silsbee,” said Smalley. “Turnovers really got us in the game against them last year. The kids are pretty confident going into it. Last year we were sitting at 1-3 at this point so 3-1 sounds pretty good.”
There’s no doubt that Silsbee has a potent offense and the Tigers currently lead the loop, averaging 392.3 yards a game behind standout quarterback Patrick Reed.
Reed has completed 43-of-67 passes for 651 yards and seven TDs. He has two excellent receivers to go to in the forms of Zayon Jackson, who has 24 grabs for 376 yards and five TDs and Chris Elam, who has 10 catches for 190 yards and two scores.
Reed has also rushed for 223 yards and five TDs on 36 carries while back Floyd Spearman has 153 yards on 27 carries.
“Silsbee is so dangerous and you have to start with Reed, because he’s so explosive with his feet and his arm,” said Smalley. “Those two receivers are so darn good and can get up the field. Their offensive line is huge and athletic.”
The Bobcats have held their own defensively, limiting opponents to just 238.5 yards a game.
Silsbee downed the Bobcats 48-7 last season.
Bridge City should be rested up and healed up after defeating Kelly 31-7 on Sept. 13.
Cardinal quarterback Chase Shugart has completed 24-of-55 passes for 340 yards and three TDs. His main target has been Malcolm Busby, who has hauled in seven catches for 166 yards and a pair of TDs and Keaton Langston, who has five grabs for 93 yards and three TDs.
Shugart, who was offered a baseball scholarship by the University of Texas earlier in the week, has been going through a tough shoulder injury.
“Chase is still pretty much a game-time decision come Friday,” said Stump. “He still has some shoulder AC issues. He can still roll out , sprint and throw the ball but he’s still feeling it.”
The Cardinal defense will look to slow down a fierce Buna rushing attack. The Cougars have already rushed for 1,042 yards.
“They just load up and like to come right at you,” said Stump. “This will be our third game facing an offense like this. We did okay against Newton and not so much against Vidor. But we’ve had two weeks to get ready for this and we think we have a good gameplan, we just need to execute it.”
Running back Matthew Biddle leads the way, rushing for 376 yards on 73 totes. Justin Kennedy has 156 yards on 23 carries and McCrea Lopez has 143 yards and three TDs on just 16 carries. The Cougars do not pass much as quarterback Joseph Clark has completed 10-of-29 passes for 147 yards and a TD.
The Cardinals turned back the Cougars 28-24 last season by scoring 22 unanswered points in the second half.
“We definitely don’t want a repeat of last year when they jumped out on us 24-0,” said Stump. “
Hardin-Jefferson (3-1) will have the bye this week before heading to WO-S Oct. 4.