The Orange Leader
WEST ORANGE —
After clinching yet another District 21-3A title with a 27-0 wipeout of the Silsbee Tigers last week, the West Orange-Stark Mustangs dive into familiar waters this week when they enter the postseason for the 25th time in school history.
The Mustangs (8-1, 6-0) will face the Huffman Falcons (6-3, 4-2), the third-place team out of 22-3A, Thursday at 7 p.m. at Barbers Hill High School in the Class 3A Region III Division I bidistrict playoffs.
This will be the third playoff meeting between the two. Huffman won 30-28 in 2004 and WO-S returned the favor in 2005 with a 41-21 win.
“This is what we’d like to call the rubber match,” said Mustang coach Cornel Thompson. “They got us pretty good in 2004 and we don’t want to see a repeat of that. The kids need to be mentally prepared for this week after such an emotional win against Silsbee. It’s a new season now where anything can happen. There will be some pretty good football teams that will wake up this weekend and be one-and-done.”
After facing three straight teams that ran the Slot-T in 21-3A play for a lengthy stretch, the Mustangs faced the Silsbee spread last week and held the potent Tigers to just 179 yards.
WO-S will get a chance to look at their third spread team in as many weeks Thursday in the form of the Falcons.
Huffman coach Mike McEachern and Co. like to throw it all over the field and have weapons that can get it done.
Sophomore quarterback Cody Gaitan has completed 210-of-308 passes for 2,322 yards and has 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
His go-to gut is definitely Darion Gray, who has hauled in 85 catches for 1,015 yards and 12 TDs. Gaitan has other options as well in Chase Harrell (23-344-3), Richard Marches (22-239-4) and Cole Harrell (21-230-3).
The Falcons don’t run it much. The ground game is led by Cesar Marroquin (50-212-1) and Gray (24-160-3).
“There is no secret about it, they love to throw the ball around a little bit,” said Thompson. “Their quarterback shows a lot of poise for a sophomore, just like ours, he’s pretty good. He’s not all that mobile but he gets the ball away very fast and he’s accurate with it. The Gray kid is an exceptional athlete. They’ll run him out of the slot and they will also hand the ball off to him. He’s really versatile and he has a little wiggle in his walk.”
Huffman has won its last three games after losing big to Cleveland (55-14) and district champion Coldspring (41-17).
The Mustangs are fresh off their 91st shutout in the school’s history and led 21-3A in total defense, allowing 234.4 yards a game.
The Falcons, who have outscored opponents 250-239, will face a WO-S offense that is piling up 370.8 yards a game.
Mustang quarterback Dillon Sterling-Cole has completed 83-of-136 passes for 1,367 yards and has 14 TDs and just one pick.
He’s had a plethora of receivers to go to in Will Johnson (23-419-6), Deionte Thompson (21-454-3), Dwain Boullard (16-218-5) and Chris Horn (14-188-0).
Chris James leads the WO-S ground arsenal with 555 yards and eight TDs on 78 carries. Cole has ripped off 393 yards and 10 TDs on 79 totes.
“Offensively, we’ve been pretty darn good of late and the best thing about it is that the kids know they can do even better,” said Thompson. “Dillon has really been playing well and we’ve been able to spread the wealth around with our receivers and also with our running game. We’re going to have to be ready up front in preparing for their 4-3 scheme. They do a lot of stunting and really like to bring the pressure.”
The WO-S-Huffman winner will face either Houston Yates or Columbia in the area round next week.