WEST ORANGE —
There is no surprise that the District 21-3A championship will be settled at Hooks Stadium Friday night when the West Orange-Stark Mustangs (7-1, 5-0) tangle with the Silsbee Tigers (7-1, 5-0) in a battle of titans.
With a slew of starters returning off last year’s 10-3 Class 3A Division I regional finalists, many predictions across the area and state had the Tigers picked to win the district over the Mustangs this go-around, especially with the loss of nine starters on one of the best WO-S defensive units in school history off a squad that went 13-1 and advanced to the 3A Division II Region III Finals.
Well, it will all be decided Friday.
“It should be one heckuva football game,” said Mustang coach Cornel Thompson. “As coaching staffs, we have a lot of respect for one another. The Tigers are coached extremely well on both sides of the ball. Silsbee started the year as the district favorite and they certainly deserve that. Hopefully we can stay on the field with them. They have a tremendous, athletic unit across the board.”
Silsbee, with the return of 21-3A Most Valuable Player quarterback Patrick Reed, owns the district’s top offense that averages 433.3 yards per outing.
Meanwhile, the young Mustang defense that has grown up well, yields a league-low 240.6 yards a game and has allowed just 46 points in district and 93 for the season.
There is no doubt that Reed, a senior, is the guy that “stirs the drink” for the Tigers.
He’s completed 91-of-141 passes for 1,542 yards and 19 touchdowns with just four interceptions. He is also third in the district in rushing with 975 yards and 15 TDs on 103 carries.
“There is no doubt that Reed is the hub of the wheel that makes them go,” said Thompson. “He’s the best quarterback we’ve seen and thank goodness he’s a senior. He does it with his legs and his arm and that rascal is so dang elusive. We’ll have our hands full trying to keep him pinned in.”
The Tigers also have 21-3A’s top two pass-catchers in Zayon Jackson, who has 43 catches for 674 yards and eight TDs and Chris Elam, who has snagged 28 grabs for 479 yards and seven scores.
“Both of those kids are excellent,” said Thompson. “We can’t afford to let those two get deep on us. They have an excellent vertical game.”
Sophomore tailback Sedrick Spearman has erupted on the scene in recent weeks and is averaging more than 10 yards a carry with his 550 yards and six TDs on 53 carries.
“The Spearman kid has really come onto the scene in recent weeks and has performed at a high level,” said Thompson. “We’ve got to keep those guys in front of us.”
While Reed has made a nice name for himself in his final season. The Mustangs have turned to a sophomore quarterback that has had a solid run in his first year as a starter in Dillon Sterling-Cole.
Reed has helped the Mustangs to the No. 2 spot in total offense in 21-3A play as WO-S has churned out 376.4 yards a game.
Sterling-Cole has completed 73-of-118 passes for 1,213 yards and has 12 TDs and just one interceptions. He’s also rushed for 341 yards and nine TDs on 65 carries.
While Reed has two go-to receivers, Sterling-Cole has several in the forms of Will Johnson (20-315-5), Deionte Thompson (19-388-3), Dwain Boullard (14-186-4) and Chris Horn (13-189-0).
Tailback Chris James leads the WO-S ground attack with 535 yards and seven TDs on 74 carries.
WO-S will look to attack a Silsbee defense that has allowed 313.9 yards a game.
“Offensively, we’ve made some nice strides leading up to this one,” said Thompson. “Our little ole sophomore (Sterling-Cole) has been steady and we’ve been able to spread the wealth around,” said Thompson. “We know that we will need to score some points Friday for sure because Silsbee is capable of scoring in bunches. We need to match that. It should be a good one. We both know we’re in the playoffs. We also both know that it’s games like this that will definitely get you ready for lies ahead the following week.”
The Tigers were in a nail-biter last week as they edged Hardin-Jefferson 34-33 while the Mustangs downed Orange County rival Bridge City 40-16.
The Mustangs defeated the Tigers 26-12 last year at Tiger Stadium for the outright 21-3A title. WO-S outgained the Tigers 316-229 as the Mustangs gobbled up 262 yards on the ground.