After getting all they could handle from old rival Jasper, the West Orange-Stark Mustangs lived to play another day thanks to what will be known as The Mustang Drive” Friday night at Turner Stadium.
Mustang sophomore quarterback Dillon Sterling-Cole engineered a six-play, 67-yard scoring drive in the waning minutes of the game, finishing it off with a 13-yard touchdown strike to receiver Will Johnson over the middle of the end zone on third-and-goal with 1:28 left in the game as the Mustangs held off the Bulldogs 18-16 in the Class 3A Region III Division I semifinals in what turned out to be the “Rumble in Humble.”
Sterling-Cole connected with receiver Dwain Boullard on a 17-yard gain on the first play of the series. Two plays later, the same pair hooked up again as Boullard hauled in a 41-yard reception down to the Bulldog 3.
Running back Chase Rutledge scored on what looked to be a three-yard touchdown but it was called back due to holding.
After being stopped for no gain and then an incompletion, Sterling-Cole hit a wide-open Johnson just inside the middle of the end zone for the game-winner.
“This will go down as another WO-S-Jasper classic,” said Mustang coach Cornel Thompson. “Jasper got after us all night. It was just great to see the poise we had there at the end. Dillon (Sterling-Cole) was magnificent on that final drive. Our receivers made the key catches too. We feel fortunate to walk out of here with a victory. At this point, that’s all you want to do.”
Johnson was elated to nab the game-winner.
“I broke out on my route, knew I was open and Dillon delivered it to me on the money,” said Johnson. “We were really calm on that drive and we knew we had it in us. We made the key plays when we had too. Give Jasper credit, they played hard and got after us. Wow, what a way to end it.”
Sterling-Cole completed 14-of-21 passes for 196 yards with two TDs and two interceptions. He also ran for 73 yards on 16 carries. Boullard had three catches for 68 yards while Johnson had three grabs for 55 yards. Rutledge had 51 yards on 12 hard-nosed carries.
Next up for the Mustangs (11-1), a date with the Carthage Bulldogs in the Regional Finals next Friday at 7 p.m. at the Thomas Center in Beaumont.
Carthage (12-1) shredded District 21-3A runnerup Silsbee (9-3) 49-6 at Lamar University Friday evening to advance.
“Carthage, they’re going to be very tough and we’ve got plenty to prepare for, that’s for sure,” said Thompson. “They’ve built up quite a tradition there and they know how to play deep in the playoffs. They’ve been there plenty of late. Our kids, though, they’ll be ready to compete.”
The Bulldogs (8-4) outgained the Mustangs 374-364 thanks to a big performance from bruising back Terrance Cuney.
Cuney shredded the Mustangs for 220 yards and two TDs on 25 carries.
“Hats off to the Cuney kid, he gutted us, especially in that first half,” said Thompson. “When he gets going North and picks up steam, he’s like a runaway freight train. Give Coach (Darrell) Barbay and his staff credit, that had a good gameplan going in and they played hard for 48 minutes.”
Bulldog quarterback Steven Walker completed 7-of-17 passes for 122 yards. Running back Shawn Jones caught four of them for 92 yards.
Trailing 12-10, the Bulldogs received a 51-yard kickoff return by Deroddrick Hadnot to the Mustang 27 with 3:59 left.
The Bulldogs got a reprieve when a Walker incompletion on third down turned into a first down after a roughing the passer call. On first-and-10 from the 12, Cuney bulled his way into the end zone from 12 yards out. Cuney was stuffed on the two-point conversion run as the Bulldogs took the 16-12 lead with 2:43 left.
Trailing 10-6, the Mustangs executed a superb, nine-play, 73-yard scoring drive to get back on top.
The key play came on a 36-yard pass from Sterling-Cole to Johnson for a 36-yard gain to the Bulldog 6. It was capped off with a Sterling-Cole six-yard touchdown screen pass to a wide-open Chris James in the left flat with 4:20 left. The extra-point kick was missed as WO-S went up 12-10.
The Bulldogs chewed up 89 yards in six plays to take the lead on a 17-yard bruising run up the middle by Cuney with 7:39 remaining to give the Bulldogs a 10-6 edge. Cuney set up his own score with a 20-yard run on the previous play. The big play on the series came on a 37-yard screen pass to Jones that got down to the Mustang 37.
The Mustangs started at their own 20 with 8:25 remaining in the third period and marched 79 yards in 12 plays all on the ground on runs by Sterling-Cole, Chase Rutledge and Chris James. However, the Bulldogs stuffed Rutledge on fourth-and-goal from the 2 with 3:05 in the third.
“Not scoring there really set us back for a bit because we would’ve had the momentum at that point,” said Thompson. “Their (Jasper’s) stop there and that big kickoff return that set up one of their scores really stung. But give credit to the kids, they came back and gutted one out. At this time of the year, nothing is handed to you. You just want to win and advance and we did it.”
The Bulldogs controlled the tempo in the first half but still found themselves down 6-3 at intermission.
Jasper outgained the Mustangs 225-106 in the first 24 minutes. Cuney bulled his way to 163 yards on 17 carries in the half.
Jasper moved into WO-S territory three times in the first quarter but came away empty-handed due to a pair of turnovers. The Mustangs had a pair of turnovers as well in the half.
Both teams exchanged turnovers on their first possessions.
WO-S opened the game at their own 40 and drove to the Bulldog 32 but Sterling-Cole eventually got picked off by defensive back Randy Spikes at the Jasper 10 with 9:43 in the first period.
On the Bulldogs’ first series, Cuney broke loose on a 61-yard run to the WO-S 29 but the Bulldogs were called for a personal foul and the ball got put back to the Mustang 44.
Four plays later Walker coughed up the ball to Mustang defensive end Tavin Terrell at the Mustang 41 with 8:17 in the first.
The Bulldogs moved from their own 12 to the Mustang 42 in six plays but the Mustangs got on the board when defensive end Josh Tims scooped up a Spikes’ fumble and raced down the right sideline 58 yards for the touchdown. The point-after kick was missed as the Mustangs led 6-0 with 3:05 in the first.
The Mustangs set up shop at the Bulldog 36 after a 31-yard punt return by Dwain Boullard with 10:09 in the half. However, Bulldog defensive back Deroddrick Hadnot picked off a Sterling-Cole pass on the ensuing play at the Jasper 33 and returned it seven yards to the 40 with 10:02 left.
The Bulldogs drove all the way to the Mustang 13 in seven plays, mainly due to a Cuney 33-yard burst to the 17. However, the Mustang defense withstood the charge and the Bulldogs settled for a 30-yard Marco Lopez field goal with 7:01 in the half.
Sterling-Cole completed 4-of-8 passes in the half for 42 yards while running for 34 more.
WO-S 6 0 0 12 —18
Jas 0 3 0 13—16
WO-S: Josh Tims 58 fumble return. Kick failed.
Jasper: Marco Lopez 30 field goal.
Jasper: Terrance Cuney 17 run. Lopez kick.
WO-S: Chris James 6 pass from Dillon Sterling-Cole. Kick failed.
Jasper; Cuney 12 run. Run failed.
WO-S: Will Johnson 13 pass from Sterling-Cole. Pass failed.
First downs 21 17
Rushes-yards 38-168 40-252
Passing 196 122
Comp-Att-Int 14-21-2 7-17-0
Fumbles-Lost 2-0 3-2
Penalties-yards 7-69 4-40
Rushing: WO-S, Dillon Sterling-Cole 16-73, Chase Rutledge 12-51, Chris James 10-44; Jasper, Terrence Cuney 25-220, Randy Spikes 9-28, Shawn Jones 3-15, Steven Walker 3-(-11).
Passing: WO-S, Dillon Sterling-Cole 14-21-2 196; Jasper, Steven Walker 7-17-0 122.
Receiving: WO-S, Deionte Thompson 4-40, Dwain Boullard 3-68, Will Johnson 3-55, Chris James 3-15, Chris Horn 1-18; Jasper, Shawn Jones 4-92, Jamarcus Reed 1-29, Zachary Craig 1-4, Randy Spikes 1-(-3).