WEST ORANGE —
The task should be a much tougher one for the West Orange-Stark Mustangs, they certainly know that.
After dismantling the Cleveland Indians 57-0 in the Class 3A Region III Division II bidistrict playoffs last Friday, the fourth-ranked Mustangs (11-0) are gearing up for a much stiffer challenge in the forms of the West Columbia Roughnecks (8-3) Friday night at 6 p.m. at Channelview’s Maddry Stadium in the area round.
The Roughnecks certainly have a storied football history, just like the Mustangs.
The two programs have hooked up before. The Mustangs downed the Roughnecks 30-7 in 1987 in the third round on their way to the Class 4A state title.
Coach Randy Lynch led the Roughnecks all the way to the 3A Division I state semifinals last season where they fell to eventual state champion Chapel Hill 21-16, finishing 13-1.
“West Columbia has a proud football tradition, just like us,” said WO-S coach Cornel Thompson. “They went four rounds deep last year and won 13 straight games in the process. They have several key returners off that group. To put it simple, they have guys there that know how to win, they’ve proven that.”
West Columbia roughed up Houston Kashmere 33-6 in the bidistrict round.
The Roughnecks welcomed back nine starters off the state semifinalist squad with several key veterans that certainly know what picking up W’s are all about.
West Columbia likes to keep things simple, utilizing a power ground attack to try to thwart opposing defenses.
They like to hand the ball off to tailback Floyd Bess, who has 934 yards and 14 TDs on 123 carries.
Broderick Thomas has 514 yards and 11 TDs on 87 carries.
Quarterback Willis Johnson has rushed for 338 yards and four TDs on 40 carries and has completed 24-of-49 passes for 459 yards and three TDs.
“They will certain offer up a challenge to our defense,” said Thompson. “They like to run it and they like to run it a lot. The biggest thing is that they like to run the ball in a variety of ways in so many different multiple formations. They’ll be in the I-formation one play, they might be in the Wishbone next and then they’ll even go no-back. We’re really preparing for just about anything. They’re pretty darn good, no doubt about it, they’re averaging more than 360 yards a game.”
The Roughnecks finished second in District 24-3A with a 3-1 record. Their only district loss came at the hands of LaMarque 48-0. Their other two losses came in non-district against Wharton (23-21) and Hempstead (32-17).
In their bidistrict win, the Roughnecks held Kashmere to just 48 yards of total offense, including minus 16 on the ground.
West Columbia picked up 319 yards, 269 of it via the ground. Thomas had 149 yards on 17 carries while Bess had 63 yards on 15 totes.
The Roughnecks will face a stern Mustang Chain Gang defense, no doubt about it. The Mustangs already have a school-record, recording eight shutouts. They’ve only allowed 128.2 yards a game and limited Cleveland to just 18 yards of total offense. WO-S has allowed just 32 points all season and have yet to allow a point in the third period.
The Roughnecks have a gifted defense as well. Playing in a district with La Marque, West Columbia had the top-ranked defense, one that has allowed just 172 yards per outing.
“They’re pretty darn salty on the defensive side of the ball too,” said Thompson. “They fly to the ball pretty well. They have pretty good size. We’re going to have to continue to have success within our offensive line, which has done an excellent job the last several weeks.”
The Mustangs will try to mix things up with a balanced offense, led by three-year starting quarterback and all-time leading passer Jimmy Salter.
Salter has completed 102-of-180 passes for 1,415 yards. He has 16 touchdown tosses and just one interception.
He usually looks for go-to receiver J’Marcus Rhodes, who has 40 catches for 680 yards and 10 TDs along with Tremaine Anderson (19-177-3) and Ra’shon McDonald (11-237-1).
Abear Simien leads the Mustang ground attack with 594 yards and six TDs on 87 carries. Salter has 366 yards and 10 TDs on 86 totes.
The game could come down to which team is in the best shape when the second half rolls around.
“West Columbia has a lot of kids that goes both ways and so do we,” said Thompson. “It’s going to be a battle of wills and stamina and you’ve got to avoid those silly mistakes. The kids, they’re ready to go. It’s an exciting time of the year for them and you can see it in their eyes that they want to keep this thing going.”
The WO-S-West Columbia winner will face either Lorena (9-2) or Fairfield (8-3) in the Region III semifinals next week. Lorena and Fairfield will play at 7 p.m. Friday at Bryan High School.
In other Region III Division II area round action top-ranked Navasota (11-0) faces Jasper (9-2) Friday at 6 p.m. at Conroe’s Moorhead Stadium and La Marque (10-1) will meet Coldspring (9-2) Friday at 8 p.m. at Houston’s Reliant Stadium.