The Orange Leader
WEST ORANGE —
For the second straight year, the West Orange-Stark Mustangs will take on the West Columbia Roughnecks in the area round of the playoffs at the same stadium, only this time it will be in the Class 3A Region III Division I area round instead of Division II.
The Mustangs defeated the Roughnecks 20-10 last season at Channelview’s Falcon Stadium and the two will hook up again in the same venue this Friday at 7 p.m.
WO-S (9-1), District 21-3A champions, pelted Huffman 41-9 in the bidistrict round last week while the Roughnecks (4-6), the fourth-place team from District 24-3A, roughed up Houston Yates 41-12.
The Roughnecks used a “ground-and-pound” offense to run past Yates, totaling 420 yards, 347 of it rushing.
Tailback Darius Bell is WC’s “bellcow.” Just a sophomore, Bell has rushed for 1,462 yards and 22 touchdowns on 213 carries. He had 201 yards and two TDs on 28 carries in the win over Yates.
“West Columbia is definitely a power football team,” said Mustang coach Cornel Thompson. “They are much bigger than us and they have a couple 200-pound backs too. The Bell kid is a really good one and runs hard. Their quarterback, I think, is a little better than the one they had last year. He has a better arm and is a little more mobile.”
Roughneck quarterback Jarius Kesee has completed 57-of-138 passes for 879 yards and has seven TD passes and six interceptions. He’s also rushed for 271 yards and five scores on 48 carries.
His favorite targets have been Brandon Harris (17-234-1), Brock Bailey (14-217-2) and Jarron Freeman (13-205-2).
Brodney Thomas also helps Bell and Kesee in the backfield with his 317 yards and two TDs off 56 carries.
The Roughnecks will try to solve a Mustang defensive unit that has hit its stride. WO-S allowed Huffman just 180 total yards last week and is allowing only 229 yards a game on the season.
Offensively, the Mustangs are having one of their better campaigns in recent years, especially after rolling up 501 yards against Huffman.
Led by sophomore quarterback Dillon Sterling-Cole, the Mustangs are putting up 383.8 yards a game.
Sterling-Cole, who was brilliant last week in throwing for 385 yards and six TDs, has completed 102-of-160 passes for 1,752 yards and has 20 TDs and just two interceptions.
He’s had plenty of options to get the ball too. Both Will Johnson and Deionte Thompson had 100-yard outings against Huffman.
Johnson now has 31 receptions for 578 yards and 10 TDs while Thompson has 27 grabs for 570 yards and four scores. Both Dwain Boullard (19-232-5) and Chris Horn (15-202-0) fit in the mix well.
Tailback Chris James leads the ground attack with 614 yards and eight TDs on 92 carries. Sterling-Cole has 416 yards and 10 TDs on 89 totes.
“We’ve really moved the ball well offensively of late,” said Thompson. “Our big concern right now is all the dang penalties we’ve been getting. We’ve yet to put together a well-rounded performance on the road this year and we’d love to see that. We shoot ourselves in the foot on the road with penalties. There’s such a big difference in the penalties we’ve gotten at home compared to the road. We’ve got to get better in that area.”
The Roughneck defense has bent at times throughout the season. WC has been outscored 315-308 this year.
WC went 1-3 in 24-3A play and allowed nearly 350 yards a game in the three losses. However, they bounced back nicely with a good showing against Yates.
The Roughnecks were in the 3A state semifinals as early as 2011 when they went 13-1. WO-S defeated WC 30-7 in 1987 in the postseason on its way to a second straight Class 4A state title.
“What a team’s record is at this point of the season doesn’t matter at all, it’s the playoffs,” said Thompson. “We’ll be preaching to the kids about that in practice. West Columbia has an excellent program with a proud tradition. Just go back to last year, they got after our tails pretty good.”
Last year’s contest was a defensive showcase. The Mustang defense held WC to just 157 yards. However, the Roughneck defense was impressive as well, limiting WO-S to just 241 yards.
The WO-S-WC winner will face either Jasper or Waco LaVega in the Region III semifinals next week.