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Mustangs getting through first week

WEST ORANGE — It was somewhat of a hot, muggy morning at West Orange-Stark High School Monday morning but it did not put a damper on the first official practice for the Mustangs since they advanced to the Class 4A Division II State Championship Game last December.

For Mustang head coach Cornel Thompson, he called it getting ready for “his 45th rodeo” as he’s watched so many kids hit the practice field for the first time over so many glorious years.

“This is the time of the year you look forward too, you look forward to it after the last game you played and here we are,” said Thompson. “The kids have been waiting for this all summer. We had some pretty good turnouts this summer and our numbers are pretty good here on the first day. The kids came in here in pretty good shape, most of them anyway.”

Thompson addressed the team at 8 a.m. The Mustangs then ran the Mustang Mile and the treacherous stands at Hooks Stadium and then hit the field for some walk-throughs and on different stages of the game.

Of course, the big day comes Friday when teams can put on the pads and start hitting.

“The first four days is a lot about preparing and working on conditioning,” said Thompson. “Friday is when the juices get flowing and I know the kids are chomping at the bit for that to happen.”

The Mustangs will be looking for some youngsters to rise up this year after 18 seniors graduated off the 13-3 state runnerup squad.

There is just one starter back on offense in quarterback Jack Dallas and just four off a dominant defensive unit. However, the Mustangs, as always, will have a bulls-eye on their backs. Texas Football has them ranked No. 1 in Class 4A Division II.

“One things that folks will see different about this year’s team is we’re going to have more kids on the roster,” said Thompson. “We’ll be looking at a lot of young kids getting playing time, especially early on. We’re going to have a big junior class of 20 or 21 kids that will be expected to contribute. There is a lot of positions open and we’ll see who wants them.”

Thompson does not want the Mustangs to worry about predictions at this stage of the year.

“Most in the media say we are in a rebuilding year and some say we’re No. 1 in the state,” said Thompson. “We preach to the kids at this stage that we’re not worried about rankings, playoffs or district titles. We’re more concerned about getting lined up right at this point and learning what has to be done. All we’re worried about now is Phase One of the season and that’s our scrimmages and non-district. I do know one thing, I would put our non-district schedule up against anybody else in the state. We could probably say that every year as far back as I can remember.”

The Mustangs will host Nederland in a scrimmage Aug. 14 and will visit Vidor Aug. 20. They will host Orange County rival Little Cypress-Mauriceville Aug. 28 to start the season and will visit one of Port Neches-Groves’ best teams in years Sept. 4 at The Reservation. That means WO-S will get a look at four straight Class 5A programs.

It doesn’t get any easier. WO-S will also take on District 10-4A Division I favorite Jasper, a Silsbee team that brings back a wealth of experience. Then there is big 5A school Richmond Foster in Baytown and Newton at home Oct. 2 to wrap up non-district before WO-S will try to repeat as 9-4A Division II champions.