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WO-S football preview: Young Mustangs seeking fifth straight district title

Young Mustangs seeking 5th straight district title

 

By Van Wade

The Orange Leader

 

WEST ORANGE – After having one of the most illustrious seasons in school history last season, the West Orange-Stark Mustangs will be looking to re-tool this year.

Last year, the Mustangs rolled to their 10th district title in 11 seasons, advancing all the way to the Class 4A Division II State Championship Game and finished 13-3.

WO-S has reached at least the Region III Finals in all four years that coach Cornel Thompson has led the charges.

This season, a tall task looms as the Mustangs will put on the field their most inexperienced unit in years.

The Mustangs lost 18 seniors to graduation. They return just one starter _ quarterback Jack Dallas – on offense and have four returners on defense.

“We always hear that statement that the Mustangs always just reload,” said Thompson. “This year, we definitely feel we’re in a rebuilding mode 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. “

A lot of positions should be up for grabs after two grueling scrimmages and a non-district probably like no other in the state.

“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.”

Dallas, just a junior, will look to lead the young offensive surges. Dallas had an amazing sophomore campaign, completing 168-of-291 passes for 2,353 yards. He tossed 31 touchdown passes and was picked off just eight times.

“Jack, we’re thrilled to have him back there, nothing like a junior with 16 games already under his belt,” said Thompson. “He’s been so accurate in practice and has a great relationship with the receivers. I think we’re going to have a nice little receiving group before it’s over.”

Thompson heaped praise on the group that consists of Aric Cormier, Thomas Wallace, KJ Miller and Ronald Carter.

Malech Edwards will likely be the feature back after having several nice flashes last year while Quinton Chargois and Jeremiah Shaw will also tote the leather.

Perhaps the Mustangs’ biggest concern is up front as they lost all five starters.

Tristen Scott, Ryan Ragsdale, Ahmaud Baldwin, Terron Brown and Morris Joseph will be looking to blend together fast.

“The trenches is our biggest question mark, for sure,” said Thompson. “We’ve got to improve in that area and improve fast.”

Defensively, the Mustangs have some experience that should help out the young guys.

Junior Mandel Turner-King, The All-Orange Leader Defensive MVP last season, looks to make a switch from noseguard to defensive tackle. Malacchi Hodge, Keyshawn Holman and Jalen Powdrill will also play key roles up front.

The Mustangs have a pair of All_District performers returning at linebacker in Steven Tims and Justin Brown.

Malick Phillips returns in the secondary after starting a lot last year with Cormier, Wallace, Miller and Carter also expected to contribute.

Before the Mustangs even think about repeating as 9-4A Division II champs, they must navigate through a tough non-district patch that includes three 5A teams in LC-M, PN-G and Richmond Foster along with small-school powers Jasper, Silsbee and Newton.

I do know one thing, I would put our non-district schedule up against anybody else in the state, said Thompson. “We could probably say that every year as far back as I can remember.”

A district title and a long run into the postseason is always a goal for the Mustangs but Thompson and staff don’t want the players to look ahead.

“We’re a very young football team right now and our main thing is teaching the kids where to go, what to do and their responsibilities,” said Thompson. “Do we see potential in this group? Most certainly yes. It is just going to take some time and we could go through some growing pains early, but we have the potential to be a very good football team.”