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Mustangs wear the crown

By Van Wade
The Orange Leader

HOUSTON – The boys in Blue, Silver and White have brought back some hardware to Fruit City.
Make that some State Championship hardware.
The West Orange-Stark Mustangs nabbed their third state title in school history as they throttled the Celina Bobcats 22-3 to take home the Class 4A Division II State Championship Friday at NRG Stadium, the home of the Houston Texans in front of a crowd of 13,685 The win for the Mustangs (15-1) also denied the Bobcats (15-1), who were seeking their ninth state title.
The Mustangs brought home 4A state titles in 1986 and 1987.
“This is just incredible,” said Mustang coach Cornel Thompson. “It was so great to run out of that tunnel today and see all of that Mustang Blue in the stadium. Just seeing that, really ignited the kids. It’s been nearly 30 years since our last one, so this is so sweet.”
The Mustangs dominated the Bobcats, outgaining them 369-212.
The win was definitely sweet for a WO-S program that dropped a 35-25 decision to Gilmer in the title game last year after leading 25-8 at the half.
Mustang junior quarterback Jack Dallas celebrated his birthday in style as he rushed for two touchdowns.
He completed 10-of-16 passes for 139 yards and rushed for 39 yards on 12 carries.
“This was such an amazing group effort, every single player hit the field today wanting to get it done,” said Dallas. “Our practices this week were the best we had yet. Last year was so bittersweet because we thought we had that one. We learned a lesson and we started talking way back in the offseason, thinking we had to redeem ourselves. We’ve been a team on a mission all year to get back and win it. Our coaching staff believed in us, we believed in team unity and the community support, what else can I say, has been amazing.”
Tailback Jeremiah Shaw powered his way to 73 yards on 13 carries while receiver Keion Hancock had six catches for 70 yards to aid the Mustang offense.
WO-S dominated the time clock, keeping the leather for 28:22 while the Bobcats had it for just 19:38.
The Bobcats suffered a blow when their standout junior quarterback Conner Pingleton went out with an arm injury after the first series of the game.
He completed 2-of-2 passes for 17 yards and ran for 11 yards on two carries. He entered the game with 3,463 passing yards and 45 TDs while also rushing for 894 yards and 10 TDs.
“You hate to see that happen to the kid but this was a championship game and we had to stick with our game plan,” said Thompson. “We knew after he went down that they would turn to a more power game. Our defense, after they had that first good drive of the game, was lights out pretty much the rest of the way.”
Backup Bobcat quarterback Caleb Knowles had a tough go of it. He completed just 4-of-16 passes for 68 yards and ran for seven yards on 11 carries.
Trace Young led the Celina ground game with 63 yards on six carries.
The Mustangs held standout Bobcat back Jarren Alexander to just 25 yards on 11 carries.
Mustang junior linebacker Justin Brown was thrilled with what the Mustangs accomplished.
“We felt confident coming in that we could take this as long as we stuck to our assignments and not make any mistakes,” said Brown. “This team has been focused on the task at hand all season long. We focused on who we had to play the next week and never wanted to look ahead. It’s funny, but it still hasn’t sunk in yet but I bet it will in a couple days. What a great run we’ve had and hopefully we can come back and do it again next year.”
The Mustangs came out strong to start the third quarter as they put together a eight-play, 70-yard dash to the end zone after leading 14-3 at intermission.
They gained 45 yards on six rushes and 25 through the air.
Dallas connected with Shaw on a 25-yard screen pass that got to the Bobcat 45. On fourth-and-2 from the 23, Dallas shredded through the Bobcat defense, going over right tackle and sprinted to the sideline and got into the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown dash. Dallas then connected with receiver KJ Miller on the two-point conversion pass to put the Mustangs up 22-3 with 8:44 in the third quarter.
“It felt good to get into the end zone there because that really added to the momentum,” said Dallas. “Give a lot a credit to the guys up front because they opened things up for our running game.”
The Mustangs finished with 230 yards on 44 carries.
“We made a few adjustments at the half and we just wanted to come out and play solid football and control the clock in the second half,” said Thompson. “That drive really took the wind out of Celina and we felt like we were in control. We just wanted that clock to run, even though it seemed like it was running in slow motion at times.”
Coach Thompson also had a gut feeling about today’s outcome early in the week.
“On Monday, we had one of the best practices WO-S has ever had,” said Thompson. “I didn’t tell anybody, but deep inside I knew we could win this thing. The kids were solid all week and you could just see the intensity in their eyes and that focus that you have to have. As coaches, we loved seeing that.”
After a tough first quarter on offense, the Mustangs scored 14 unanswered points in the second quarter to zip into the half with a 14-3 edge.
The Mustangs shook off their jittery first quarter by marching 70 yards in 11 plays to go up 8-3 with 6:12 left in the half.
Dallas finished off the superb drive when he scampered off right tackle for a five-yard touchdown gallop. Dallas also did the honors with a tough two-point conversion run.
Dallas teamed up with Hancock on four passes for 34 yards on the drive, including a vital 11-yard completion on third-and-10 from the 50.
Shaw aided the drive with two carries for 14 yards and Quinton Chargois had a big seven-yard gain to the Celina 5.
The Mustangs utilized a pair of big plays to make it 14-3 on a three-play, 58-yard scoring drive the next time they had it.
Dallas found Hancock on a swing pass that went 33 yards all the way to the Bobcat 21 and Shaw finished it off with a 21-yard touchdown dart through the heart of the Bobcat defense. The two-point conversion run failed but the Mustangs went up 14-3 with 3:54 in the half.
“Those two plays really got things rolling for us,” said Thompson.
“Offensively, I think we had about seven yards in the first quarter and then we settled down and got it going. No one panicked. That’s one thing this team does not do, they’re a confident group.”
The Mustangs outgained the Bobcats 138-114 in the first 24 minutes.
Shaw fumbled the ball in the air and it landed in the arms of Celina linebacker Austin Geiger at the Mustang 12 with 3:49 left in the first quarter.
The Mustang defense rose up and the Bobcats ended up settling for a 22-yard field goal by Eduardo Paulino to make it 3-0 with 2:36 in the first.
“We were really happy with the way our defense bowed up their in the first quarter,” said Thompson. “Celina’s line is pretty physical. I don’t think we’re the biggest team around as far as size and we may
not be the fastest team but we’re a quick team that can fill up those lanes really well. We play smart, hardnosed football. This is a team that brings its lunchpail every time, kinda like what our town back in
Orange is all about. Just a bunch of hard-working honest folks.”
The Bobcats took the opening series and marched 69 yards in 11 plays all the way down to the Mustang 3 where Pingleton fumbled the ball over to Mustang defensive lineman Jalen Powdrill with 7:50 left in the first quarter.
Pingleton had just tossed a 15-yard pass to Braylon Watson on fourth-and-11 from the Mustang 24 before coughing the ball up at the 3.
Dallas completed 8-of-11 passes for 86 yards in the first half with Hancock hauling in six of them for 71 yards. Shaw, meanwhile, had 51 yards on just six totes.
Trace Young led the Bobcat ground game with 28 yards on three carries.
Jarren Alexander had 26 yards on eight carries. Pingleton had two carries for 11 yards and completed 2-of-2 passes for 17 yards before going out.