Mustangs Turner-King, Joseph love their duties in the trenches
Published 10:35 am Wednesday, December 7, 2016
WEST ORANGE — It’s going to be tough to fathom next year when West Orange-Stark seniors Mandel Turner-King and Morris Joseph are no longer manning the trenches along the Mustang defensive line.
Tough to fathom for Mustang fans at least, but opponents will be “dancing in the street” after the havoc the duo has inflicted on them.
Turner-King and Joseph, who are cousins, have been such key cogs in the Mustangs’ run the last three years and will be playing in their third straight Class 4A Division II State Semifinal Friday night for Cornel Thompson when they take on the Navarro Panthers in NRG Stadium as they also look to defend their Class 4A Division II State Title that they claimed last season.
“We’re pumped, we’re excited and we just can’t wait to get back on that field in Houston again,” said Joseph. “At this point, you start to realize what we have been able to accomplish and all the hard work we’ve put in. As seniors, we want to finish it and cherish it forever. We have a awesome senior class that grew up playing together all the way back to flag football days and Peewee ball. We’re such a family here.”
Turner-King echoed the same sentiments.
“We want to leave a positive mark for the program and give our younger guys motivation to keep it going at a high level,” said Turner-King. “Not many teams get to play in December and here we are for the third straight year. The thing about us, we do our best to not look ahead. Coach T (Thompson) always tells us we get to play 48 more minutes each week and it’s just about the next team in front of us and we believe that. I wish I could play 48 more games though.”
Turner-King has been a part of a tremendous Mustang run for sure. After all, the fierce nose guard has started 60 games since his freshman season and the Mustangs have notched a 54-6 record.
“It’s been a fun run, no doubt,” said Turner-King. “I’ve went from a 175-pound noseguard to 220 thanks to a great workout program we have. I will never forget those older guys pushing me to make me better, especially my freshman and sophomore year. I’ll never forget their leadership. I think our senior class leads by example too, like those guys did. We just kinda pass the torch and new guys come in to lead the way. Once a Mustang always a Mustang, that’s what makes this place so special.”
Joseph is so proud of the bond that the Mustangs share.
“We play together, we pray together, we’re like one big united family,” said Joseph. “We’re one team with one dream. Sure, we challenge each other and get on each other at times and that’s all a part of it, but we all love one another.”
The two have notched solid numbers this season.
Joseph is second on the team with 125 total tackles. He has 23 tackles for losses and is a ball-hawk with 10 fumble recoveries to go along with seven sacks.
Turner-King, meanwhile, opens up lanes for his teammates to make big stops as he thwarts off double-teams every game. He has 83 tackles, 18 of them for losses, to go along with 4 ½ sacks.
“I know when I get doubled, it’s going to give our guys, like our linebackers, room to fill the gaps and shut things down,” said Turner-King. “We may not be the biggest defensive line but it’s not always about the size, it’s about quickness, strength and heart and we’ve got plenty of that.”
“It’s all about sticking to your assignment and making adjustments,” said Joseph. “We want to be more physical then the other team. The thing about our defense, we have 11 guys doing their best to fly to the ball. It’s a battle of wills out there. Games are won in the trenches and it’s up to us to make that happen.”
The Mustangs will be facing a Slot-T type of team for the 10th time this season when they face Navarro (14-0). WO-S has been so effective in stopping that offense, allowing just 121.2 yards a game and just 86.2 on the ground.
However, Navarro is a totally different “beast”. The Panthers have chewed up an average of 431.3 yards a game, 322.5 via the ground and they have three backs with 1,000 yards.
“We’ve seen them on film and they have a great team,” said Joseph. “They’re big and physical up front and love to control the ball, work the clock and wear people down. We can’t allow that to happen. We can’t give up those six and seven-yard gains on first down, it’s going to be our biggest test yet but we feel we’re up for the challenge.”
“They (Navarro) are 14-0 for a reason, no doubt,” said Turner-King. “We respect those guys for what they’ve done. When you reach this level, you’re a good football team. We just need to hold on to our positions and be patient and figure it out. It’s going to physical out there for sure.”
One more mark in the ‘W’ column would send the Mustangs back to a State Title Game for a third straight year, a goal that was set way back after the Mustangs stopped Celina 22-3 to win the title last year.
“It’s something we’ve dreamed about, that’s for sure,” said Turner-King. “Right now, it’s all about trying to get past a really good Navarro team. We know those guys will be fired up because they’ve never been this far before. We need to go out and match their intensity.”
“We just need to continue to go out and play Mustang football and continue to play with great team chemistry,” said Joseph. “We need to go out there and play with an edge and stay humble. It’s been a great run for sure, but the hunger is still there for more.”
CHAIN GANG FACTS: The Mustangs certainly spread the wealth on defense as 12 players have notched 50 tackles or more. Linebacker Cory Skinner leads the way with 140 tackles and a team-high three interceptions. Davien Teate has 98 stops. Defensive end Keyshawn Holman has held strong with 85 tackles, 14 of them for losses, including a team-high 8 ½ sacks.