Published 1:00 am Saturday, December 10, 2016
By Van Wade
The Orange Leader
HOUSTON – For the third straight year, the West Orange-Stark Mustangs have punched their ticket to the Class 4A Division II State Championship Game as they literally punched the Geronimo Navarro Panthers in the mouth 49-7 in the State Semifinals at NRG Stadium Friday night.
The Mustangs will look to defend their 2015 State Championship when they take on the Sweetwater Mustangs (13-1), who downed Gilmer 49-35 Friday.
The two Mustang teams will play next Friday at noon at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, the home of the Dallas Cowboys.
“Our kids really got after it tonight and defeated a darn good football team,” said Mustang coach Cornel Thompson. “Our big crowd certainly energized us. We really jumped on them (Navarro) in the second quarter. Super pleased with the effort. Now it’s on to Sweetwater. I felt all along that they were a sleeper in the playoff race and here they are. Can’t wait to get back and look at film on them, I know they’re an explosive offensive unit that likes to spread it around.”
The Mustangs (15-0) scored more points in the first half then the Panthers (14-1) had total yards (32) in the first 24 minutes. Navarro had just two yards in the second quarter and watched the Mustangs score 28 in the quarter.
Navarro, which had three backs with 1,000 yards in their Slot-T offense, finished with just 154 total yards including just 110 on the ground on 41 carries. It marked the 10th time that the Mustangs have seen that style of offense this season.
The three 1,000-yard rushers in Jake Wright, Jared Leal and Tanner Law combined for just 69 yards on 25 carries. Panthers quarterback Will Eveld struggled as well, completing just 4-of-25 passes for 40 yards and three interceptions.
“One of these days we might finally learn how to stop that darn offense,” said Thompson, with a big grin. “Coming in, we knew they liked to control the ball and our defense bowed up and never really let it happen. We didn’t let them get any big chunks on first down and that’s big in slowing down that kind of style. It was physical out there tonight with some popping. We wanted to match them in physicality and we did that.”
Meanwhile, the Mustangs generated some big offense, mainly in the first half.
Quarterback Jack Dallas passed for three touchdowns and ran for another. Keion Hancock accounted for 134 yards on 10 touches and KJ Miller returned a punt and an interception for scores.
“It’s great to have a couple weapons like Keion and KJ,” said Thompson. “They are both instrumental in our offensive scheme. We were able to get Keion the ball in several different ways and he produced.
KJ, what more can you say, fans literally stand up out of their seats when he gets his hands on it. He’s electrifying to say the least and glad he’s on my side.”
Mustang defensive back Jarron Morris made a great leaping interception of an Eveld pass at the Mustang 32 on Navarro’s first series of the game and returned it all the way back to the Panther 26 with 10:32 in the first quarter.
However, the Mustangs would come away empty-handed.
Dallas found Hancock for a 12-yard gain to the Panther 8. An illegal procedure call put the Mustangs back five yards. The Mustangs were able to get to the 6 after Dallas hit Dominique Tezeno for a six-yard gain. However, the Panther defense held firm, forcing a Dallas incompletion on fourth down. After that, the Panthers simply had no answer as they watched the Mustangs mount 28 points alone in the second quarter.
The Mustang defense rose up again on the Panthers’ next series as they stopped Wright on fourth-and-1 from the Navarro 41 with 3:32 in the first.
Dallas connected with Miller along the right side for a 15-yard gain.
Three plays later, Dallas tossed a quick pass to the left side to Hancock and the speedy wideout did the rest, sprinting 25 yards down the left sideline for the touchdown. Chad Dallas drilled the point-after kick, putting the Mustangs up 7-0 with 2:34 in the first.
After shutting the Panthers down on a three-and-out, the Mustangs took over at their own 43 with 0:32 in the first.
Hancock bolted around the left side and up the middle for a 27-yard dart to the Panther 27.
Dallas then floated a superb pass to receiver Jay’Len Matthews down the right sideline that Matthews made a great leaping catch of for a 24-yard gain to the Panther 6. Two plays later Dallas did the honor, going six yards around the left end for the score, pushing the margin to 14-0 with 11:34 remaining in the half.
After forcing another three-and-out, the Mustang special teams came up with a huge play, thanks to return specialist Miller. Miller took a Navarro punt 65 yards as he cut through the heart of the Panthers and found the left sideline for a touchdown with 10:23 in the half, his sixth return for a score on the season as the Mustang faithful erupted and the Navarro crowd just sighed.
The theme continued because after another Panther three-and-out, the Mustang offense found paydirt again.
On third-and-9 Dallas hit Morris over the top and across the middle.
Morris was wide-open and cruised to the end zone untouched for a 47-yard touchdown toss, making it 28-0 with 8:17 in the half.
The Panthers failed to move the ball again on their next snaps and the Mustangs took over at the Navarro 46 with 6:17 in the half.
The Mustangs took advantage of a roughing the passer call that set them up at the Panther 23. Dallas, perhaps putting together his best scramble of his career, got away from a Panther defender that basically had him wrapped up. He got away and tossed a nice floater to an open Hancock in the right flat. Hancock did the rest, bolting into the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown reception, making it 35-0 with 4:28 in the half.
The Mustangs had 204 yards in the first half. Dallas passed for 152 yards. Hancock had 94 total yards in the half on five touches.
The Panthers had 23 rushes for just 34 yards in the half.
The Panthers got on the board with a eight-play, 75-yard drive on their first series of the third quarter. Eveld hit Dean Wallace for a 28-yard strike that got to the Mustang 48. Eveld then scrambled for a
32-yard run to the 17 and he capped it when he found Law for a 17-yard touchdown pass on the left side of the end zone to make it 35-7 with 6:12 in the third.
The Panthers succeeded with an onside kick, taking over at the Mustang 48 and they drove it to the WO-S 15 where the Mustangs stuffed them on fourth down.
Miller applied the hurt again on the Panthers with 9:02 remaining when he had an amazing one-handed interception at the Mustang 28 and returned it 72 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown.
Mustang back Kavyn Cooper put some icing on it with a 18-yard dart around the right side to make it 49-7.