Youthful Mustangs await the ‘real deal’

Published 8:41 am Friday, July 28, 2017

WEST ORANGE — Time is drawing near for Texas high school football teams as the first day of practice (Aug. 7) is right around the corner.

No program probably knows that more than the West Orange-Stark Mustangs. After all, the program has four state titles and seven trips to state championship games.

The 2017 campaign should be intriguing for a very young group of Mustangs. Gone is a huge senior class, including 13 players that signed to play at the next level, that was so vital to the success the last four years, including three straight trips to the state title game and back-to-back State Championships.

“We’ve got some young pups that really don’t know what it’s all about yet and we’re going to have to throw them in there and let their feet get wet.”

Several Mustangs were getting plenty of work in the weight room on Thursday, getting ready for the upcoming grueling workouts.

“Compared to the last two or three years, our turnout this summer has been somewhat average,” said Thompson. “That has a lot to do with how young we are and we have some growing up to do. We have some young ones that don’t know how to prepare and they’re going to have to play their way into shape.”

The Mustangs will meet at the fieldhouse at 7 a.m. Aug. 7 and will be in the baseball stands at 8 a.m. in what Coach Thompson likes to call “The State of the Union Address.” They will then run that traditional Mustang Mile, hit the weight room and the stands at Hooks Stadium.

“We’ll know where their conditioning is pretty quick, especially with the stands,” said Thompson.

The Mustangs will their Midnight Madness Aug. 11 at 12:01 a.m. and will have their Picture Day Aug. 12 at 9 a.m.

The Mustangs will host a potent Port Neches-Groves unit at home Aug. 18 with the freshmen starting at 5 p.m. followed by the JV (6 p.m.) and the varsity (7 p.m.)

WO-S will visit Vidor in a scrimmage Aug. 24 with the freshmen starting at 5 p.m. followed by the JV (6 p.m.) and varsity (7 p.m.).

Then it gets “real” Sept. 1 when the Mustangs open on the road with their 27-game winning streak on the line against a fired up Nederland squad under first-year head coach and long-time assistant Monte Barrow.

“Talk about a team that will be going through the gauntlet early, especially with our youth and inexperience,” said Thompson. “We’ve always liked those tough scrimmages here. The kids will gain so much for playing folks like that. They’ll realize quick that there is a lot of difference lacing it up on Friday nights compared to Thursdays.”

Thompson is excited about several new coaches.

Craig Jones, who led Pleasant Grove High School to four State Finals appearances, including state titles in both 2010 and 2012, will take over the Mustang baseball program.

The Mustangs made the playoffs the last four years under former coach Shea Landry, who is now at Bridge City as an assistant.

The Mustangs went to the postseason four times in Landry’s six years at the helm, including a State Finals appearance in 2015 and a undefeated District 22-4A championship last season.

Jones was an assistant coach at Kirbyville last season, helping former Orangefield coach Jeff Bennett take the Wildcats deep into the postseason.

Pleasant Grove never finished worse than second in district play since Jones took over the program in 1999. The Hawks reached the regional finals 10 times, winning the Region II-3A title from 2008-2013 and advancing to the state tournament.

PG reached the 3A state finals in 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2013, winning the championships in 2010 and 2012. Jones compiled a career record of 365-157 with the school. He was a Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association North All-Star coach in 2012, named the Texas Sports Writers’ Association Coach of the Year for 3A in 2010 and 2012, and named district coach of the year numerous times, as well as Gazette All-Area Coach of the Year.

The Lady Mustangs will have a new basketball coach as well as Kandice Williams will look to lead the team in a highly competitive District 22-4A.

Williams was a superb player in her own right. Williams, a native of Plainview, helped lead her high school squad to a state crown in 2001. She was also a standout player for the University of Western Oklahoma.

Former WO-S football standout Seth Thomas, brother of NFL standout Earl Thomas III, will join the Mustang coaching fraternity as a receivers coach. Thomas played well for McNeese State from 2009-12.