12-4A preview: Young Mustangs still the favorites

Published 10:10 am Wednesday, August 30, 2017

For the past couple seasons, the district competition for the West Orange-Stark Mustangs has simply not been there.

Along the way, the Mustangs have strolled to back-to-back Class 4A Division II state titles, dominating every foe in their sight as members of District 12-4A Division II have literally been a stepping stone for the Mustangs’ ultimate goal.

Well, according to Dave Campbell Texas Football Magazine, that is not going to change entering the 2017 campaign as the Mustangs are slated to cruise through 12-4A play as the champion and are ranked No. 2 in the state in Class 4A Division II.

So how dominant have the Mustangs been in their district?

They have outscored their district foes 391-10 in eight games the last two years. Average score: 48.9-1.3.

Orangefield got a field goal on WO-S in 2015 and Liberty actually found the end zone last year.

Some say the Mustangs (16-0 last season) could be a little down this season as they look to rebuild. After all, Coach Cornel Thompson’s crew returns just seven starters – four on offense and three on defense – but the cupboard is far from bare as they do have some exciting players back.

Defensively the Mustangs return outstanding defensive backs Jarron Morris and Teshaun Teel from a defense that notched eight shutouts.

Offensively, the Mustangs return several key members from their offensive line along with solid running backs Kavyn Cooper and Justin Sibley, who both contributed nicely last season.

Gone is three-year starting quarterback Jack Dallas, who ran the ship to near perfection as WO-S made the state title game all three years. The Mustangs will look to run the ball a little more with a speedy Chaka Watson seeing plenty of time at quarterback.

The Liberty Panthers (10-3) are looking to make some major noise again and deservedly so.

Coach Chad Taylor’s Panthers improved by six wins last year and advanced to the Region III semifinals.

The Panthers have plenty of starters back in the mix including seven on offense and eight on defense from a team that gave the Mustangs’ their biggest district challenge last year, for a half.

The Panthers will miss 1,500-yard back Alex Brown but have plenty of talent back, including quarterback J.J. Slack along with backs Jeremiah Guillory and K.K. Antoine.

Receivers L.J. Domain and Jarius Hill ,all-district picks, will also see some carries in addition to being on the receiving end of Slack’s passes.  Center Justice Fregia (2nd team all-district) and offensive tackle John Ryder Moorman will lead a massive offensive line which will also feature Dawson Drake and Zachary Kutack.

Dylan Jordan will lead a defensive line which will also have Keaton Parker and Raul Gonzales.  Linebacker River Lucy will power the linebacker crew along with Keegan Turner.   Slack and fellow safety, Jeremiah Guillory will anchor a Panther secondary which will also feature veteran corners and all-district picks in Domain and Hill.

The Orangefield Bobcats (5-6) pushed their way into the playoffs for the fourth straight season for Coach Josh Smalley and Co. and are picked to make the postseason yet again.

The Bobcats return six starters on both sides of the pigskin. Key returners on offense include versatile back Christian Louvier and quarterback Mason Gonzales. Blake Bradley is back after being a standout on both sides of the ball along with Michael Teeples. Safety Zach Dischler returns to anchor the secondary and the Bobcats return the best kicker in the district in Jacob Rainey.

The Hardin-Jefferson Hawks (7-4) will also be in the hunt and are picked third as they also have seven starters back on offense and eight on defense

Brayden Pelt is back at quarterback after getting valuable experience a season ago and Mason Murray returns to the backfield and is one of the most versatile athletes returning in the district. Blake Cruse could play a key role as well along with the speedy and always dangerous Luke Morreale. Senior Kameron O’Bannion will look to spark a young line.

Dylin Duhon-Walker will lead a defensive front wall which will also have Tron Rideaux and Caleb Hayden. Chris Walter will guide the linebacker group.  Murray, a all-district safety, will lead a secondary which will also feature all-district corner Brayden Pomirko.

The Hamshire-Fannett Longhorns (1-9) will look for a bounce-back campaign this season as Coach Bill Jehling welcomes back seven starters on both sides of the ball.

Running back Tyrese White has definitely been a key cog the last three years as he has piled up close to 3,000 career yards. Marcus Morris, Matt Conkle, Tiler Paine and Dakota Bell will also figure heavy in an offense that will look to up the ante.

Defensively is where the Longhorns will look to turn things around.

Up front, all-district defensive end Grant Davis and defensive end Jacob Garza will be joined in the line by Mason Dubois. Senior all-district linebacker Reese Rubio will be joined by outside linebacker Ty Boudroux and linebacker Cody Broussard.  Paine and free safety Cody Byrd will power the Longhorn secondary.


District 12-4A Division II predictions


  1. WEST ORANGE-STARK: It could be tough sailing to try to pick up a third straight Class 4A Division II State Championship ring with just seven total starters back from last year’s 16-0 State Champs but the cupboard is far from bare as the Mustangs have plenty of youngsters that have won at lower levels. Can they do it on Friday nights now? That is the question.
  2. LIBERTY: No doubt, 2016 was a breakout season for the Panthers as they went 10-3 and notched their first winning campaign since 2011. The Panthers return 15 starters and if they can find a running back to replace Alex Brown, the district’s leading rusher, Liberty should make a push at the title and a deep run in the playoffs.
  3. ORANGEFIELD: The Bobcats will be looking to cash in on a fifth straight playoff berth. Orangefield returns six starters on both sides of the leather. They will look for a young backfield to step up and fill some shoes. The Bobcats will be big on both sides of the trenches and should improve in their 4-3 defense to notch another postseason berth.
  4. HARDIN-JEFFERSON: The Hawks gained steam midway through non-district and carried the momentum all the way to the first round of the playoffs. The Hawks return 15 starters to the mix, including eight on what should be a much-improved defense.
  5. HAMSHIRE-FANNETT: The only place to go is up for the Longhorns, who suffered through a 1-9 campaign and a winless run through 12-4A. Coach Jehling will benefit from seven starters back on each side of the ball, including talented back Tyrese White, who had a solid season last year despite the struggles of the unit as a whole.