Mustangs face stern test with Kennedale

Published 9:10 am Wednesday, October 4, 2017

WEST ORANGE — It should be a dandy come Friday night when the two-time defending Class 4A Division II state champion West Orange-Stark Mustangs head to Nacogdoches to take on the red-hot Kennedale Wildcats.

Both teams come in with undefeated records as the Mustangs (3-0), who own a 30-game winning streak, have outscored their three counterparts 134-29 while the Wildcats (4-0) have overpowered opponents with their amazing rushing attack, outscoring the opposition 224-52.

The two 4A powers met last season for the first time ever with the Mustangs snagging a 45-21 win over the Wildcats.

The 21 points scored by the Wildcats were the most allowed last season by the state champion Mustangs, who outscored opponents 811-69 for the season en route to a perfect 16-0 mark.

The Wildcats, out of District 5-4A Division I, went on to advance to the 4A Division I state semifinals.

“This will be the toughest team on our schedule by far and the kids need to accept the challenge,” said Mustang coach Cornel Thompson. “Those guys (Kennedale) have eight starters back on offense and seven on defense and we know they’ve had this game circled on their calendar for some time now.”

Kennedale certainly has found their niche with their Slot-T, Wing-T offense again this season as not a single opponent has slowed them down.

The Wildcats have victories over Terrell (55-6), Alvarado (51-7), Wichita Falls Rider (62-26) and Whitehouse (56-13).

Kennedale is piling up 453.3 yards a game, including 402.5 on the ground.

They are sparked by a “two-headed monster” in the backfield in backs Jaden Knowles and CJ Kirven, both who average more than 10 yards a carry.

Knowles has zipped for 616 yards and 11 touchdowns on just 58 carries while Kirven has accounted for 576 yards and 14 TDs on only 56 carries. Kirven has scored 11 TDs alone in the last two contests.

“Both of those guys can flat-out go,” said Thompson. “Knowles, the fullback, had 2,000 yards last year and the Kirven kid had about 1,400 from the tailback spot. Knowles, they like to run those quick traps and Kirven, we can’t afford to let him get to the edges.”

Wildcat quarterback Evan Jowers has rushed for 151 yards and two TDs on 25 carries and has kept defenses honest, completing 11-of-20 passes for 203 yards and a score. Jaden Smith is the leading receiver with four catches for 102 yards and a score.

“The Jowers kid is a pretty darn good operator,” said Thompson. “Nothing flashy, but he knows how to run that type of offense and knows when to get the ball to the backs and makes excellent reads.”

Thompson is also impressed with the Kennedale offensive line.

“They got guys that are huge and athletic up front,” said Thompson. “They have guards Andrew Flanigan (5-11, 290) and Isaiah Butler (6-2, 288) and Nathan Otts (6-4, 240) that has moved from tight end to more of a down lineman and they are going to be tough to handle.”

The Mustangs have been potent once again on defense in notching wins over Bridge City (39-6), KIPP Northeast (61-6) and Silsbee (34-17) last week.

WO-S is allowing just 150.7 yards a game, only 47.7 on the ground and 103 in the air.

“We got a good barometer against Silsbee last week,” said Thompson. “We gave up a big play here and there against some good athletes but we held our own pretty good.”

Offensively, the Mustangs have churned out 388.7 yards a game, 310 on the ground and 78.7 in the air.

In the win over Silsbee, the Mustangs chewed up 369 yards on the ground sparked by running back Kavyn Cooper’s 200-yard outing and a score on 16 carries.

Cooper has already cruised to 424 yards and four TDs on 31 carries, averaging 13.7 yards a carry.

Mustang quarterback Chaka Watson has rushed for 165 yards and six TDs on 26 carries and has completed 18-of-32 passes for 205 yards and four TDs.

Justin Sibley has zipped for 198 yards and two TDs on 24 totes.

Tight end Kaleb Ramsey is the leading receiver with six catches for 69 yards.

“Our offensive line is coming together somewhat and played really well last week and they can be the strength of our team before it is all said and done,” said Thompson. “Our backs are hitting the holes. We’re real happy with the way Kavyn (Cooper) is seeing the field and hitting the holes and going north and south. Chaka (Watson) has been steady for us and I thought he made a lot of sound decisions against Silsbee.”

Tickets for the WO-S-Kennedale tilt will be on sale at the WO-S Athletic Office Thursday from 9 a.m.-noon and 1 p.m.-3 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m.-noon. Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for students.

The Mustangs will open defense of their District 12-4A Division I title next week when they visit Hamshire-Fannett.

“We couldn’t have found a tougher game to wrap up non-district play,” said Thompson. “Hopefully we can go up there and get a top-notch effort. Then another season begins next week with district.”