Rested Mustangs face vital road test at Liberty

Published 9:58 am Wednesday, November 1, 2017

WEST ORANGE — After having a solid week of practice during their bye week last week, the two-time defending Class 4A Division II state champion West Orange-Stark Mustangs will face a stern test Friday with the a possible District 12-4A Division II title on the line and a 33-game winning streak when they head to Liberty to face the red-hot Panthers.

The Panthers (7-1, 3-0) are actually a half-game up in the standings over the Mustangs (6-0, 2-0) as the Panthers will have their bye next week.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us and this game reminds us a lot of the Kennedale game earlier in the season,” said Mustang coach Cornel Thompson. “We had possibly the best practice that I can remember we’ve ever had during a bye week. We just have to go out and execute our game-plan and not make so many mistakes. We’re still waiting on a full 48-minute ballgame from our kids.”

Liberty is riding some momentum after a 52-38 win against Hardin-Jefferson last week. The Panthers went 10-3 last season and advanced to the third round of the postseason.

The Mustangs defeated H-J 26-13 two weeks ago.

Liberty will feature 12-4A’s leading offense with their vaunted double Wing T formation that has helped churn out 377.5 yards a contest.

The Mustang defense, which allows just 200.5 yards a game, will be tested by a huge Liberty offensive front that features a couple 300-pound plus lineman and a total line that averages about 280 pounds.

“They are huge up frond and they like to grind on you and wear you out,” said Thompson. “They like to control the clock and they’ve been able to do that the last couple years with solid talent. We just can’t have those mental lapses when we take plays off. We gave up a couple big plays in our last two games and we can’t afford that against these guys.”

Liberty’s ground game is led by Jeremiah Guillory, who has 938 yards on 107 carries and 12 touchdowns.

Quarterback JJ Slack has zipped for 736 yards on just 57 totes and has 6 TDs and rushed for nearly 300 yards in the win over H-J last week.

Fullback Keegan Turner has had his moments as well with 503 yards and five TDs on 97 carries.

“They have some exceptional athletes, that can take it to the house,” said Thompson. “The Slack kid is very scary, he burned H-J last week and is definitely their leader out there.”

The Mustang offense ranks second in 12-4A, averaging 350.2 yards a game while Liberty’s defense is ranked second, allowing 257.5.

Mustang quarterback Chaka Watson has completed 39-of-71 passes for 398 yards with seven TDs and just two interceptions and has rushed for 352 yards and 10 scores on 68 totes.

Kavyn Cooper leads the Mustangs on the ground with 653 yards on 66 carries and has eight TDs while Justin Sibley has gained 278 yards and three TDs on 34 carries.

Tight end Kaleb Ramsey ranks second ion 12-4A with 11 receptions for 98 yards and a TD while dangerous return man and defensive back Jarron Morris and Blake Robinson have combined to catch 16 passes for 184 yards and two TDs.

The Mustangs spent a considerable amount of time working on their offense and trying to correct all the bad snaps that have sailed over Watson’s head throughout the season.

“We’ve got to make better decisions offensively,” said Thompson. “We’ve got to be able to move the ball against Liberty and control the ball some. We can’t afford to put ourselves in third down and fourth down and long against the Liberty Panthers, simply can’t do it.”

Liberty’s lone loss came at the hands of the Woodville Eagles 21-17 in non-district play.

The Mustangs will close out their regular season at home next week when they welcome in Orangefield.