Mustangs face stern test in Madisonville

Published 6:56 am Wednesday, November 29, 2017

WEST ORANGE — The road is going to get a whole lot tougher for the two-time defending Class 4A Division II state champion West Orange-Stark Mustangs as they are now entering the “Sweet Sixteen” in the 4A Division II playoffs.

The Mustangs (10-0) certainly have a formidable opponent in the Region III semifinals this week as they will take on the 11-4A champion Madisonville Mustangs (11-1) at 7 p.m. Friday at Texan Drive Stadium in Porter.

The Mustangs, who are on a state-leading 37-game winning streak and 14 straight in the postseason, put together a superb defensive effort in a 17-3 win over Mexia last week while Madisonville fought off Lorena 45-35.

Madisonville is led by head coach Rusty Nail, who had a tremendous amount of success at Mart before arriving in Madisonville last year.

It’s Nail’s second-year at Madisonville, He led them to the playoffs in 2016 after they had gone 1-9 in 2015. This season marks the first winning season Madisonville has had since 2007. He was 105-23 at Mart, where he won two state titles in 2010 (1A Division I) and in 2006 (2A Division II).

Madisonville has piled up the points throughout the campaign, outscoring opponents 526-248. Their only loss came at the hands of Rusk 48-45 in non-district play. Madisonville toppled WO-S 12-4A rival Hardin-Jefferson 42-20 in the bidistrict round.

“Rusty has done a great job in a short time at Madisonville,” said WO-S coach Cornel Thompson. “He has a great offensive mind. They will come out in the spread, run the two-back too. They really will try to keep us on our toes because he’ll call about 15 different formations and sets. They’ll line up like they want to spread you out and then they’ll try to run it down your throat and they have the athletes that can do that.”

Madisonville is churning out 420.4 yards a game, 351.5 of it via the ground attack.

Madisonville tailback Cornelius Merchant is certainly the “bell cow”. He has churned out 1,473 yards and 27 touchdowns on 166 carries. Merchant had 263 yards rushing and five TDs against Lorena and had 201 yards and two scores against H-J.

Quarterback Ben Phillips runs the show well. He has completed 66-of-103 passes for 818 yards and six TDs with just three interceptions. He has also rushed for 321 yards and five TDs on 53 totes.

“The Merchant kid can really go and Phillips, nothing fancy about him, he just gets the job done and looks like a really good leader,” said Thompson. “They also have several other kids that can hurt you coming out of the backfield.”

Uriel Willis has 604 yards and seven TDs on 84 carries. Kendall Moffett has 553 yards and 10 scores on 73 carries and leads the squad with 21 catches for 269 yards and three TDs. Aaron Nellums has 426 yards and eight TDs on 51 carries. Johnny Simpson has 44 rushes for 367 yards and two TDs and has 14 catches for 226 yards.

Thompson sees a lot of talent along the Madisonville offensive line as well.

“They have a (Tommy) Holiday kid they like to shift along the front, playing tackle and tight end that can go,” said Thompson. “Also Joey McIver and Zach Poe look strong at guard and tackle.”

Madisonville has arguably yet to see a team with the defensive prowess of WO-S.

The Mustangs are allowing just 154.1 yards a game this year,105.2 on the ground and 48.9 in the air. Opponents are averaging just 3.2 yards per carry and opposing quarterbacks have completed just 43-of-104 passes.

In their last four games, the Mustangs have allowed just 79.7 yards a game. They held a versatile Mexia offense to just 117 yards last week.

“We had a pretty good defensive effort last week,” said Thompson. “I thought Kayven Cooper played hard for 48 minutes on both sides of the ball. We also thought that Ja’Vonn Ross and Blake Robinson had possibly their best games of the season so far.”

The Mustangs shot themselves in the foot offensively at times last week with a pair of turnovers in the red zone and were held to 211 yards by the Blackcats.

WO-S quarterback Chaka Watson will be back in full force this week after getting a hip pointer in the first quarter against Mexia.

The Mustangs will check in averaging 311.9 yards a game, 226.9 on the ground and 85.3 in the air.

“We’ve got to get better play from our offensive unit, we know we’re better than what we showed against Mexia,” said Thompson. “Our offensive line really struggled and we’ve got to get more out of our running game other than just Cooper. Our receivers struggled to get open plus we were making some bad reads. We thought our tight ends (Kaleb Ramsey and Jaylon Mims) played well. We can’t expect to perform that way again or it’s going to really hard to move forward.”

Watson has completed 55-of-96 passes for 667 yards with nine TDs and three interceptions. He has rushed for 463 yards and 13 TDs on 84 carries.

Cooper is closing in on the 1,000-yard mark as he leads the WO-S ground arsenal with 944 yards and 16 TDs on 114 carries. Justin Sibley has 482 yards and five TDs on 62 carries.

Tight end Ramsey leads the team with 17 catches for 144 yards and a TD. Standout defensive back and return man Jarron Morris has 15 catches for 177 yards and three TDs.

WO-S has outscored opponents 397-72 for the season.

Madisonville’s defense has allowed some teams to score big as they allowed the 48 to Rusk, while Lorena scored 36 and 35 and they defeated Caldwell 49-32. They also have three shutouts to their credit.

“They usually play a 4-2 5 defense,” said Thompson. “They’re pretty salty up front. We’re real impressed with their lineman Ki’Vycia Purus, plus the Holiday and Poe kids are up there and they play well both ways. Merchant and Moffett are back there in the secondary too. They have five or six kids that start both ways.”

The WO-S-Madisonville winner will face either Salado (11-1) or Bellville (7-5) in the Region III Finals next week. Those two will play Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Alamodome in San Antonio.

“It’s that time of year where there are certainly no weak sisters,” said Thompson. “The kids are going to have to rise up. We can’t play the type of game we played last week and I think they understand that. Hopefully we’ll get after it come Friday at 7 p.m. at Texan Drive Stadium.”



Madisonville 24, Teague 0

Madisonville 30, Woodville 22

Madisonville 49, Caldwell 32

Madisonville 59, Crockett 21

Madisonville 39, Lorena 36

Rusk 48, Madisonville 45

Madisonville 34, Shepherd 13

Madisonville 58, Brookshire-Royal 0

Madisonville 31, Bellville 21

Madisonville 70, Tarkington 0

Madisonville 42, Hardin-Jefferson 20

Madisonville 45, Lorena 35




WO-S (10-0)

WO-S 39, Bridge City 6

WO-S 61, KIPP Northeast 6

WO-S 34, Silsbee 17

WO-S 23, Kennedale 20

WO-S 57, Hamshire-Fannett 7

WO-S 26, Hardin-Jefferson 13

WO-S 32, Liberty 0

WO-S 54, Orangefield 0

WO-S 54, Brookshire-Royal 0

WO-S 17, Mexia 3