Mustangs preparing for vaunted Salado Slot-T in Region III Finals

Published 6:03 am Wednesday, December 6, 2017

WEST ORANGE — For the second straight week the two-time defending Class 4A Division II state champion West Orange-Stark Mustangs will face a program that is definitely on the rise.

The Mustangs (11-0) will be entering their seventh straight 4A Region III Finals and will look to extend their state-leading winning streak to 39 straight games when they take on the Salado Eagles (12-1) at 7 p.m. Friday at Katy Legacy Stadium.

Both teams are coming off nail-biting wins in the regional semifinals as the Mustangs edged out Madisonville 28-26 and the Eagles toppled Bellville 13-10 in overtime.

Salado’s program has progressed a ton under the direction of Alan Haire the last couple seasons. In 2014 the Eagles were winless at 0-10. They were 1-10 in 2015 and improved to 7-5 last year and went two rounds deep.

“Coach Haire is doing a phenomenal job up there,” said Mustang coach Cornel Thompson. “He brought in his style of play and discipline and their kids have responded. They have a huge senior class with 24 on the roster and 14 of them play a ton. Winning can become addicting and the kids and the town of Salado are really excited. We’ve got a formidable foe for sure come Friday night.”

The Eagles, District 9-4A champions have been explosive all season long with their hard-to-stop Slot-T offense.

The Eagles have rang up 529 points, averaging 40.7 yards a game. They average about 400 yards a game in rushing alone.

The Salado offense is led by quarterback Hayden Haire, the son of the head coach.

“The Haire kid is a solid player and a good leader,” said Thompson. “He has a cool head and he gets it to the right folks. He’s potent on the play-action pass, and we’ll have to be aware of that. Of course, his main objective is to get the ball in the hands of his backs and do they ever have some good ones.”

Thompson is echoing the facts there as the Eagles sport three 1,000-yard backs, each one of them seniors in fullback Trey Sheppard, halfback Aaron Torczynski and slot back Cade DePoy.

“All three of them bring a lot to the table,” said Thompson. “Sheppard is one of those quick trap guys that can take it the distance. Torczynski, he has a lot of power and picks up some tough yards. DePoy, you have to watch him on those buck sweeps and he can flat-out go.”

Of course, this isn’t the first rodeo for the Mustangs in facing a Slot-T type team. Coach Thompson thinks the Mustangs have played at least 25 Slot-T style teams in the last three years.

However, he does feel Salado is unique in the way they run it.

“They remind us so much of Vidor and how the Pirates run it, that’s why we love to scrimmage Vidor every year,” said Thompson. “Their offensive line is not huge but they’re really athletic, like Coach (Jeff) Mathews has had over the years at Vidor. Their guards like to pull a lot and they flip-flop their lineman when they line up and they attack you fast and they’re great at those buck sweeps. We really like their guards and they have an excellent tackle in Robert Soto. We’re going to have to line up and play good assignment football and also be careful, because unlike a lot of Slot-T teams, they can throw it.”

It was a 25-yard touchdown pass from Haire to Torczynski in overtime that sealed the Eagles’ win over Bellville last week. It was the Eagles’ second overtime game of the season. They suffered their only loss of the season to Fairfield in overtime 42-35.

The Mustangs defense has been stingy all season long, allowing the opposition just 161.3 yards a game. Opponents are averaging just 103 yards a game on the ground, averaging 3.7 yards a carry. Opposing quarterbacks have completed just 56-of-125 passes and have been picked off nine times.

Mustang linebacker Davien Teate leads the Mustangs in tackles with 112 for the season while defensive end Herzel Washington has 77 followed by defensive tackle Ja’Qualan Coleman (67), defensive end Tyshon Watkins (63), and defensive tackle Paul Ivory (62). Ivory also leads the team in tackles for losses (15) and sacks (4 ½) while defensive back Jarron Morris leads the way with three interceptions.

The Mustang offense, which has been so great in not turning the ball over, especially late in the season, is led by senior quarterback Chaka Watson.

Watson has certainly led a smooth ship in the postseason.

Against Madisonville he ran for two scores and passed for another.

“Our offense has been steady and Chaka has done a really good job,” said Thompson. “He was able to move the chains with some big passes last week and we mixed things up well. The key for us is that we’ve been a team that doesn’t turn the ball over and this time of year, that’s so key.”

Watson has completed 68-of-117 passes for 830 yards with 10 touchdowns and has rushed for 512 yards and 15 TDs on 99 totes.

Running back Kayven Cooper has been an excellent two-way player. He broke over the 1,000-yard barrier against Madisonville and now has 1,015 yards and 17 TDs on 128 carries and has 61 tackles at linebacker on defense. Fellow back Justin Sibley has zipped for 493 yards and five TDs on 66 carries.

Morris and Blake Robinson, who were both stout on defense in making big stops against Madisonville from the Mustang secondary, have teamed up for 33 receptions for 427 yards and four TDs. The two combined for eight catches for 112 yards and a score last week.

The Eagles will come out in a 50 defense, one that allows only about 215 yards a game.

“They are really physical up front and like to apply the rush,” said Thompson. “They have some bell-ringers in there. We really like the Zach Adams, Andrew Sniggs and Tommie Barker kids, they make a ton of plays.”

Coach Thompson was thrilled to watch the Mustangs walk away with the tight win over Madisonville last week.

‘We were so happy with the way the kids played and how hard they played,” said Thompson. “Madisonville was a darn good football team and our offense and defense made big plays when they had opportunities. We’re definitely were not happy at all with the special teams play, we can’t continue to give up a short field, it’s something we’ll be working on in practice for sure.”

Of course, this marks the seventh straight year WO-S is in the Region III Finals.

“That says so much about our kids, their work ethic and just their will to win, same goes for the coaching staff,” said Thompson. “We’re so happy about what they’ve accomplished. We’re part of the final eight, amongst a very potent final eight, and they remain hungry and we’re sure they’ll be ready to get after it come Friday.”

The winner of the WO-S-Salado matchup will face either Cuero (12-0) or Wimberley (12-1) out of Region IV in the State Semifinals next week.

The Region I Finals will pit Graham (13-0) against Bushland (11-2) while the Region II Finals will have Pleasant Grove (13-0) vs. Melissa (12-1).





SALADO (12-1)

Salado 33, Troy 0

Salado 41, Comfort 0

Salado 35, Hyde Park 27

Salado 56, Florence 14

Salado 35, Glenn 17

Fairfield 42, Salado 35 (OT)

Salado 44, Lorena 3

Salado 28, Mexia 7

Salado 63, Robinson 21

Salado 41, Connally 7

Salado 42, Columbus 14

Salado 63, Liberty 14

Salado 13, Bellville 10 (OT)



WO-S (11-0)

WO-S 39, Bridge City 6

WO-S 61, KIPP Northeast 6

WO-S 34, Silsbee 17

WO-S 23, Kennedale 20 (OT)

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

WO-S 28, Madisonville 26