Mustangs preparing hard as season awaits

Published 11:14 am Monday, August 6, 2018

WEST ORANGE — Some things never change at West Orange-Stark, and to put it frankly, that’s how the Mustangs like it.

Why would they. After all, it’s a program that has been to eight state title games, winning four of them and has an all-time winning percentage of .808 and has had just one losing season (1983) since 1977.

And so there it was, another opening day of practice for one of the most storied programs in the state of Texas Monday morning.

The Mustangs are on a quest of reaching the Class 4A Division II State Championship Game for the fifth straight year but as Coach Cornel Thompson likes to say, “There are a lot of minefields to navigate through first.”

The Mustangs received the annual “State of the Union Address” from Coach Thompson in the baseball stands before hitting the weight room and then running the tall concrete steps of Hooks Stadium.

“Without a doubt, this is the time of year you look forward too, you look forward to it after the last game you played and here we are today,” said Thompson, who is in his 48th year of coaching.

If the Mustangs want to repeat what they did last year, which was a tremendous 13-1 run all the way to being state runnerups, they will be turning to some youngsters to step in and fill some big pieces with just three starters back on offense and just four on defense.

“We’ve got some kids that are going to have to step in and play some big roles and the next couple weeks we’ll know who the prospects are and who is going to get those silver hats and who gets the white ones,” said Thompson. “The Friday night lights will be new to a lot of them so this time of year we’re looking at a lot of different spots to fill and who we can plug where. Our two scrimmages will be really big for us. It’s such an exciting time of the year for so many, I was a typical kid again last night, I couldn’t sleep.”

The Mustangs, as usual, will scrimmage Port Neches-Groves and Vidor again. WO-S will visit PN-G Aug. 17 at 7 p.m. and will host Vidor Aug. 23 at 7 p.m.

Then it gets “real” Aug. 31 when they welcome in the Nederland Bulldogs.

The Mustangs, as usual, are ranked high by a lot of publications, including Texas Football Magazine, which has them at No. 1 in the preseason in 4A Division II.

Thompson, who has led the Mustang program to at least the 4A Division II Region III Finals in all seven of his years as head coach, feels the Mustangs have to avoid all of the hype, something they’ve done well the last several years for sure.

“We preach to them that they can’t worry about rankings, district titles or playoffs, don’t get me wrong, every program in the state strives for those things but here, it’s all about approaching it in three phases, which is non-district, district and playoffs,” said Thompson. “We have a lot of business to take care with a pair of big scrimmages then the Nederland Bulldogs roll in here on Aug. 31. That’s where our focus needs to be right now and about getting the kids lined up right at this point.”

After facing Nederland Aug. 31, the Mustangs have once again a very formidable non-district schedule that includes LC-M, Newton, Crosby, Bridge City and Jasper.

The Mustangs will open defense of their district title streak when they host a potent Silsbee squad Oct. 12 at Hooks Stadium.

The Picture Day and Media Day for the Mustangs will be Saturday at 9 a.m.