Good old-fashioned rivalry; WO-S set for Dogs

Published 8:36 am Wednesday, August 29, 2018

WEST ORANGE — It just wouldn’t be the same without the West Orange-Stark Mustangs hooking up with the Nederland Bulldogs in front of a huge and friendly fan base each year.

The two long-time rivals will lace it up again Friday night when the Mustangs welcome the Bulldogs to Hooks Stadium.

The Mustangs are on a quest for their ninth straight district title and a fifth straight trip to the Class 4A Division II state championship game. However, there are a ton of roadblocks along the way, including a very tough non-district schedule to try and navigate through along with molding a very young team into proven winners fast.

Coach Cornel Thompson and staff have just seven starters back, three on offense and four on defense, from last year’s state runnerup team, so a test with the much deeper Bulldogs will certain be an early, solid test.

“We’ve had a great run for sure, but every year is a new year, many folks think we just come out here and reload each time, but that’s far from the case,” said Thompson. “We’re definitely a young ballclub. Looks like we’re going to be a junior-oriented type of team with some guys that have never played under the Friday night lights. That’s why we’re hoping for our senior class, which is a small one, to step up and lead the way with some leadership.”

The Mustangs do return a pair of solid running back in seniors Kavyn Cooper and Justin Sibley and a pair of solid leaders along the line, including all-district picks Ja’Corry Brady and Quincy Ledet. Tyrone Wilson looks to be the starter at quarterback with Shauvon Crawford and Jerren Terrell also seeing time in scrimmages.

Defensively, the Mustangs are paced by the likes of Brady and Shemar Manaway up front along with Teshaun Teel and Ja’Vonn Ross in the secondary.

The Bulldogs return 10 starters, six on offense, for second-year head coach Monte Barrow, off a very solid 8-3 playoff unit.

Nederland is blessed with a veteran signal-caller and leader in senior quarterback Blaysin Fernandez. Fernandez completed 93-of-164 passes for 1,864 yards and 23 TDs last season. He will look to hand the ball of to fullback Armani Douglass and tailback Cade Scott and will look to get the ball deep to receiver Carsen Arline.

The Bulldog defense is young but return all-district players in defensive back Noah Lewis, who had eight interceptions and cornerback Landon Hiltz, who also had eight interceptions.

This will be the first test of a long non-district season for the Mustangs, who also have to play LC-M, Newton, Crosby, Bridge City and Jasper before opening up District 10-4A Division II play Oct. 12 against Silsbee.