Jalen Gilmore making plays at linebacker, running back for Mustangs

Published 12:18 am Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

West Orange-Stark senior Jalen Gilmore has been a driving force for a mighty Mustangs defense.

A three-year starter at linebacker, Gilmore led the team with 53 solo tackles last season and tallied two sacks.

Now, he’s picking up extra shifts on offense. After playing a depth role at running back in the past, Gilmore now sits atop the backfield and serves as the Mustangs’ lead tailback going into the 2023 regular season.

“I’ve always wanted to be the starting running back,” Gilmore said. “I finally get the opportunity to do what I’ve wanted to do since I got to West Orange.”

Gilmore appreciates the team and coaching staff entrusting him to make big plays on both sides of the ball. Playing both ways can be challenging, but he takes an approach to the game that allows him to be prepared for game days.

“It makes me take conditioning a lot more seriously,” he said. “And the things that I learn on defense help me understand what I want to do on offense, and vice versa. Knowing the gaps that control the offense helps me fill the gaps better on defense.”

Running back Jalen Gilmore turns the corner to score on a seven-yard touchdown against Bridge City in 2022. (Mark Pachuca/Orange Leader)

Mustangs head coach Hiawatha Hickman is counting on his seniors to display strong leadership in the locker room.

As one of the most experienced players on the team, Gilmore is among those meeting that call to action.

“A lot of seniors and juniors have taken accountability and been more focused on the program,” Gilmore said. “We’re putting the program first instead of worrying about individual needs.”

After Hickman took over the Mustangs last season, adapting to an altered defensive scheme became a point of focus for every defender. Gilmore said going through those growing pains played a big role in his development.

Now that he’s fully comfortable playing within the new defense, the standout linebacker has a better feel for where he should be on the field.

It’s given him the chance to make more plays and lead teammates, as well.

The senior has high expectations for his final season in silver and blue. His goal is to earn First Team All-District honors at linebacker and running back.

Like Gilmore said, though, the team comes first – priority No. 1 is getting the Mustangs back to their winning ways. After all, WOS football runs in the family.

“I wasn’t originally from Orange,” Gilmore said. “But my people were. It means a lot to be able to be on the field and represent the same things as a lot of family members before them.”

— Written by Keagan Smith