Hard fought West Orange-Stark homecoming game ends in overtime

Published 12:16 am Saturday, October 7, 2023

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The West Orange-Stark Mustangs fell to the Hamshire-Fannett Longhorns, 21-14, Friday night at Dan R. Hooks Stadium in West Orange.

It was a disappointing loss on homecoming night for the Mustangs. A disjointed offense and difficult matchup led to a scoreless first half, and while WO-S survived to force OT, the home team couldn’t quite hold on to secure a district win.

“My kids are fighting their butts off,” Mustangs head coach Hiawatha Hickman said following the loss. “We’re getting better and better every week, but we just haven’t been able to make the critical plays in critical times.”

Overall, the first half of Friday night’s action was a hard-fought defensive battle. Both teams barely eclipsed 100 yards of offense in the first two quarters.

The lone TD of the first half came on Hamshire Fannett’s opening possession. Two long gains of 20 and 27 yards allowed the Longhorns to quickly move into the red zone. Halfback Chris Augustine took a handoff six yards for a touchdown to put Hamshire-Fannett up, 7-0.

The Mustangs offense struggled with ball security early and fumbled twice, one of which was recovered by the Longhorns.

Andrew Cooper led the Mustangs in receiving with five catches for 63 yards against the Hamshire-Fannett Longhorns. (Keagan Smith/The Leader)

However, West Orange-Stark’s pass rush was a bright spot in the first half. Longhorns quarterback Ty Bryson faced plenty of pressure and was sacked by Jalen Gilmore and Ja’terrius Brown to end two drives.

The Mustangs put their first points on the scoreboard at the third quarter’s midway point. Quarterback Marcus Turner Jr. was intercepted at the Longhorns seven-yard line, but WO-S regained possession after recovering a fumble. Turner Jr. ran in a four-yard touchdown to tie game, 7-7.

To begin the fourth quarter, West Orange-Stark leaned more on Turner Jr.’s legs. He led an 85-yard scoring drive, which he topped off with a highlight play — he took a designed run up the middle and broke three tackles as he rumbled 23 yards to the end zone. The Mustangs took their first lead of the game, 14-7.

The celebration didn’t last long, though. The Longhorns tied it up on a seven-yard TD pass from Bryson to receiver Braxton Starnes.

West Orange-Stark’s offense took the field with just over five minutes left to play. Turner Jr. converted a key third down with a 22-yard rush, setting his team up inside the Longhorns’ 30. However, he was sacked on fourth down, resulting in a turnover and leaving the game tied, 14-14.

A couple of big plays by Hamshire-Fannett in the final minute nearly ended the game, but the Mustangs held on to force overtime — following a shootout format, each team attempts to score on a drive beginning from their opponent’s 25-yard line.

While West Orange-Stark’s defense had performed well thus far against a tough opponent, the Mustangs seemed to run out of energy near the end. The Longhorns scored on their first attempt as Bryson delivered an eight-yard touchdown pass to Starnes.

A couple of soul-crushing penalties were the difference for the ‘Stangs on their lone overtime possession. A holding call followed by a spot foul for intentional grounding backed up the line of scrimmage to the 39.

The Mustangs needed 24 yards to convert and have a chance at continuing overtime. Unfortunately, they were unable to gain the yardage and went on to lose, 21-14.

Turner Jr. finished with 131 rushing yards and two touchdowns, adding another 103 yards through the air. Andrew Cooper paced the team in receiving with five catches for 63 yards.

“Coop goes and makes those tough catches,” Hickman said. “He toe taps and he puts his hands where he needs to get them. That’s kind of his thing. If you can get the ball anywhere near him, he’s going to catch it.”

The Mustangs are now 1-2 in 4A-II District 9 (3-4 overall). They’ll look to get right on the road when they visit the Bridge City Cardinals next week.

— Written by Keagan Smith