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By Dan Perrine
For the Record 

Mustangs play PNG on Friday


Last updated 9/6/2022 at 3:32pm

Through two weeks the West Orange-Stark Mustangs remain undefeated on the football season. This next week will be a tough challenge for the Mustangs against another larger school.

West Orange-Stark’s first two wins were against Nederland from Class 5A in Week One and last Friday against Little Cypress-Mauriceville a Class 4A, Division One, school. This week the Mustangs face a second opponent from Class 5A in the Port Neches-Groves Indians.

Mustang Coach Hiawatha Hickman was excited with his team coming back from a twelve-point deficit to Little Cypress-Mauriceville and then scoring late after the Bears tied the game in the fourth quarter to capture another Orange Bowl. “They basically punched us in the mouth in the beginning, so we had to punch back. Our kids showed great grit to go down and then comeback to be up 32-20 at halftime. I saw what I’ve been thinking these guys would do when they got into a situation like that by the way we train by the way we practice. We talk about being poised in tough situations, and we’ve tried to put them in tough situations in the off season, and it showed on the field,” Hickman responded.

There were a lot of stars for the Mustangs in their 38-32 win. One that stood out was Andrew Wilson at his normal defensive tackle position and as a wingback in the Mustangs’ power formation he scored eight points.

Wilson has been used in multiple positions during his years at West Orange-Stark. Hickman elaborated, “Andrew can play offensive guard, offensive tackle, he was a center as a sophomore, he plays defensive tackle for us. He’s a real smart kid, honor society kid, so we decided to put him at wing on that heavy set formation we use in short yardage.”

Offensive Coordinator Justin Trahan suggested to Hickman directly snapping the ball to Wilson as he came in motion from his wing position. The Mustangs practiced the play about 50 times, and Wilson caught all the snaps which convinced Hickman to save the play for the right situation against Little Cypress-Mauriceville.

Wilson scored a two-point conversion in the second quarter and made the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter on fourth-and-goal using the improvised play. “That gave us the best advantage because the Bears were having to adjust to the other set we run down there,” Hickman explained.

West Orange-Stark and Port Neches-Groves have a rivalry that may not be as intense as the one with Little Cypress-Mauriceville but may be slightly older. The Mustangs and the Indians were district rivals when both teams were in Class 5A and later in Class 4A together in the eighties. The two teams usually play either a scrimmage or a non-district game every year for about the last decade.

When you talk about Port Neches-Groves you start with the size of their offensive line. Hickman compared the Indians’ O-line to the Dallas Cowboys adding that they are huge.

The theme this week for the Mustangs is speed. Hickman emphasized, “We’ve got to be fast, we can’t sit in front of those guys they’ll smash us. So we’re going to work on moving around to try to use our speed and quickness to our advantage.”

The Indians use their big offensive line to run the ball more under new head coach Jeff Joseph. Hickman said PNG uses about 60 percent run on offense compared to more recent years where the Indians relied on their passing game to move the football out of the Spread.

Quarterback Cole Crippen for the Indians has a good arm with great accuracy on his passes and uses play action effectively. Crippen does not run the ball much but has a tremendous pocket presence according to the Mustangs’ scouts.

The running backs are Tommy Reed who follows his blockers very well and Brock Hebert who is used especially in short yardage situations like a bulldozer. “With the big offensive line they try to run the ball a lot more than they used to. They still have the capability of throwing it well,” Hickman analyzed.

The PNG offense seems to get most of the attention, but the Indians do have a strong defense. They use an odd man front with three big downed linemen and two very athletic ends that serve as outside linebackers who will blitz or stay back to cover passes in the flat.

The two inside linebackers are big for Port Neches-Groves and must be accounted for by the Mustang blockers. Nick Gardiner is very physical and Seth Landry flies around making hits on opposing ball carriers.

Speed and quickness will be the key on offense just like on the defense for the Mustangs. Hickman stated, “We’ll have to move and be quick and try to get on the edge against them. We’ll have to prepare and attack them in certain spots. We’ll need to complete some deep balls which we missed on last Thursday night against the Bears, but we’ve got to complete some of those.”

West Orange-Stark wants to keep doing what it has been doing to win its first two games and that is primarily running the football on offense. Hickman believes the Mustangs can take some deep shots with their passing game against PNG in certain situations.

The Mustangs need to play stronger on defense. The coach admitted there were some blown assignments in the game against LCM last week that resulted in a couple touchdowns because of misalignment by the still mostly inexperienced Mustang defensive unit. Giving up 32 points to the Bears left a bad taste in the Mustangs’ mouths according to Hickman.

Hickman gave the keys for West Orange-Stark to stay undefeated when it plays Port Neches-Groves. “Being sound on defense and we’ve got to get better in the kicking game. Our kicking game is not where it needs to be right now. We covered kicks well but the punt the other night they were able to run it back and we didn’t cover it like we should. Again it’s going to go back to blocking and tackling and special teams,” Hickman concluded.

The West Orange-Stark Mustangs (2-0) play the Port Neches-Groves Indians (1-1) at Dan R. Hooks Stadium on Friday. The kickoff is at 7:30 PM.


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