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By Dan Perrine
For the Record 

Mustangs prepare for H-J and then playoffs

 

Last updated 11/1/2022 at 5:24pm

The district schedule comes to a conclusion on Friday for the West Orange-Stark Mustangs. This will be a final preparation for the post season during which the Mustangs hope to make a run.

Last week was the bye for West Orange-Stark. It gave the Mustangs the opportunity to get back to the basics and the fundamentals of the game of football.

Coach Hiawatha Hickman provided the details of the Mustangs’ workouts during the bye week. “We worked on some stuff that we normally work on here at the beginning of the year to try to get back to where we start each season. We were able to get some people healthy, some people were able to get some time off and get some rest. We didn’t really bang on them too hard. We just did a lot of teaching and went over basics. It was a good time for the players and the coaches to get rejuvenated,” Hickman indicated.

The time was also spent getting ready for Hardin-Jefferson which is this Friday’s opponent for the Mustangs. The Hawks won their first game of the season two weeks ago against the Bridge City Cardinals and played the Jasper Bulldogs to within 20 points last week. Despite their poor record the Hawks have taken some strides to improve in recent weeks.

Hardin-Jefferson uses multiple offenses out of the Spread formation with a tight end and have played two quarterbacks in its recent games. Logan Trotter has been the starter and threw two touchdown passes in the Bridge City game. The backup is Carter Mouton, and he can throw the ball well too.

A prime receiver is tight end Wyatt Samaha who at 6-3 and 250 pounds is a load to bring down when he has the football. Samaha caught a 70-yard touchdown against Jasper in the last game for the Hawks. Hickman assured Samaha is a Hawk the Mustangs will have to account for on every play.

There are some Hawks with speed too at the wide receivers. Rochard Sears had two long touchdowns a couple weeks back, and Rodrick Russell scored after he broke loose on a short pass.

Another athlete for Hardin-Jefferson is Isaiah Melvo, and he will be used in multiple positions. Melvo is primarily a wide receiver but can line up as a wing back or in the Wildcat to take direct snaps so as to exhibit his elusive running ability.

West Orange-Stark will be ready for whatever the Hawks’s offense throws at them. Hickman replied, “Coach Bass of Hardin-Jefferson is very multiple with formations, and we’ll be prepared for it. The game will give us the opportunity to improve and get better before we face a good Bellville team in the first round of the playoffs.”

Like so many of the teams in the Mustangs’ district Hardin-Jefferson operates with a 50 defense aligning with three downed linemen and four linebackers. The Hawks will try to apply pressure on opposing backfields with the blitz.

Luke McCullough was a standout last season for the Hawks as a running back. McCullough is primarily playing only on defense as an inside linebacker this year. He had 78 tackles including 3 sacks for Hardin-Jefferson last season.

The inside backer is Davion Levine who is also a good tackler. Levine like McCullough does a good job running to the ball.

Inexperience on defense has been a major reason the Hawks have only won one game. Hickman elaborated, “I think they’re young, and you can tell that they’re young and trying to find their way. They’ll line up in that 50 and they’ll blitz from multiple different directions to try to give you some trouble. They’ll slant the front to give them an opportunity to try to get off some blocks. They play hard, they play really hard, but you can just tell they’re young even playing a few freshmen. They make mistakes, and we’ve got to take advantage of those mistakes.”

West Orange-Stark has a berth in the playoffs again. The only difference will be the Mustangs will be a lower seed instead of their normal first seed. By coincidence the first round opponent for the Mustangs will probably be a familiar foe in the Bellville Brahmas.

Preparation has not been a problem for West Orange-Stark in the weeks leading up to the playoffs. Coach Hickman is confident the Mustangs will continue to prepare hard for the Hawks this week and again next week for Bellville.

Eliminating mistakes will be the key for West Orange-Stark to win this Friday and any continued success in the playoffs. “We seem to be getting better every week, but we just still make some of the same mistakes in some of the same areas. I still see the growth, I feel good about our growth that we’re moving forward. We’re oozing with youth, the future’s bright, we feel good about that, but we’ve told our kids it’s a competition right now, we’re competing to stay alive. We see this Friday as a playoff game,” Hickman concluded.

The final game of the regular season and the next step to the post season for West Orange-Stark is Friday against the Hardin-Jefferson Hawks. The kickoff will be at 7:30 PM in Dan R. Hooks Stadium.

 

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