WOS plays well in 7 on 7
Last updated 6/27/2023 at 10:30am
West Orange-Stark was one of four local high schools that advanced to the championship rounds of the state University Interscholastic League 7-on-7 competition. West Orange Stark went 4-2 in its matches played on Thursday and Friday, June 22-23 at College Station.
Joining West Orange-Stark in College Station were three of the Mustangs' district opponents in football. Silsbee, Jasper, and Hamshire-Fannett also advanced from the regional bracket played in early June.
The pool round was played on Thursday, June 22, in College Station. The 32 teams in Division II including the Mustangs, the Tigers, the Bulldogs, and the Longhorns were divided into eight pools where the four teams in each pool played the other three teams of their group in a round robin format.
The Mustangs got off to a good start defeating the Sulphur Springs Wildcats 13-7 in their opening game. West Orange-Stark stumbled 19-12 in its second game on Thursday to Lubbock Christian. The Mustangs bounced back and won a close one 20-19 over LaFeria to go 2-1 in the pool round.
The elimination round started early on Friday morning, and the Mustangs may have still been rubbing the sleep from their eyes. West Orange-Stark fell behind the Dumas Demons 13-0 in the first half.
The comeback started with five minutes left as Taydren Perrault caught a long touchdown pass from quarterback Marcus Turner. Tahj Amerson made a sensational catch and took it to the house for the tying Mustang score. West Orange-Stark won the contest 20-19 in overtime.
No time to rest on their laurels as the Mustangs' second game of the morning followed immediately against Ponder which had eliminated Jasper 26-14 in its first game on Friday. West Orange-Stark had the offense working well scoring 34 points to win 34-25 advancing to the elite eight in Division II.
West Orange-Stark next went up against Hitchcock the Division II defending state 7-on-7 champion. The Mustangs were running on fumes in their third game of the morning against the experienced Hitchcock club which platooned its players very effectively throughout the tournament.
Hitchcock defeated West Orange-Stark 29-12 eliminating the Mustangs. Hitchcock won its second straight Division II state championship in 7-on-7 winning 27-20 over Anna which had eliminated the Silsbee Tigers 39-28 in the semifinals.
The Mustangs 7-on-7 were coached by Kevin Knolley and Eric Williams. No coaches with West Orange-Stark High School were allowed to participate in the matches.
Coach Hiawatha Hickman the head football coach at West Orange-Stark applauded the play of his Mustangs in College Station starting with the quarterback and the wide receivers. "Our quarterback Marcus Turner who is going to be a junior this year and started nine games for us last year played really, really well throughout the tournament," Hickman analyzed.
The receivers had a great weekend also. Hickman pointed out, "Taydren Perrault, Nicholas Crosson, and Andrew Cooper are three guys who are going to be seniors and they stood out during the competition this weekend."
Perrault caught a touchdown in all six of the Mustangs' games. Cooper was a solid possession receiver who helped get a number of first downs for West Orange-Stark. Jamarr O'Neal played very well on both sides of the ball during the tournament which will make him a Mustang to factor in who can make key contributions for the team when the regular season starts at the end of August according to Hickman.
This is the second straight year that West Orange-Stark has competed in 7-on-7 after not participating in the competition for the previous decade. The Mustangs lost all four of their games last time so this past weekend showed a strong improvement winning four of their six games.
This competition will prepare West Orange-Stark for the fast approaching football season. "We went back this year, and we kind of had a routine. We knew about the traveling and what it was going to take on offense and defense to win. We took as a business trip. We got there a day early with the kids to do some bonding and tried to create as close to a Friday night experience as we could, and our kids really took to it. We went into it in a different way, and I think it worked out for us. I think it's going to help us, I think we grew as a team," Hickman evaluated.
In conclusion Coach Hickman emphasized, "The biggest thing I wanted to see was the Mustangs maturing from one year to the next. The first game on Saturday our kids were dragging at seven o'clock and fell behind thirteen to nothing by the half. They came back and won that game in overtime. I don't think we could have done that last year. I think this year the kids are believing what we're doing, they're more confident, and you can see the growth from last season."