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By Dan Perrine
For The Record 

Mustangs to battle the Bulldogs


Last updated 8/22/2023 at 2:09pm

Joshua Miller in the defensive line for the Mustangs was a standout in the scrimmages and more is expected from him in the season opener at Nederland

West Orange-Stark is looking to rebound from a disappointing rare losing season last year. The Mustangs made the post season but were eliminated in the first round of the state playoffs to finish the year with an overall 5-6 record.

The Mustangs performed well in their two scrimmages earlier this month. They scored four times while the WOS defense shut out Woodville in the first scrimmage and then rallied after a quick score by Vidor to beat the Pirates 14-7 in the final scrimmage before the start of the regular season this week.

Second year Head Coach Hiawatha Hickman evaluated the Mustangs' preparedness entering Week 1 of the football season. "The defense has been playing really well in both scrimmages. I think the Mustangs are starting to understand what we're trying to get out of them," Hickman said.

Particular standouts for West Orange-Stark in both scrimmages include Joshua Miller and Daylen Edwards in the line at defensive tackle. Other defenders that played well were William Pitre, Jacob Higginbotham, and Jalen Gilmore. Amyrian Scott and Chris Jones had good games against Vidor in the defensive secondary for the Mustangs.

Wide receiver Taydren Perrault caught two long touchdown passes of fifty plus yards against Woodville. Quarterback Marcus Turner had touchdown runs in both scrimmages, and Jalen Gilmore also contributed to the offense with a rushing touchdown.

Hickman assessed, "I was really pleased with both scrimmages. I was very pleased with our progress, and I feel like we're at a better place now than we were last year. We sat a couple of Mustangs out with injuries against Vidor on offense including one that was dealing with Covid."

The tradition at West Orange-Stark is to use the non-district games to make the Mustangs ready for the district schedule and then the playoffs by playing larger schools which provide a tough test. The opening Mustang opponent the Class 5A Nederland Bulldogs fits that criteria well.

Nederland operates out of the Spread on offense. The Bulldogs run a lot of two wide receivers on both the left and the right side of the line of scrimmage or will shift to three on one side and one on the other.

The Bulldogs prefer to pass the football using an inside zone read. They do like to take their shots by throwing several deep balls during a game.

The returning quarterback Ayden Sunday played part-time as a starter last year and looks a lot better throwing and running the ball according to Hickman. Sunday threw for 633 yards and 8 touchdowns last year while he rushed for 6 touchdowns.

The leading rusher for Nederland should be Hubert Thomas who totaled 707 yards on the ground with 6 touchdowns last season. "The Bulldog offensively line is big as always. Nederland traditionally has a big offensive line and is usually a strong suit of their team. It's easy to see they're definitely better than what they were last year just watching them in their two scrimmages, and the Bulldogs are moving on the right track," Hickman analyzed.

On defense the Bulldogs line up in a 3-3-5 alignment. Nederland will mix it up shifting into different fronts including some 4-3 looks. The Nederland coaches use a lot of cloud coverage in the secondary against the pass.

The standout on the Bulldogs' defense is Ellis Walker at linebacker. Walker made 84 tackles last season including 4 for losses. Hickman elaborated, "Walker can run. He's the guy they use in blitzes. He's very active on their defense."

Letterman Albert Simon at defensive end needs to be accounted for by the Mustang blockers. Simon made 62 tackles in the previous season which included 4 sacks.

The Bulldog secondary appears to be better than last year when they played a lot of sophomores. Slade Sheppard and James Ladner are two of the defensive backs the Mustang receiving corps will try to beat to catch passes.

Hickman predicted it will be a challenge on Friday night to beat the Nederland Bulldogs at their place. Last year West Orange-Stark won easily by thirty points at Dan R. Hooks Stadium, but the Bulldogs which had their worst seasonal record since 1991 should be more experienced and much improved.

Hickman explained, "We have to play people like Nederland. They're three times the size as us. We welcome the challenge."

Jalen Gilmore of the Mustangs played strong at linebacker on defense and scored a touchdown running the ball on offense in the scrimmages

The West Orange-Stark coach provided the keys for the Mustangs to open the season with a win. "We're going to have to go over there and be sound on defense like we always are and be prepared for their Spread Offense. Our secondary is going to have a big task. I think the Bulldogs are better at throwing it than they are at running it, so I think our secondary is going to have to be up for the task. We haven't played anybody in scrimmages that are as good as the Bulldogs, so it'll be a good challenge for us. Offensively, our offensive line has taken great strides the last two weeks. We feel like we're going to lean on them and we'll be able to run the ball. Our receivers are really good, and we feel like we can take advantage of somethings in their secondary. We've just got to go be us. I tell the kids all the time, just go be us, and do what we do. If everybody does their job the Mustangs will be fine, and I think we'll come out on top," Hickman concluded.

The West Orange-Stark Mustangs will battle the Nederland Bulldogs on Friday. The game is scheduled for 7:00 PM in Nederland.


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