WEST ORANGE —
Something has got to give Friday night at Hooks Stadium when the undefeated West Orange-Stark Mustangs, ranked 10th in the latest Class 3A state poll, collide with the undefeated Jasper Bulldogs.
The Mustangs (3-0) have been more than fierce on defense, allowing just 13 points, including no points after intermission. WO-S is also allowing just 137 yards a game, impressive considering their first three opponents were all Class 4A schools.
Jasper, meanwhile, under the guidance of first-year head coach Darrell Barbay, have been posting superb offensive numbers in piling up 157 points in wins over Liberty (49-13), Orangefield (55-14) and Kirbyville (53-13).
“We’re going to see the same kind of quality athletes this week that we saw against Central last week,” said Mustang coach Cornel Thompson. “They even almost wear the same kind of uniforms.”
Jasper mixes the run and the pass well, led by quarterback Steven Walker.
Walker passed for 207 yards and three touchdowns in the win against Orangefield. His favorite target is wideout Demarcus Collins.
The Bulldogs also have a nice 1-2 running tandem in the backfield featuring Deroderick Hadnot and Terrence Cuney.
“The Walker kid is a real good operator and they love to utilize that bootleg pass,” said Thompson. “The Collins kid is definitely one of the better receivers around the area. They have some excellent backs. They will be quite a test for our defensive unit. We’ve been pretty solid for four weeks, we can’t let up now.”
The Mustangs will be looking to get their offense in full gear. WO-S picked up just 193 total yards in last week’s physical 14-0 win against Central. The Mustangs found it when it counted most last week, getting 139 yards in the second half, including a nice 12-play, 70-yard touchdown drive to start the third period.
WO-S quarterback Jimmy Salter has completed 32-of-49 passes for 305 yards and two touchdowns with his favorite target being wideout J’Marcus Rhodes, who has 12 catches for 172 yards and a TD.
The Mustangs don’t exactly have a go-to running back yet but they do have a stable of them in Ar’Tevin McDonald (26-123-1), Kane Tezeno (17-102-1), Abear Simien (20-97-2) and John Scott (10-68-1).
The Jasper defense has allowed just 40 points on the season.
“Jasper is much better on defense and they had nine kids back that started last year,” said Thompson. “They’re playing much harder on that side of the ball and they have a lot more discipline and Coach Barbay deserves a lot of credit for that.”
Thompson feels the Mustangs are very battle-tested already this year and that it could go a long way for them come Friday night against the Bulldogs. “The good thing for us, and that’s why we try to get such a tough non-district schedule every year, is that most of our kids are going that full 48 minutes,” said Thompson. “A lot of the Jasper’s starters have been pulled early in the second half with big leads. I guess you look at positives and negatives with both. But hopefully for us, we’ll be a stronger team when the fourth quarter rolls around.”
After the game with Jasper wraps up, the Mustangs will turn their attention to the start of District 21-3A play as Hamshire-Fannett rolls into town Sept. 28.
“We kinda break things down in phases with the scrimmages, non-district, district and the playoffs,” said Thompson. “We’re proud of what the kids have accomplished thus far with one more non-district game left. When Hamshire-Fannett rolls in here next week, a whole new kind of season starts. Like I always tell them though, you can’t look ahead, you just look at that next opponent that is dead ahead.”