By Andrew Pate Jr.

The Class-3A state-ranked West Orange Mustangs warmed up for their Friday journey to Kirbyville where they will face the Class-2A state-ranked Wildcats, with a 48-7 ‘Orange Bowl’ win over Little-Cypress-Mauriceville at Dan Hooks Stadium.

For the youthful Battlin’ Bears, their first game of the season was truly a learning experience. Though obviously overmatched by the more experienced, bigger, and faster Mustangs, the Bears fought gallantly.

Now, however, they must look ahead to another tough match this week against the Cardinals of Bridge City, who lost 28-26 to the Kountze Lions. Bridge City will host
Unfortunately for the Battlin Bears, Saturday’s contest (postponed a day by Hurricane Gustav) was about 80 seconds too long. Senior running back Ethan Sonnier suffered a broken leg with 2:14 left in the final quarter, and is likely out for the season. Workhorse Sonnier carried 13 times, grinding out 22 yards. Seven of his rushes came in the second half. The tough Mustang defense held LC-M to 55 yards rushing and 56 passing.

On the game’s opening play from scrimmage, WO-S set the direction for the final outcome. Quarterback Ortavious Hypolite took the snap, retreated a few steps into the pocket, turned and hurled a perfectly thrown over-the-top pass to Trey Franks racing down the right sideline.

With seven seconds gone, and the pass completion Franks carried into the end zone for a 62 yard gain, the score was WO-S 6, LC-M 0. Justin Sparrow then added the first of his six successful point-after attempts (he missed after the seventh, and last WO-S TD).

For the night, Hypolite completed five of six passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns. A little over five minutes into the third quarter,he scored on an 86-yard dash up the middle of the LC-M defense. Two more carries added another 23 yards to his rushing total (109).

Battlin’ Bear sophomore quarterback Hunter Gonzales proved himself durable and agile. He made few mental mistakes, and committed just one major technical error. When he comes into his own, as he should with experience, he’ll likely be hard to defense. He throws with his left-arm (punts with his right foot), has a quick release, and scrambles well, which he often was forced to do by the fast charging Mustang line. Gonzales’s big miscue was the interception he threw into the arms of Mustang linebacker Robert Jiles, who returned the ball, untouched, for 71 yards and a TD with 4:52 left in the first half. Early in the final quarter, Trey Franks returned an LC-M punt for 67 yards and his second TD, the game’s final points.

WO-S gained 183 rushing yards. But the Battlin Bears held Quintarvious Garrett to 39 yards on nine carries, one a two-yard TD run. Garrett was the sensation of the Mustang season opener and 33-14 win over Nederland, in which he ran for 316 yards and four TDs.

As LC-M looks for its first win of the young season against Bridge City, its coaches and team members have to be hopeful that the team’s performance will equal or surpass that of Kountze, which rushed for 360 yards, none passing, in its narrow triumph over the Cardinals.

After Friday, WO-S hopes to be the team still standing, and undefeated at 3-0. Kirbyville should make that difficult, but not impossible. WO-S has the tools to continue undefeated, through the regular season and perhaps beyond. To achieve that goal, excessive and unnecessary penalties could be a major obstacle. Half of LC-M’s 10 first downs resulted from penalties against the Mustangs.