That time of the year is once again upon us. The calendar on the wall tells us to get our vehicles serviced and be ready to hit the road as the third weekend in November generally signifies it’s time to follow the West Orange-Stark Mustangs on their annual trek in the high school football state playoffs.

Anticipation is always sky high at this time of the year when the regular football season is complete and the state playoffs begin with the bidistrict round. Once again the Mustangs have steamrolled the District 21-3A competition and are ready to try their luck at the next level.

And as many times as not the Mustangs go into the state playoffs highly ranked (No. 3 in Class 3A) and undefeated (8-0). This is the dividend for the players who ran those Dan R. Hooks Stadium steps so many times when the temperature soared around the 100 degree mark back in August.

This is what makes those grueling two-a-day practice sessions worth the effort, the sweating, the straining and the getting in the necessary physical condition to even attain this level of the high school football season.

And  longtime Head Coach Dan Hooks reiterated as late as last week that this is the time of the season when his Mustangs can’t afford to have any letdowns, either on the practice field and hopefully not in a game. 

The team has once again come through the regular season without any serious injuries going into the first round of the state playoffs. “We have been very fortunate that none of our starting 22 players have suffered any injuries other than the normal bumps and bruises this season,” Hooks said while knocking on his desk made of wood Monday.

Hooks sports a brilliant 259-64-2 record at West Orange-Stark and is in the most important part of his 28th season at the helm of the Mustangs. He is preparing the team for his 19th run at the state playoffs. West Orange-Stark will be facing the Coldspring Trojans Saturday in the Class 3A Region III Division II bidistrict round of the state playoffs at Deer Park High School for a 6 p.m. kickoff.

His Mustangs concluded the regular season Friday night at Dan R. Hooks Stadium in West Orange with one of their most impressive offensive and defensive performances in quite some time. 

They crushed the undersized and overmatched Orangefield Bobcats 67-0 in front of an overflow Homecoming crowd to run their winning streak in district play to 29 straight since dropping down to Class 3A in 2004.

The ‘Stangs held the helpless Bobcats without a first down for the entire contest while amassing 33 of their own, out-rushing their foes 403 to 48 yards and adding another 212 through the airways while limiting the ‘Cats to minus eight yards passing.

The Mustangs’ credentials for the playoffs include a 350-plus yards of offense per game while the notorious Chain-Gang Defense limits each opponent to less than 110 yards per contest. “Our defense has been super all season long and has been especially stingy in the last two games,” Hooks bubbled.

The ringleaders on defense include Josh Lynch, Kevin Robinson, Robert Jiles, Terry Rubin and Jacorey Roberts while senior quarterback Ortavious Hypolite has passed for more than 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns and has rushed for over 500 yards and scored 10 touchdowns.

“Hypolite makes our offense work,” Hooks commented. “He understands the game of football and he’s a very smart young man.

I think he ranks around No. 8 in his senior class.” Several colleges are looking at him including TCU and Army. 

The ground game is led by senior tailback Quintavious Garrett who has gained close to 750 yards and has crossed the goal line 14 times. Hypolite’s favorite target is Trey Franks, who has hauled in 28 passes for over 500 yards and four TDs.

Coldspring finished the regular season with a 6-3 record, with the losses coming at the hands of some pretty good high school football teams. The Trojans lost to Crockett 21-6 and were outscored by Diboll 40-36 early in the season.  Their only other loss was to undefeated Cleveland 42-18 for the District 22-3A championship.

“They’re quite a bit better than last year,” Hooks said. Head Coach Brian Barbay’s offense runs from a wing-T set and mimics the offense of Newton run by his father Curtis Barbay. The key to the ground game is 6-5, 250-pound tailback James Scott, who also plays linebacker on defense and has committed to play for Texas Tech next season.

Quarterback Chet Allen is a good runner and throws the football more than the Trojans did last year when the Mustangs overwhelmed them 51-14 in the same bidistrict round. The fullback is speedy Andrew Leigh, who also is a track star for Coldspring.

The winner of this bidistrict game will meet Caldwell, who is enjoying a first-round bye.

KWICKIES…While watching the West Orange-Stark-Orangefield football game Friday night at Dan Hooks Stadium, we were visited by former Lady Mustang basketball star Brittany Scott, who returned to her alma mater for Homecoming. Brittany, now a sophomore, is not only starting for the University of Houston Lady Cougars, but also is the team’s captain. She said she is really looking forward to Dec. 2 when the U of H plays North Texas in Dallas where she will be guarding her former Lady Mustang teammate Brittany James.

Former Jasper Bulldog football standout middle linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is not only leading the nationally-ranked Missouri Tigers in tackles, but his 10.9 stops per game ranks as eighth-best in the nation. Sean wears jersey No. 12 and is a teammate of former West Orange-Stark Mustang Tommy Chavis, who starts at defensive tackle and wears jersey No. 48.

A note of interest: Every one of the nation’s top 16 teams in this week’s college Bowl Championship Series has at least one player on its respective roster that played high school football in the state of Texas. No. 2 Texas Tech, which ranks one place ahead of the Texas Longhorns, is 10-0 for the first time in 70 years.

Orange’s Scott Sterling finished tied for sixth place in last weekend’s PGA-Children’s Miracle Network Classic played at Walt Disney’s Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Resort. Sterling fired rounds of 70-63-66-71—270 and picked up a nifty $154,100 check which should give him enough earnings this season to retain his PGA card for the 2009 season. The tourney was won by Davis Love III, who finished at 25-under par 263, for his 20th career victory and a winner’s check of $828,000. Former PN-G and Lamar golfer Chris Stroud finished 10th with 273 and earned $101,967.

Although the Baltimore Ravens were only favored by one point over the Houston Texans Sunday at Reliant Stadium, they beat the tar out of them 41-13, dropping the Texans’ record to a miserable 3-6 and diminishing their hopes for making the playoffs to a mere dream for another season.

JUST BETWEEN US…The City of Orange lost one of its native sons last week when Jesse B. Gunstream, Jr. died after suffering a stroke a few weeks earlier. Jesse was a neighbor of this Korner for nearly 40 years, a great friend and fellow member of our neighborhood poker club. Jesse wasn’t only an ardent Texas Longhorn football fan, but he also played football at the University of Texas and was a teammate of fabled Dallas Cowboys head coach Tom Landry. He will be sorely missed.