This Korner has been following the West Orange-Stark Mustang football program ever since Stark High and West Orange High merged in 1976. We watched the program win two state championships, finish runner-up twice and, on very few occasions, missed qualifying for the state playoffs.

We’ve seen players named to statewide honors, coaches being recognized for going above and beyond the call of duty, and players and coaches suffering painful injuries on or around the gridiron.

But today the Mustangs are hit with a malady that most high schools have mild cases of but not as severe as what has hit the West Orange-Stark campus. In one fail swoop, Head Coach Dan Hooks lost three of his top assistant coaches in a period of less than six weeks.

First, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Randy Crouch was tabbed by the Little Cypress-Mauriceville board of trustees to replace Todd Moody as the head football coach and athletic director. He began working at his new job the second week of February.

About the same time wide receivers’ coach Kevin Goodwin applied for and was named as the head football coach at Center High School, which is in his home town.

And a couple of weeks ago, Mike Pierce, the Mustangs’ defensive backfield coach, was tabbed by Crouch as the LC-M Bears’ defensive coordinator.

Although Hooks was very happy that three of his valuable assistants were moving up the coaching ladder and advancing their careers, it left him without three very important coaching positions.

“Losing those three coaches is like the math department losing three AP teachers at one time,” Hooks lamented. “One must remember that the head coach is only as good as the people around him.”

Crouch had been with the Mustangs’ football program for 11 years and will really have a challenge turning around an LCM football program that has had zero victories in its last 15 games.

Pierce who played his high school football at Vidor and was a standout Southland Conference defensive back at McNeese State, did a great job coaching the defensive backs at West Orange-Stark.
Goodwin played his collegiate football at Stephen F. Austin and was a teammate of Mustang assistant Toby Foreman at the Nacogdoches campus. He was only in his second year with the Mustangs when he got the call from his home town. “Center’s football program was in desperate straights and Kevin will pull them through, but it may take a couple of years,” Hooks commented.

“Losing those three assistant coaches not only put the football program in a bind,” Hooks pointed out, “but it also crippled other sports, too. Coach Crouch also was the power-lifting coach, Coach Goodman worked with the varsity track program and Pierce worked with the middle school track program.”

Hooks added that he was looking for replacements, but was not going to act too hastily. “We will be looking for people who are a fit for our program and will get along with the coaching staff, the players and the administration,” Hooks elaborated. “We’re certainly not going to act hastily and bring in someone that may have a problem.”

Hooks pointed out that the kids are doing their regular spring activities related to football, but can’t really do what the coaching staff wants to because Class 3A schools cannot participate in spring football drills like the larger schools.

He said that the football players are doing very well this spring after being tested on the Mustangs’ weight training program. “Some of our younger players have shown some real improvement,” Hooks said.

Several of the skill position players are starting to work out for the upcoming 7-on-7 tournament involving 16 teams that will be held in Anahuac May 16. “The top two teams will qualify for the 7-on-7 state tournament held each July at Texas A&M just before the week of coaching school,” Hooks elaborated. “I think we’re going to have a very good team.”

The longtime head coach said that Toby Foreman would assume the offensive coordinator’s job vacated by Crouch.

This Korner believes that Hooks shouldn’t have much trouble finding applicants who want to work in the Mustangs’ football program. So many coaches have advanced their careers after spending time under Hooks’ tutelage. 

And the five per cent pay raise recently approved by the West Orange-Cove ISD trustees that goes in effect this fall should help the situation.

KWICKIES…Local golf enthusiasts who traveled to Humble this weekend to watch Phil Mickelson play in the Houston Shell Open at Redstone Golf Club were in for a rude awakening when Mickelson shot 76 and 77 in the first two rounds and wasn’t around for Saturday or Sunday’s action because he failed to make the cut. Actually because of the rain out on Thursday, Mickelson finished his second round Saturday morning before hopping a jet back home to California.

When Michigan State was getting ready to play upstart Indiana State for the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship in 1979, the Spartans coach Jud Heathcote used his best player, Magic Johnson, to portray Indiana State’s Larry Bird for the scout team. Magic said he was hitting shots from all over the court pretending he was Bird, despite the good defense of his Spartan teammates. And it paid huge dividends for Heathcote because Michigan State beat Indiana State and Bird 75-64 and Magic Johnson was named the Final Four’s Most Valuable Player.

West Orange-Stark offensive coordinator Toby Foreman attended the University of Texas annual Orange and White spring football game in Austin Saturday and watched former Mustang Earl Thomas intercept a Colt McCoy pass and run it back 30 yards for a touchdown in last weekend. Foreman said that Thomas also made eight tackles from his safety position while teammate Deon Beasley almost scored on a punt return and made several key defensive plays from his cornerback position. The Orange team beat the White team 21-7.

The Lamar Cardinal baseball team appears to be back to its winning ways after sweeping a three-game series from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi last weekend. The Big Red squeezed out a 3-1 win Friday night, shut out the Islanders 4-0 Saturday and outscored the visitors 11-7 Sunday. The sweep upped the Cardinals’ Southland Conference record to 9-6 and moved them into a third place tie with Sam Houston State and Texas-Arlington, one game behind co-leaders Southeastern Louisiana and Texas State. Lamar’s overall record for the season is 22-10 and they travel to Huntsville Friday for a three-game weekend series against the Sam Houston Bearkats.

Former Houston Astros’ versatile utility player Mike Lamb has had difficulty getting any playing time since he decided to leave the Astros for greener pastures a couple of years ago. Last weekend he was given his outright release by the Milwaukee Brewers.

JUST BETWEEN US…The 2009 major league baseball season got under way Monday night for our Houston Astros, who to a man feel a whole lot more optimistic about how they will fare this season than this Korner and the hundreds of Astros fans who suffered through a spring training where the team at one time was a miserable 2-14. Ace starting pitcher Roy Oswalt commented last weekend, “I think we can do better than a lot of people think. I think if we (five starting pitchers) can get 30-32 starts each we can win the division.” The “we” he was referring to was himself, lefty Mike Hampton, Russ Ortiz, Brian Moehler and Wandy Rodriguez. What all five have in common is that none of them are under the age of 30. In fact only super outfielder Hunter Pence, 25, is about the only player under 30 who will see significant playing time early in the season. Houston manager Cecil Cooper said he would not be surprised if the team wins 90 games this season. All this Korner can add is that there are 162 games to play before Cooper is proven either right or full of it.