WOS Mustang running back Jeremiah Shaw dives in for a touchdown as the Mustangs defeat Sweetwater 24-6 to win the state football championship.   RECORD PHOTO: Tony Gunn

For The Record- Meri Elen Jacobs

As quarterback Jack Dallas lined up to take the last snap from center Ryan Ragsdale, tears poured down his face. In fact, the tears had been falling for several minutes. It wasn’t just the realization that they had beaten the Sweetwater Mustangs, 24-6, to win their second straight title, but the realization that this was the last play for him and his teammates together ever.
Their “one dream, one team” had come true but so had the realization that this was it for them as a team. This dream team of seniors, who played together since they were five years old, would never take the field as a team again.
But what memories they made, especially the last three years!
“This was a great run, outstanding,” Head Coach Cornel Thompson said. “I want to thank the players, especially the 20 seniors for allowing us to enjoy the ride. The sacrifice and commitment from the players, their families and the coaching staff did not go unnoticed.”
This years’ team did two things that haven’t ever been done in the history of West Orange-Stark. They finished with an unblemished 16-0 season and they won a state championship in Dallas at AT&T Stadium. This group also set many records and put themselves at the top with the best teams to ever come through WO-S, as well as the best in the nation.
“We had a very difficult year, trying to maintain while everyone was shooting at us,” Thompson said. “But we played our rears off for 20 weeks and beat a quality football team that is very well-coached to win the state title.”
The calm, cool and collected Mustangs saw their first drive turn into a fiasco when Sweetwater was able to scoop up a loose ball and take it 96 yards for the first score of the game. But that would also be the only time Sweetwater would score.
“We had a malfunction early in the game but we knew that there was no need to panic,” Thompson said. “We had enough confidence that we were going to play and finish the game. Scoring just before the half was monumental. We did to them what Gilmer did to us two years ago and that was steal the momentum.”
On their last drive of the half, Keion Hancock lined up as the wildcat quarterback and ran for two first downs before taking the handoff and heaving the ball to Jay’len Mathews who made a spectacular one handed catch, with three of Sweetwater’s defenders on him. Two plays later, Dallas evaded several red Mustangs before finding Keion Hancock down the sideline for a 14 yard gain to keep the drive alive. Jeremiah Shaw scored on first and goal from the 2 yard line and kicker Chad Dallas’ PAT was good, to put WO-S up, 7-6, heading into the half.
“We really started playing our game the second half,” Thompson said. “Jarron Morris picked off that quick slant on the second play and we were able to capitalize on that with a (20-yard) field goal by Chad that put us ahead 10-7.”
WO-S had two other touchdowns set up by the defense. Ronald Carter recovered a Christ Thompson fumble at the 35 yard line and three plays later, Dallas ran it in on a quarterback sneak. Brother Chad’s PAT was good and WO-S led, 17-7.
Sweetwater took the ball, having to use their backup quarterback after Thompson went out with an injury, and on fourth down, Justin Brown intercepted and ran it back 31 yards for the score.
“I was really proud of our defense,” Thompson said. “They bowed up and stopped them on several fourth down plays and also kept them out of the end zone. We were clearly the better team on the field.”
Thompson said he got texts from former players, serving in Afghanistan that listed to the game. He also wanted to thank 1st Financial and Chevron Phillips for making it possible for the employees to see the WO-S Mustangs play, and a special thanks to the administration, faculty, fan base and the people who lined the streets to see the Mustangs off for all of their support since the first of August.
“As you walk out of the tunnel and look to your left and see all of the blue and silver, and we kept gaining momentum and the crowd just kept growing, you couldn’t help but notice,” Thompson said. “These varsity guys have no idea what they have accomplished on and off the field to pull the little town of Orange together. We were all after the same thing. It was a total family thing. Didn’t matter what color you were, how old or young you were, how big or little you were, everyone was pulling for the Mustangs.”
The athletic ability, the overall commitment from everyone and the sacrifice was what made this team who they are…the 2016 4A Division 2 State Champions!!