Photo:  Chris Gunn getting the WOS players ready for Team picture during workouts

 

By Dave Rogers

For The Record

As another season looms near, Cornell Thompson is worried about back-to-back state champion West Orange-Stark Mustangs for several reasons – not the least of which is inexperience.

He’s optimistic the young Mustang players will develop into another powerhouse team but isn’t fooling himself that the transition will be smooth.

Consider his assessment of new quarterback Chaka Watson going into the Sept. 1 season opener:

“When we walk into Nederland in two weeks, his eyes will be [so big] he’ll look like a tree full of owls,” Thompson said.

“He’ll be big-eyes. His little heart will be pumping. He’ll be scared to death.”

West Orange-Stark has moved its Friday scrimmage to Port Neches-Groves, because of wet grounds. Varsity begins at 7 p.m.

The Mustangs will take a 27-game win streak into this season, coming off a 16-0 2016 campaign that ended with the school’s fourth state title.

Thompson’s team have all advanced at least to the third round of the playoffs.

But most of the players who compiled a 31-1 record over the past two seasons are gone, including quarterback Jack Dallas, state championship game MVP two years in a row.

Only seven starters – four on offense, three on defense – return.

“I think we can be pretty good. I think we can develop as a football team,” said Thompson, who is 78-11 after six full seasons as head coach.

“I believe we’ll end up being a pretty good football team. We’ve worked too hard to get where we’re at for it to go down the drain.”

Top returners include cornerback Jarron Morris, safety Teshaun Teel, defensive end Tyshon Watkins, linebacker Davien Teate, offensive linemen Paul Ivory, Bobby Rash and Ja’Corry Brady. Kavyn Cooper, a junior, should be the top runner, and he’ll double up at strong linebacker, the coach said.

Thompson name checks those players as “a few prospects,” while lamenting “a whole bunch of suspects.”

He seems particularly concerned that some older players who have been backups in the past haven’t stepped into leadership roles as upperclassmen.

“We’ve got some seniors walking around in white helmets,” the coach said. “They haven’t earned their silver helmets. They’re walking around with their lips sticking out feeling sorry for themselves.

“These guys have rode the coattails of the last two state champions and now it’s time for them to perform. And I don’t know if some of them can answer the bell.

“There could be more sophomores playing on the varsity for that reason. We’re going to put our best 11 on the field.”

Thompson looks for a big year from kicker Chad Dallas and he’s big on Morris’ abilities as a kick returners. He scored five times on returns a year ago.

And his new QB?

“Chaka’s coming on. The bootleg and the sprintouts, I think that’s his strengths,” the coach said.

“If the pocket breaks down, he can make a good play out of a bad play, and he can do it in a hurry.”

West Orange-Stark

Aug. 18 – at Port Neches-Groves (scrimmage), 7 p.m.

Aug. 24 – at Vidor (scrimmage), 7 p.m.

Sept. 1 – at Nederland, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 8 – LCM, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 15 – Bridge City, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 22 – Kipp Northeast, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 29 – at Silsbee, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 6 – Kennedale at Nacogdoches, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 13 – at Hamshire-Fannett, 7:30 p.m.*

Oct. 20 – Hardin-Jefferson, 7:30 p.m.*

Oct. 27 – bye

Nov. 3 – at Liberty, 7:30 p.m.*

Nov. 10 – Orangefield, 7:30 p.m.*

* District 12-4A II games