WEST ORANGE —
Sometimes the number of plays you run means a lot, but it’s the big plays that count and the West Orange-Stark Mustangs big-played the Hardin-Jefferson Hawks into submission Friday night at Hooks Stadium.
Mustang quarterback Dillon Sterling-Cole completed 6-of-8 passes for a whopping 206 yards and three touchdowns and the Mustang defense got stingy in the second half as WO-S rolled to a 46-6 District 21-3A victory.
The Hawks (3-2, 0-1) ran 55 plays compared to the Mustangs’ 35 but it was big plays on both sides of the ball that led to the WO-S (4-1, 2-0) victory.
“This was a physical game and the kids enjoyed it,” said Mustang coach Cornel Thompson. “Give the Hawks some credit, they played hard and Coach (Dewayne) DuBois has that program improving a bunch. That offense they run is hard to stop. We made some adjustments at the half that paid off.”
The Hawks may have dominated in total plays in the first half but the Mustangs dominated in the big ones as WO-S led 21-6 at intermission.
Sterling-Cole completed 4-of-5 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.
“Offensively, we connected on some big plays in that first half that got us going,” said Thompson. “It’s always big when you have some athletes at receiver like we do and Sterling-Cole was on the money. Our passing game is really starting to click.”
The Mustangs gained 240 yards in the first 24 minutes while the Hawks had 149, 140 of it via the ground.
WO-S finished with 319 yards while the Hawks had 197.
H-J ran 32 plays in the first half compared to the Mustangs’ 15 as the Hawks’ Slot-T was running well. H-J controlled 16:14 of the clock in the half while the Mustangs had it for 7:46.
The Mustangs got on the board in a hurry on their second offensive play from scrimmage when Sterling-Cole hit Deionte Thompson over the middle and Thompson did the rest, sprinting 82 yards for the touchdown. Thompson finished with two catches for 99 yards. Kicker Rodikson Cano booted the extra-point as WO-S led 7-0 with 8:14 left in the first.
The Hawks then chewed up 9:27 off the clock with a 17-play drive from their own 21 and moved all the way to the Mustang 10 but WO-S stuffed quarterback Camden DuBois on a fourth-and-2 play.
The Mustangs hit paydirt again six plays later when tailback Chris James capped off a 90-yard drive with a 19-yard touchdown burst up the middle with 8:01 in the second quarter. The drive was highlighted by a 52-yard pass from Sterling-Cole to Will Johnson. Johnson hauled in three catches for 75 yards.
The Hawks responded nicely with a four-play, 51-yard drive to get on the board. Tailback Hunter Cooley had three runs that went for 47 yards, including a 23-yard trap play up the middle that found the end zone. The extra-point kick failed as H-J trailed 14-6 with 6:32 left in the half.
Cooley had 65 yards on six carries at the half. He finished with 83 yards on 13 carries while backfield mate Logan Thompson had 53 yards on seven carries.
It didn’t take long for the Mustangs hit paydirt again as they navigated 66 yards in seven plays capped off by a 13-yard touchdown pass from Sterling-Cole to Johnson near the right pylon on a third-and-goal from the 13 with 3:06 in the half. The big play of the drive came on a Sterling-Cole 45-yard screen pass to receiver Tre Spencer.
The Hawks received a 55-yard kickoff return by Cooley on the ensuing kickoff. The Hawks got as far as the Mustang 19 but were stuffed by the Mustang defense on back-to-back plays.
With 8:25 left in the third, Mustang Tre Baldwin blocked a punt by Jared Gieseke at the H-J 35 and teammate Mandel King scooped it up and ran it to the H-J 8. Three plays later, Sterling-Cole hooked up with Spencer with a four-yard touchdown pass along the left side to make it 27-6 with 7:16 in the third.
It got worse for the Hawks on their next series when back Logan Thompson fumbled at the H-J 32 and James scooped up the loose leather and returned it 32 yards for the score to make it 33-6 with 6:25 in the third.
Things got a little even rougher for the visitors from Sour Lake when Mustang linebacker Elijah Teel picked off a DuBois pass at the Mustang 28 and returned it all the way to the H-J 9 with a little over a minute left in the third. Three plays later Sterling-Cole took it into the end zone from three yards out on the first play of the fourth period to push the lead to 40-6.
“I was proud of our defense in the second half, they stepped up and made some nice plays,” said Thompson. “These type of offenses are hard to defend and you’ve got to make the right adjustments. We’ve got two more in a row that runs the same style in Orangefield and Buna. We’ll enjoy the bye week next week and then get back after it.”
The Mustangs went up 46-6 with 3:48 left in the game when Chase Rutledge hooked up with Dwain Boullard on a six-yard touchdown pass in the left side of the end zone.
WO-S will have their bye week next week and will return to action Oct. 18 at Orangefield. Hardin-Jefferson will welcome Orangefield next week.