Mustangs return to 4A Division II final
SPRING BRANCH – They got all they could handle from a feisty Cuero team but the West Orange-Stark Mustangs found their “passing fancy” to punch a ticket to the Class 4A Division II state championship game for the second straight year as they downed the Gobblers 41-28 in the state semifinals Saturday at Darrell Tully Stadium.
Mustang junior quarterback Jack Dallas completed 15 of 23 passes for 268 yards and five touchdowns while WO-S receiver Thomas Wallace had an amazing day, hauling in five passes for 204 yards and four scores. The Mustangs (14-1) will now move on to face Celina (15-0) in the state championship game Friday at 4 p.m. at Houston’s NRG Stadium, the home of the Houston Texans. Celina edged out last year’s state champion Gilmer 49-44 in the other semifinal.
“There are about 100 teams in our division and now there is only two and the Mustangs are one of them for the second straight year,” said Mustang coach Cornel Thompson. “We couldn’t be happier for our kids, our staff, our school and our community. We had great support throughout the playoffs and we need that again in Houston come Friday. What makes this group so special is that we started the year as such a young team. To watch them grow and mature has really been a lot of fun.”
Despite the windy and sometimes wet conditions, the passing game was so key for the Mustangs on Saturday.
“We knew we had to come out here and earn this one,” said Thompson. “Cuero has a feisty team with a great tradition and they were not going to lay over. We felt like we could do some things with our passing game and our play-action stuff and it worked really well.”
The Mustang “air show” offset a superb performance by Cuero quarterback Elex Martinez. Martinez piled up 232 yards and four touchdowns on 26 carries as the Gobblers wrapped up their campaign with a 9-6 mark. Martinez also passed for 99 yards with a 11-for-21 effort.
“That Martinez kid gave a tremendous effort,” said Thompson. “He’s more of a running back than a quarterback and he was slick and hard to bring down. I hated to see him get hurt late in that fourth quarter.”
Cuero finished with 355 total yards while the Mustangs had 349. The Mustangs opened the third quarter with a five-play, 46-yard scoring march. After getting a big interference call on the Gobblers at the Cuero 25, the Mustangs hit paydirt on a perfectly executed 21-yard touchdown screen pass from Dallas to back Jeremiah Shaw. Dallas found K.J. Miller on the two-point conversion pass to make it 34-21 with 9:45 in the third. WO-S applied some more hurt to the Gobblers by executing a nine-play, 56-yard drive. Dallas hit Shaw on a 15-yard pass to the Cuero 22 to set up a third-and-5 and he finished it by hooking up with Wallace again, this time on a short route that turned into a 22-yard touchdown thanks to Wallace’s legs, upping the lead to 41-21 with 4:15 in the third.
“Jack [Dallas] was on the money today and did a great job on the move when he had too,” said Thompson. “Wallace, what a day, he scored 80 percent of the time he caught it. He’s a hard cover for anybody.”
Martinez answered the bell again for the Gobblers though as he scampered 41 yards for his fourth TD to trim the gap to 41-28 on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Mustangs thwarted a Cuero drive at the Mustang 17 with 7:10 remaining when Jarron Morris plopped on a Martinez fumble.
“That was a huge play, because they [Cuero] had a little momentum going,” said Thompson.”
WO-S defensive back Ronald Carter picked off Cuero backup Deandre Lang and returned it all the way to the Gobbler 34 to help finish things off.
WO-S took a 26-21 lead in at intermission after a action-packed first half that saw a ton of big plays from both teams. Dallas completed 9 of 11 passes for 198 yards and three TDs in the first 24 minutes. Wallace hauled in three catches for 175 yards, each reception going for a touchdown.
Martinez picked up 151 yards on 16 carries for the Gobblers in the half, scoring on three TD scampers.
The Mustangs piled up 251 total yards in the first half on just 20 plays. The Gobblers had 35 plays to get 214 yards.
The Mustangs wasted little time getting on the scoreboard on their first possession after holding the Gobblers to a three-and-out when Dallas found a streaking Wallace down the left sideline for a 58-yard touchdown bomb. The two-point conversion failed but the Mustangs led 6-0 with 9:32 in the first quarter.
The Gobblers retaliated nicely on the ensuing drive, marching 98 yards in six plays to take the lead. Martinez completed a 23-yard pass to Zach Hopkins and the swift quarterback followed with a 60-yard dart up the middle that got all the way down to the Mustang 12. Two plays later Martinez did the honors, scoring from 12 yards out off left tackle.
Kicker Isaiah Mungia nailed the extra-point as the Gobblers led 7-6 with 6:39 in the first. Cuero stunned the Mustangs by converting a onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, taking over at the WO-S 45.
The Gobblers found the end zone three plays later. Martinez teamed up with Hopkins on a 18-yard pass and Martinez found the end zone again, zipping 26 yards for the score around the left end, making it 14-6 with 5:40 in the first.
The Mustangs responded well by zipping 62 yards in five plays to tie things up. Jeremiah Shaw broke loose for a 16-yard gain to the Cuero 46. Four plays later on fourth-and-1 from the 37 the Mustangs used some trickery to perfection as Keion Hancock lined up at Wildcat Quarterback and completed a pass over the middle on a dime to Wallace, who hauled it in for a 37-yard touchdown strike. Dallas hit back Justin Brown on the two-point conversion pass to knot the game at 14-14 with 3:04 in the first.
“That was a big play to get it into the end zone there,” said Thompson. “Keion is our Wildcat guy but he’s more than capable of throwing it. That was about a perfect pass as you could get.”
After holding Cuero deep in Gobbler territory, the Gobblers managed just a three-yard punt as the Mustangs took over at the Cuero 16. The Mustangs found paydirt two plays later when a scrambling Dallas found receiver Jay’len Mathews in the right corner of the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown strike. The point-after kick failed as WO-S led 20-14 with 0:37 in the first.
The big plays continued for the Mustangs when Dallas hit Wallace, who ran a great route on the left side, for a 80-yard touchdown bomb that rocked the Gobbler defense, pushing the lead to 26-14 with 8:48 in the half.
Cuero countered with a superb 10-play, 80-yard drive near the end of the half. Martinez carried four times for 54 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown scamper around left end on third-and-10 to cut the Mustang lead to 26-21 with 1:01 in the half. The Mustangs drove from their own 49 all the way to the Gobbler 1 on the last drive of the half only to be turned back. After having 12 men on the field on third down, the Mustangs got pushed back to the 6 and the Gobblers were able to sack Dallas on the last play of the half.