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Mustangs coach Cornel Thompson ready entering 51st season; Mid County opponents come fast

WEST ORANGE — West Orange-Stark is not a program that sneaks up on anyone. At 80 percent, the school has the highest win percentage in the state.

One of the biggest reasons for the Mustangs’ success is Head Coach Cornel Thompson, who is entering his 51st season as a coach.

Thompson started his career as the Kirbyville baseball coach in 1971. He became the Stark High School baseball coach in 1974 before the two schools merged, which is when he began coaching linebackers.

He was named the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator for Dan Hooks.

From 1977-2017, Thompson coached 56 all-district linebackers and 21 all-state linebackers.

While an assistant coach, the mustangs won state championships in 1986 and 1987 and made it to the state finals in 1988 and 2000.

After being named head coach in 2010, Thompson’s teams went on to four straight state title games from 2014-2017, winning it all in 2015 and 2016 (team went 16-0). Since taking over, Thompson has a career record of 118-20.

Despite returning only four starters on each side of the ball this season, the Mustangs are favored to finish on top of District 11-4A Division II.

“We are short on some spots on defense,” Thompson said. “I am really worried about that. Our strength is going to be on the offensive line.”

Offensive Coordinator Ed Dyer said the program has always had high standards, and Thompson lives up to them.

“It is a battle every day,” he said. “You try to win every snap. A win for us is three yards or more every play. The expectations are extremely high here. The coaching staff knows that. It is interesting every day.”

Dyer has been on the staff since the 1990s.

During training camp this week, Thompson stuck with what he knows best – working with the linebackers, following them from drill to drill.

The head coach enjoys the process of watching athletes mold into solid football players.

Before breaking into position drills, the team met on the field before starting the day. Thompson went over the expectations. The coach seemed to have the attention of every player as he spoke.

Before he broke the huddle, the coach that would moments later be screaming at his players, encouraging them to keep pushing, had a simple question for his players.

“Do we have any birthdays today?” Thompson asked his players. “Come on, now. I want to sing.”

Unfortunately, he did not get to belt out the birthday song that day.

Thompson said hopefully the season will give him more to celebrate.

The Mustangs begin their season with a scrimmage at home against Port Neches-Groves Aug. 13 and start their non-district schedule against Nederland Aug. 27 at Bulldog Stadium.