WOS Head Coach, AD Thompson retires after dominant run with Mustangs

Published 11:00 pm Friday, December 17, 2021

After 11 seasons of leading the state’s winningest football program, West Orange-Stark Head Football Coach and Athletic Director Cornel Thompson announced this week he is retiring.

Thompson spent 51 years coaching, but other than a couple years in Kirbyville, one in Palestine and two in Huntsville, Thompson spent the other 46 years with the Mustangs.

He spent 35 of those years as a top-notch linebackers coach and defensive coordinator, before he took over the head post in 2011. He also spent time, with nice success, as the head baseball coach at Stark High and at WOS.

In West Orange-Stark lore, he will always simply be known as “Coach T.”

Now the man simply wants to be Frances Thompson’s main squeeze all of the time and “Paw Paw T” to his grandchildren.

“It’s time to put up the whistle, but like I’ve always said, ‘Once a Mustang, always a Mustang,’” said Thompson. “But it’s time for me to move on and enjoy the rest of my life. Frances and I have been married 33 years, and I’m so ready to be with her all of the time now. She has been a trooper and a warrior and has been right there by my side. She’s my prettiest assistant. She’s watched so much film over the years, and I’ve drug her to so many clinics all over the country. It’s time for me to devote my entire energy to her and my family.”

Thompson has enjoyed the family support system he has had over the years.

“For so many years, my kids sacrificed because of all the hours I put into coaching, but they have always been there supporting me all the way,” Thompson said. “I was fortunate to coach my two sons, Marcus and Michael, and my stepson, Chad. I have a tremendous stepdaughter in Nikki. Sometimes, I wish I could have gone back in time. I would have spent so much more time with them than what I did. Now, I get a golden opportunity to do just that. I’m really looking forward to spoiling my grandkids and be one happy Paw-Paw.”

Thompson knew he was getting out of the game when the season started after he had to miss the Nederland game due to a health scare.

“It’s been a tough couple years, with the COVID situation and then I got sick after taking one of the vaccines and that really scared me a lot,” said Thompson. “That made me reflect on a lot of things. I was grateful that I got through that and now I just want to spend all of my time on this Earth with my wonderful family.”

One thing for certain, there will be many opposing teams and players that will be glad to see that ‘Paw-Paw’ head off to his mini-ranch in Orangefield to raise his Longhorns.

Thompson posted a record of 129-22 as head coach from 2011-2021 for a winning percentage of .854. The Mustangs outscored their opponents 5,587 (37.0 points a game) to 1,688 (11.2 points a game).

Of course, who can forget that four-year run between 2014-2017 in which the Mustangs won two state titles (2015 and 2016) and were state runnersup (2014 and 2017). The 2016 state champions will arguably go down as one of the best teams in the state’s history when they went 16-0 and outscored opponents 811-69.

The Mustangs advanced to the 4A Region III Finals 10 out of Thompson’s 11 years at the helm.

“Let’s just say I have been blessed to have been able to coach some of the finest kids and some of the best coaching staffs ever assembled,” said Thompson. “Like I have said before, ‘You can’t win the Kentucky Derby with a mule.’ We’ve had some tremendous talent walk through this field house. Most of them bought into the system we started here with Coach (Steve) McCarthy and Dan Ray (Hooks). The kids bought into our offseason, bought in on how we practice. We always made a point to them that nobody else was going to outwork the Mustangs.”

Coach Thompson said he was proud to be able to have coached former Mustangs that played in the National Football League like Kevin Smith, Earl Thomas, Deionte Thompson, Chris Cole, Greg Hill and Ernest Anderson.

Thompson is going to miss those days in the field house and on the field with assistants that will always be in his life.

“The friendships I have gained over the years, and I’ve been so fortunate to work with so many wonderful coaches over the past 51 years, is something I will cherish forever,” said Thompson. “All of those guys will always feel like family and I love all of them. I’m so going to miss Thereze (Sichko). Nobody works harder as an Athletic Secretary than her. She’s a rock around here. There will be plenty of smiles, hugs and plenty of tears around here for the next few weeks, but they are going to be happy ones.”

Thompson turned in his resignation Monday at the WOCCISD Office and the District has posted the Athletic Director/Head Football Coach job on their website already.

Thompson wants to be a part of the hiring process as well and said he would do what ever he could to help the next man up.

“There will be a lot of applicants for the job, I’m sure of it,” said Thompson. “I told Superintendent (Rickie) Harris that I would be a part of the process for sure. From what I understand, they want to get a 12 to 15-person panel to get together and pick the best candidates as far as the applicants and search goes.”

Thompson earned District Coach of the Year honors all 11 years.

Under Thompson’s guidance, the Mustangs went a perfect 53-0 in district play. In those 53 wins, they outscored the opposition 2,161 (40.8 points a game) to 392 (7.4 points a game). The Mustangs accumulated 18 shutouts and held district opponents to seven points or fewer in 15 other games.

“Wow, I really didn’t realize those numbers,” said Thompson. “That’s a credit to a great bunch of kids and a great coaching staff. I don’t deserve all that credit, it’s a tribute to the kids’ and the coaching staffs’ work ethic and commitment to the program.”

The Mustangs also notched a 41-9 playoff record for a .820 winning percentage during Thompson’s reign. That’s and extra five more regular seasons (50 games) that the Mustangs played in the last 11 years in the playoffs alone. In those 50 games, the Mustangs outscored their playoff opponents 1,874 (37.5 points a game) to 655 (13.1 points a game). He saw 19 Mustangs nab All-State accolades since 2011.

“No question, we’ve had a great run since the two schools merged back in 1977 and the people, coaches, teachers and kids I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to come across will always have a special place in my heart,” said Thompson. “I would love to thank so many people right now but that list would just go on forever. Coaching is not a job that’s as easy as most people think. I’ve been blessed to have done it for 51 years, not many people can say that, what a great ride it was for sure.”