Friday December 16, 11 a.m.
West Orange Stark 15-0
Texas high school football royalty makes another appearance at state in the West Orange Stark Mustangs. The Mustangs are looking for their fourth state title and they make their third straight trip to the championship on Friday. The Mustangs are led by quarterback Jack Dallas who's started all three of the Mustangs state title games, beating Celina last year at NRG. The Mustangs will run as many athletes and skill position players as almost anyone in the state making them pound for pound one of the best teams in Texas.
Defensively the Mustangs beat their first four opponents in 2016 by a combined 254-2. More recently they held Navarro's slot T offense to less that three yards a carry. The Mustangs have allowed a grand total of 63 points all season and shut down some dominant offenses along the way. They've allowed more than 14 points just once and in the playoffs the Mustangs allow just 6.6 points a game. West Orange Stark is where offenses go to die. Mandel Turner-King at nose guard leads the front and linebacker Justin Brown is a playmaker as well.
Sweetwater makes it's first trip to the finals since 1985 when the Mustangs won it all. This year the Mustangs have run through the playoff bracket and even knocked off perennial contender Gilmer in the process. The Mustangs average 43 points per game in the playoff and use a high octane spread to get it done. Against Gilmer, quarterback Chris Thompson accounted for 486 of the 500 yards of total offense. On the season, Thompson has accounted for 52 touchdowns. If you want to stop Sweetwater, you'd do well to contain him. Jacoby Hill at running back is another threat in the run game and in spite of the spread and tempo Sweetwater likes to use, they want and need to run the ball.
Hunt also stars on the defense where he's been in on over 100 tackles this season for a bend but don't break defense. He teams with Hunter Mobley at linebacker to provide one of the more productive tackling duos in the state. The Mustang defense runs a multiple look as in, they don't run the same defense week to week. We'd also like to point out that Sweetwater should get some sort of bonus credit for Head Coach Shane Mobley's handle bar mustache. It's phenomenal.
Sweetwater plays in one of the iconic stadiums in the state, the Mustang Bowl. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the 30s, the Mustang Bowl is a mammoth beautiful facility that is home to Sweetwater and has seen greats like Slinging Sammy Baugh, Bulldog Turner and even Colt McCoy.
Friday December 16, 4 p.m.
Carthage has won state four times since 2008. Technically surviving Carthage's district is considered half a state title, with Kilgore, Henderson, and Chapel Hill in the mix. Carthage beat Kilgore at state back in 2013 in meeting of schools that are literally 43 miles apart. It's a brutal district and surviving it prepares teams to run through the rest of the State. That's the case with Carthage, they lost two district games and yet fought their way into the finals. They won their last three games by nine points, including a rematch with district rival Henderson who beat the Bulldogs earlier in 2016. Keontay Ingram is the key to Carthage's offense, as he goes so go the Bulldogs.
On defense Carthage throws out a ton of athletes including linebacker Mykel Gates and corners Mekhi Colbert and Nik Moore. Up front defensive end Tre Gatlin is disruptive with over 13 tackles for loss. At 6'6 242 pounds, he's getting attention from recruiters. What's scary is that most of Carthage's skill players will be back in 2017 for another run.
Abilene Wylie (12-1)
Unlike a most of the state participants, Wylie is known for its defense. Gatlin Martin intercepted three passes against Kennedale and he's been a playmaker all season. Up front Dion Novill can bring pressure. The Bulldogs have shut down a number of really offenses including perennial 4A power Argyle, limiting the Eagles to 14 points. The Bulldogs have allowed more than 17 points just twice all year.
The question for Wylie will be their ability to put up points. Quarterback Zach Smith won the job in fall camp and has been a find for the Bulldogs. While he's not an explosive player, the threat of his legs make him dangerous. He's joined by runner Brooks Pepper a versatile back who's been a consistent asset for the offense. Wylie has made the playoffs every year since 1993, so their no strangers to playing elite football teams. Wylie won the title in 2004, knocking off Cuero to bring home the trophy.