West Orange-Stark will be challenge for Liberty
It will be David vs. Goliath this Friday night at Dan Hooks Stadium in West Orange. We know how the Biblical account turned out. How the Liberty Panthers will fare against the No. 1 team in the state and the 2015 state champions is another story whose final chapter begins at 7:30.
In the Biblical account, much smaller David, a young man and shepherd boy, took five smooth stones into the battle against the much larger, taller giant Goliath who had on armor and was the premiere fighter for the Philistines.
Ranked as the best team in the state, the Mustangs present a daunting task against all opponents.
But David also faced what seemed to be insurmountable odds.
What five stones can Liberty head coach Chad Taylor use to win the battle?
The first would be a belief that they can win. Without faith in themselves, who else will? In the last two meetings, the Panthers lost both games, scoring only one touchdown to their 94 points.
It hasn’t always been that way. Some naysayers may have forgotten some of the whippings Liberty administered to West Orange in 1960 (46-0) or 1964 (34-0). In fact, Liberty owned the Mustangs during the 1960s defeating them six out of eight games in that decade.
The Panthers must pick up the stone of a good plan. For more than a dozen weeks, the coaches have given them instruction and game plans on how to defeat their opponents. Distractions last week cost them an undefeated season. There can be none of that this week at all. When I took scuba diving lessons, the mantra was ‘plan your dive, dive your plan.’ The Panthers must do the same. Plan to win and then follow that plan on the gridiron.
The third stone must be that of hard work. David was a servant and did the work. There was no ascending to become king without service and obedience. There are but a few days remaining for that work to culminate in a district championship so these afternoon rehearsals should be with complete physicality, repeating those skills over and again with one goal in mind - victory.
Focus and mental preparation must be the fourth stone. It’s not enough just to believe winning is possible, but visualizing it, dreaming it as well.
Lastly, the Panthers will need the support and encouragement of their fans to overcome this kind of obstacle. Bring loud voices, cowbells, anything that will make noise to help the Panthers. Deck out your cars and businesses showing support. It will all help our students know that they have the backing of the community - win or lose!
During a meeting earlier this week, a community member lamented that Liberty has never beaten West Orange. That’s not true!
They have won and soundly - not on every occasion, but several.
The rivalry has an 89-year history, one of the oldest in the state. During that time the two teams have faced off on the grid-iron 22 times. The overall record of wins, losses and ties for the teams is 7-12-2 with West Orange having a slight lead.
In only Liberty’s third year of UIL competition, they met Orange High in 1927 and lost 52-0. Liberty only played five varsity games that year and lost all of them including a 7-0 loss to neighboring Dayton.
It wasn’t until 1960 when the tide began to change. The Panthers reeled off six victories over then West Orange.
Since 2006, after West Orange and Lutcher-Stark high schools combined because of declining attendance numbers, WO-S has dominated with wins of 60-0 in 2006 in the first round of the playoffs, and 63-7 in 2010, again in the first round of the playoffs.
When the Mustangs joined the same district with Liberty in 2014 and 2015, the results were much the same-45-7 and 49-0.
So, what are the playoff implications?
The Panthers are in regardless whether they win or lose. For a district title, they not only have to defeat WO-S, but by 11 points because of their loss to Hardin-Jefferson.
At this point, those representing District 12-4A, Division II will be West Orange-Stark (2-0), Liberty (2-1), and Orangefield (1-1) if they defeat Hardin-Jefferson Friday night. They will face opponents from 11-4A, Division II Bellville (2-0), Shepherd (2-0), Madisonville (1-1), and Tarkington (1-2).
Here’s a complete list of games between Orange, West Orange and West Orange-Stark and Liberty.
1927 Orange High, 0-52
1930 Orange High, 0-0 tie
1932 Orange High, 0-7
Orange High, 13-13 tie
1934 Orange High, 0-37
1940 Orange High, 12-20
1960 West Orange, 46-0
1961 West Orange, 30-44
1964 West Orange, 34-0
1965 West Orange, 12-20
1966 West Orange, 13-8
1967 West Orange, 22-18
1968 West Orange, 28-22
1969 West Orange, 41-30
1970 West Orange, 7-9
1971 West Orange, 32-21
1976 West Orange, 13-14
2006 West Orange-Stark, 0-60 (Bi-District round of playoffs, 3A Div. 2)
2010 West Orange-Stark, 7-63 (Bi-District round of playoffs, 3A Div. 2)
2014 West Orange-Stark, 7-45
2015 West Orange-Stark, 0-49