Photo: Kim Brent / The Enterprise
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On a cold, wet December night almost a year ago to the day, Silsbee receiver Darshon Turk could hardly see the ball spiraling toward him. He’s not sure how his quarterback, Raymond Foster, even made the throw through the pouring rain during last season’s Class 4A-II regional final against district rival West Orange-Stark.
But when the ball finally landed in Turk’s hands on Silsbee’s first play from scrimmage, the senior took it 75 yards for the touchdown that sparked the Tigers’ upset win over the Mustangs.
Despite the heavy rain and gusts of wind, Turk was prepared for the explosive play after the team spent all week making sure they could execute the big play.
“We were practicing the play throughout the whole week, and coach (Randy) Smith said it would be the first play of the game,” recalled Turk, who now runs track at the University of Louisiana-Monroe. “When the game had started, I didn’t think he would call it because of the rain. But he still called it. I feel like it caught the defense off guard. They thought we were going to run the ball.”
Silsbee’s playoff win would be their first over West Orange-Stark in a decade, sending the Tigers to the state semifinals.
Now, a year later, the Mustangs will get their shot at regional-final redemption when the two teams meet in Beaumont ISD Stadium on Friday night.
The Enterprise took a detailed look back at last year’s contest that has changed the course of the rivalry between Silsbee and West Orange-Stark.
Rain, rain go away
When senior running back Kavyn Cooper first got off the bus at Texas Drive Stadium in Porter, he thought the game might not happen. Swirling winds and heavy rainfall made conditions almost unplayable.
Smith and Mustangs head coach Cornel Thompson discussed potentially postponing the game until the next day, but ultimately decided to play through the stormy conditions. The weather would become a big factor affecting both teams throughout the night.
“That wasn’t no game-playing weather,” Cooper said when describing the conditions.
Silsbee’s fast start
The Tigers built their big lead by using chunk plays at every chance. Turk’s long touchdown catch got Silsbee started, and the Tigers later scored on a 29-yard touchdown run from then-junior running back Dralyn Taylor.
Instead of playing conservatively, Silsbee wanted to come out firing on offense.
“That was our gameplan going in,” Smith said after the game. “We wanted to take some shots early and it worked.”
Then the defense got involved in Silsbee’s scoring, too. A fumbled hand-off by WO-S was recovered by Silsbee’s Dillion Tarver and taken back 35 yards for a touchdown, bringing the Tigers advantage to 19-2. It was the second of four lost fumbles for WO-S in the loss.
The Mustangs would respond, however, getting a short touchdown run from Cooper not long before the half to get WO-S back in the game at 19-9.
Scoreless second half
Cooper’s touchdown would be the last score of the game for either team as the weather continued to impact each team’s gameplan.
With rain pouring down in the fourth quarter, Silsbee’s defense held off the Mustangs with multiple fourth-down stops deep in Tigers territory.
WO-S only completed two passes, and relied on its best offensive threats. The one-two punch of Cooper and Elijah Gales combined for 154 yards rushing.
“It was easy on defense because we knew they weren’t going to be able to throw, so we could just all fly to the ball,” Turk said. “And they weren’t able to hold on to the ball in the the rain so we were able to get a few turnovers.”
Silsbee’s offense didn’t do much either, but its early lead was enough to win the game. The Tigers were simply trying to hold on to the football in the fourth quarter.
“I was just thinking ‘Do not put the ball on the turf,’” Taylor said after the game. “If you put the ball on the turf, you weren’t going back in.”
Silsbee went on to lose a close game in the state semifinals. The Tigers fell to Cuero 29-24, despite making a 15-point comeback in the second half. It was the Tigers’ first appearance in the semifinal round since 1977.
Earlier this season, in the first meeting between Silsbee and WO-S, the Mustangs came away with a 17-9 road victory.
With the rematch between the Tigers and the Mustangs just days away, Turk said he has been in touch with a few current Tiger players.
“I talk to them daily,” Turk said. “They’re all locked in and ready to win this game Friday. I feel like they’ll win state.”
Cooper, on the other hand, who is now at Navarro Junior College, wants to see a little revenge from his former teammates at WO-S.
“Of course,” Cooper said. “Telling them we need that win back.”
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