MUSTANGS ADVANCE TO STATE FINAL

Defeat Westlake 23-14 in a Slugfest

By Allan Jamail

Pflugerville, Tx. ~ On December 9, 2023, in a windy game, the North Shore Mustangs survived a close contest to the Austin Westlake Chaparrals (Chaps), 23 – 14, in a slugfest of a game. The Eastside Boys had to be bused over three hours (195 miles) to play the Austin Chaps, who were only about thirty minutes from the Pfield showdown. Westlake has just two losses this decade, and both have been to North Shore.

North Shore clinched a spot in the UIL 6A Division 1 state championship contest for the fifth time over the last six years. The game will be at the Dallas Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, TX, on Saturday, December 16th at 3PM. They will play the Duncanville Panthers in their backyard, only minutes from the stadium. NS lost 28 – 21 last year (2022) in the same state championship matchup. This season the Mustangs boast a 15 – 0 record, while the Panthers’ is 13 – 1.

The ‘Stangs are seeking their 6th title, having won them in 2009, 2015, 2018, 2019, and 2021. They won the Class 6A Division I state championship titles over Duncanville in 2018, 2019, 2021. One out of four is pretty good. Westlake beat North Shore, 24 – 21, in the 2020 state semifinal.

Even though the game was far from home for the Mustang Nation fans, that didn’t stop them from turning out in large numbers. Fans of both teams’ filled the stadium and never let up cheering their team on for four quarters. The game was a defensive battle with little scoring. NS made 3 touchdowns (TD’s) and a 3 point field goal, while WL made 2 TD’s.

Head Coach Willie Gaston and his assistants this season have put together a steel curtain defense for the run game. If there’s a weak spot, it has been in the pass defense. However, they have forced three interceptions and capped off with a pick-6 on the final play of the game.

Westlake scored 7 points first with 1:39 left on the clock in the first quarter. Then NS tied the game 7 – 7 with 6:36 on the clock in the second quarter on a QB Kaleb Bailey 1-yard plunge across the goal. Running back D’Andre Hardeman scored again for NS in the second quarter with a 9-yard run with 2:35 on the clock, sending the game to halftime 14 – 7.

The Chaps took the 3rd quarter opening kickoff and on the first play with only twenty seconds off the clock, their running back scored, tying the game 14 – 14.

NS’s Jonathan Soto kicked a 19-yard field goal, putting the Stangs up 17 – 14 with 6:36 left on the clock in 3rd quarter. The game continued without scoring until the last two seconds of the game, when Chap’s QB Reese Wise backed into his own end zone to throw a desperation pass that was blocked and caught in the end zone by Mustang’s linebacker Charles Ross, ending the game 23 – 14.

After the game Westlake Coach Tony Salazar said, “They’re big up front,” of North Shore’s defense. “They’re strong, they pack the box. They have big, long corners playing press-man out there, taking away the quick throws. We didn’t have consistency running the football and stayed behind the chains. We lost some downs and allowed them to tee off on the run.”

“When they have talent like that and coaches like that, they do what they do until you stop it,” Salazar said. “I thought we stopped it enough times today. We just weren’t able to score enough points to keep up with them. If we hadn’t failed to execute on a couple of plays, it might have made a difference.”

Salazar said, “I’m proud of this team and expect to be back in this same game next season. I’m losing 61 seniors but have good talent to fill the departing seniors’ positions.

Coach Gaston said, “We knew coming into the game to expect a tough defense. They’re coached well and we knew what to expect. We weren’t surprised. And they knew as well what to expect from us.”

North Shore coach Willie Gaston and Austin Westlake coach Tony Salazar have a lot in common. Both were longtime coordinators at their respective schools. Gaston orchestrated North Shore’s offense for seven years. Salazar engineered Westlake’s defense for eight.

Both recently became head coaches for the first time. Gaston was tagged to lead the Mustangs in February. Salazar was hired to lead the Chaparrals in January 2022.

Stangs QB Kaleb Bailey said, “We have a good football program built over the years by former Coach David Aymond and Coach Jon Kay. We’re following in their winning programs. And we’re supported by the Mustang Nation, who’ll come cheering us on, and that’s a big plus for us. It motivates us.”

Linda Jamail, statistician and photographer