West Rusk football

West Rusk quarterback Andon Mata (13) looks for Will Jackson on a throw against Chisum in last week’s UIL 3A first-round playoff game. Mata and the Raiders (7-3) face Hughes Springs (6-3) Thursday night in Gladewater, a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Left for dead – or at the very least, written off – after an 0-3 start that also included their season opener getting canceled due to a hurricane, the West Rusk Raiders had an uphill climb after September.

That climb has been impressive. And now, they can extend their season to Thanksgiving week if they can win Thursday’s UIL Class 3A, Division II area (second) round playoff against Hughes Springs.

The Raiders (7-3), winners of seven straight games, will face Hughes Springs (6-3) at Jack V. Murphy Stadium in Gladewater on Thursday night, a 7 p.m. kickoff.

While West Rusk dominated their district, running the table, the Mustangs had a different road. They didn’t back into the playoffs – they won two of their last three regular-season games – but district for Hughes Springs included traditional powers Waskom and Elysian Fields, the Mustangs’ two district losses.

Last week, HS got handed the assignment of Anderson-Shiro in the first round, but dealt with it nicely, getting out with a touchdown win, 34-26. Patrick Boyd had four catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns, and teammate Trevor Bolden rushed for 178 yards and a score in the win.

Thursday night football is becoming a thing for the Raiders, who went nuts in the second half and finished with 55 points, a 55-33 win over Chisum, a Paris-area school, in Pittsburg last Thursday.

The Raiders got a powerful performance all the way around: Jamal Ford ran for two scores and caught one from Andon Mata; James Greenalch and Jimmie Harper each ran for two scores, as well; Harper had a kick return for a score; and Mata had two TD passes.

On the season, the Raiders are averaging 225 rushing yards a game. But Mata, who was a receiver last year and has made the transition nicely, has given WR a legit passing game. He’s 74-of-132 for 1,420 yards, 13 touchdowns, and six interceptions.

That multi-player running game helps. Mata himself has ran for four touchdowns and 288 yards on 32 carries, about 9 yards a carry. Greenalch leads everyone with 866 yards and 13 scores on 136 carries, through the 10 games played. Ford has 410 yards and six touchdowns, and Harper has 128 yards, and two scores. Sophomore Carson Martin has the other two WR rushing touchdowns, 27 on the season.

Omarian Anthony, Will Jackson and Geremiah Smith have been Mata’s three main targets: Anthony has 26 catches for 501 yards and four scores. Jackson has 15 catches for 311 yards and two scores, and Smith has 12 catches for 234 yards and a TD. Bryant Mason has five catches this year, but two of them have been for scores. Martin and Peyton Lyon also each have a catch for a touchdown.

Defensively, the Raiders have 59 tackles for loss as a unit, led by Torami Dixon, who has 20, all by himself. Jeremiah Edwards leads the team with 99 total tackles, and Dixon leads in sacks (six) – West Rusk has 17 sacks this season.

West Rusk has created 18 turnovers this year: nine interceptions and nine fumble recoveries. Martin has three interceptions. Freshman Noah Murphy has two, and Ford, Edwards, freshman Ty Harper and senior Barry Decker each have one. Edwards has three fumble recoveries, Dixon, two.

Kicker Alex Magallanes has made 36-of-42 extra points, and has only kicked three field goals; he’s made one, a 26-yarder.

The prize for the West Rusk-Hughes Springs winner: either Daingerfield or Waskom, next week in round three.

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