Greetings, Lion fans. The staff here at The Wire hope all of you are staying safe and healthy during all of this madness. We’re one day closer to a solution.
To help everyone maintain their sanity during these uncertain times, today we’ll take a look at what has become the Lions most bitter rival, the Mustangs of Midwestern State. This game has proven to be the most hard fought battle in the Lone Star Conference, and usually determines the conference champion. In 2017, the Lions only loss in their championship season was at Wichita Falls. The very next season, it took 24 hours, two stadiums, many phone calls, and an edict from the conference commissioner to complete one of the most bizarre and bitter battles ever seen, one that the outcome wasn’t determined until a missed Mustang field goal in the final seconds.
Last season, it was Midwestern’s turn to travel east to Commerce, and left with a resounding 54-28 defeat. The game was a springboard to a playoff run in which the Lions got to the regional final.
Fast forward to 2020, and while some of the faces and coaches have changed, the rivalry is just as intense. Let’s dive right in and take a look:
Midwestern State Mustangs-
2019 Record- 5-6
Biggest Win: Northwestern State (La.), 33-7
Biggest Loss: Tarleton State, 66-7
Returning Starters: 7 Offense, 6 Defense
Returning Statistical Leaders:
Passing- Triston Williams (6’3″ 200 lbs., Jr.) 98-220-12 1,736 yards 15 TD Long 76
Rushing- Lazarus Fisher (5’10” 167 lbs., RS-Jr.) 107-604, 7 TD Long 75
Receiving- Kylan Harrison (6’1″ 180 lbs., Jr.) 22-502 7 TD Long 69
Bryce Martinez (5’9″ 175 lbs., Sr.) 14-178 Long 69
Anthony Tennison (6’2″ 185 lbs., Jr.) 11-157 1 TD Long 65
Tackles- Dewayne Tate-LB (6’0″ 175 lbs., Sr.) 50 (34 solo)
Justin Guillory-LB (6’2″ 235 lbs., RS-Soph.) 49 (22 solo)
Melik Owens-DL (6’3″ 225 lbs., Jr.) 49 (25 solo)
Punt- Dylan Spears (5’11” 205 lbs., Jr.) 68-38.4 Long 66
Kicking- Peyton Reyes (5’8″ 150 lbs., RS-Soph.) 3-7, Long 35
Kick Return- Lazarus Fisher 11-20.4 Long 39
Bryce Martinez 5-21.6 Long 25
Punt Return- Bryce Martinez 6-18.8 Long 57
Lazarus Fisher 1-11.0 Long 11
OVERVIEW-The Mustangs started out hot in 2019, winning their first three games, including a 33-7 win over Division I FCS Northwestern State, and Bill Maskill looked to have Midwestern rolling again. Injuries, a quarterback change, and an inability to stop the run contributed to a 2-6 finish.
The Mustangs, having lost stars Xavier Land and Quinton Childs to graduation, look to rebuild around three returning offensive linemen, junior quarterback Triston Williams, and junior running back Lazarus Fisher. Junior Kylan Harrison (6’1″ 180 lbs.) is the leading pass catcher returning, along with senior Bryce Martinez (5’9″ 175 lbs.)
Defensively, the Mustangs will have to replace their entire secondary. Senior linebacker Dewayne Tate (6’0″ 175 lbs.) is the returning leader in tackles with 50 (34 solo). He is joined by redshirt sophomore Justin Guillory (6’2″ 215 lbs), who had 49 tackles (22 solo). Junior defensive tackle Melik Owens (6’3″ 225 lbs.) contributed 49 tackles (25 solo).
Redshirt sophomore Peyton Reyes takes over at kicker, going 3 for 7 with a long of 35 yards. Sophomore Dylan Spears returns at punter, averaging 38.4 yards on 68 attempts, with a long of 66.
Fisher is also the leading kick returner, with an average of 20.4 yards on 11 returns. Martinez is the leading punt returner, with an 18.8 yard average on 6 returns.
THE SKINNY- On the surface, 2020 looks to be a rebuilding season for the Mustangs. Bill Maskill, however, cannot be underestimated in the ability to keep Midwestern in the thick of the Lone Star Conference race. And given the recent history between the two schools, there is nothing better that our friends from Wichita Falls would like better than to knock off the Lions. With their past problems in stopping the run, and having to rebuild their entire secondary, that is going to be a tall order.
Remember, one day closer. See you at The Hawk. Soon.