Register-Herald Sports Writer
CLEAR FORK —
The question on the minds many of the Renegade Rowdies — Westside’s cheering section — heading into opening night Friday was just how would first-year coach Larry Cook make up for the loss of quarterback Justin Cogar.
The bruising junior running back looked more like a tank on the field, running over Liberty defenders and helping the Renegades pick up their first win of the season, 44-16.
Anyone thinking of giving Mullens a nickname, the humble back has just one suggestion.
“Just call me Mike,” he said.
Mullens and the rest of the Renegades helped give Cook his first win as Westside head coach.
“This win is very important for our team (and) for our program right now,” Cook said. “We started off with a real good scrimmage and then we had a bad scrimmage, and losing Justin. We knew we were going to have to adjust and ride Mike and a sophomore quarterback. That put a lot of pressure on the offensive line and the running game. I think they responded to Mike.”
Mullens rambled and rumbled for 290 yards on 36 carries and scored six touchdowns. That sophomore quarterback, Cook’s son Larry Jr., threw for 134 yards in his first start for the Renegades.
“Mikey just really stepped up for us tonight,” Cook said. “I’m proud of him and his performance.”
Through it all, Mullens remained humble.
“I couldn’t have done it without my offensive line,” he said.
When Cogar went down in a scrimmage with Shady Spring earlier this month, Cook knew he was going to have to ride Mullens. He just didn’t realize he was going to be this explosive.
“I told him nine out of every 10 carries was his,” Cook admitted. “I told him to keep it honest.”
“I was a little worried because I knew the offense was really built around me and Justin,” Mullens said. “And I knew I was going to have to step up. I really couldn’t have done it without my offensive line.”
Mullens was part of one of the more creative plays of the night.
Nearing the end of the first half, Cook Jr. dropped back and found an open Corey Bowles over the middle, who lateralled the ball to Mullens. Mullens then rushed 69 yards down the field and eventually set up his own touchdown.
It’s that kind of magic Mullens was hoping he’d see.
“I knew when Justin went down it was going to be on the rest of us to pick it up,” he said. “That’s what happened. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates.”
When Liberty coach Jeff Alexander began training camp, he knew he was going to have a young team. And much to Alexander’s credit, that’s exactly what he got.
“Well, I think we looked like a team full of freshmen and sophomores out there,” he said.
Liberty accumulated only 219 total yards on offense and sophomore quarterback Hunter Wright threw six passes for 137 yards. It’s the growing pains Alexander expects, but knows the team will bounce back from.
“Next week we’ll go to Sissonville,” he added. “We expect much of the same.”
Westside will travel across Wyoming County to take on arch rival Wyoming East, which defeated Mingo Central 27-26.
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins.
L (0-1) 0 8 8 0 — 16
W (1-0) 6 16 16 6 — 44
W: Mike Mullens 34 run (run failed)
W: Mullens 15 run (Larry Cook run)
L: Tre’Shaun McDowell 15 pass from Hunter Wright (McDowell pass from Wright)
W: Mullens 15 run (Breyer Morgan pass from Cook)
W: Mullens 49 run (Corey Bowles pass from Cook)
W: Mullens 23 run (Morgan pass from Cook)
L: Christian Walker 37 run (Jacob Bailey pass from Wright)
W: Mullens 4 run (run failed)
RUSHING: L: McDowell 6-22-0, Dalton Pettry 2-8-0, Drew Stover 4-8-0, Sammy Sluss 3-24-0, Christian Walker 1-34-1; W: Justin Kenneda 2-13-0, Larry Cook 7-3-0, Mike Mullens 28-290-6, Trevor Anderson 4-7-0, Matt Harless 2-10-0.
PASSING: L: Hunter Wright 6-21-137-1; W: Cook 4-14-136.
RECEIVING: L: McDowell 2-53-1, Colten Taylor 3-71-0, Deontae Acord 1-13-0; W: Justin Kenneda 2-42-0, Corey Bowles 2-94-0.