Red Oak Football, A Team To Watch In 2020

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Red Oak football
Red Oak's Coach Chris Ross Photo by John Askew

Red Oak Football Team Packed With Talent In 2020

The latest evidence that Red Oak football is indeed back among the elite comes from none other than the Bible of Texas high school football, “Dave Campbell’s Texas Football” magazine. The experts at the publication have named the Hawks as one of their teams to watch in 2020.

But then, the Hawks have given folks plenty to watch ever since Chris Ross became their coach for the 2018 season. Prior to his arrival, the Hawks had a 9-41 record over five seasons. They won that many games in his first season (9-2) and topped it this past season with an 11-2 mark, winning two playoff games for the first time since 2012.

And the Hawks bring plenty of talent back from last season’s squad that included one of the state’s most prolific offenses – the eighth-highest scoring (53.3) – and a strong defense. Seven offensive and eight defensive starters will be back as the Hawks try to take the next step toward what they hope will be competing for a state championship.

The 2019 season began with a 48-27 loss to Denton Braswell and ended with a 34-14 loss to perennial power Aledo, which went on to win the Class 5A Division II state title, a record ninth championship in 11-man football.

Hawks went on 11-game winning streak

In between those losses, however, the Hawks reeled off 11 straight wins in dominating fashion. They scored 40 or more points nine times, over 50 seven times, over 60 six times, surpassed 70 four times and even topped the 80-point mark once. Meanwhile, the defense held four opponents to six points or less, including three shutouts.

So it’s easy to understand that, with the nucleus of that powerhouse returning, the “Dave Campbell’s” staff have their eyes on the Hawks. And it’s a good bet their opponents have as well.

In typical Ross fashion, he’s glad to see his team get commended, but acknowledges they still have to go out and prove the prognosticators right.

“Those things are kind of like the ‘it’s way too early poll.’ But they’re recognizing the hard work of the kids and the program, and we appreciate that,” he said. “It doesn’t help us win any games, but it’s great to be noticed, and the guys deserve this.”

Ross said he takes pride in reviving the program, but said it took a lot more than just him to bring the Hawks back to prominence.
“It’s about a shared vision, a positive culture,” he said. “You provide hope, show them what can happen.”

Red Oak football squad best national averages

And what can happen is a team emerging as one of the best around – with high expectations for even more in 2020. The Hawks were above the national average in many categories, according to MaxPreps, including team rushing yards (243 per game), team passing yards (227 per game), sacks (18), interceptions (19) and touchdowns (114).

Zach Sanders Red Oak
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Zach Sanders Photo by John Askew

Quarterback Josh Ervin (2,826 yards, 39 TD, 5 interceptions), the District 6-5A Division II Offensive Player of the Year, returns for his senior season, as does second-team all-district running back Zachary Sanders (919 yards, 15 TD). The receiving corps features second-team all-district senior-to-be wide receiver Raymond Gay (38 catches, 758 yards, 9 TD) and first-team all-district pick junior-to-be tight end Kelsey Johnson (16 catches, 447 yards, 8 TD).

There’s no shortage of experienced blockers, led by returning senior Kain Cooper, a first-team all-district selection.

Defensively, senior-to-be outside linebacker Jackson Bailey (60 tackles, 9 for loss), a first-team all-district choice, will be back. In fact, the Hawks will be stacked at linebacker, with seniors-to-be Devin Steen (59 tackles, 6 for loss) and second-team all-district Carter Lincoln (56 tackles, 11 for loss, 3 sacks) returning.

Defensive lineman John Mathis, who will be a senior, posted four sacks.

Defense returning powerful line

Of the 78 tackles for loss by the defense last season, 41 were posted by nine returning players. Eleven players return who posted 20 or more tackles during the season, and of the 18 sacks, nine were made by returning players.

A dozen players in the secondary had at least one interception last season, with six of those coming back. Leading the group are first-team all-district selection Elijah Shaw (3 interceptions), who will be a junior, and second-team all-district Amarion Craddock (3 interceptions), who will be a senior. Darius Jackson (2 interceptions, 1 returned for TD), who will be a senior, was also a first-team pick.

Red Oak Football Coach
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Photo by John Askew

Up front, senior-to-be defensive tackle Xzavier Augustus received first-team all-district accolades.

The Hawks’ numerical roster in 2019 included 22 seniors, 26 juniors, two sophomores and a freshman.

“I’ve got great leaders and a really great staff, and together we’re putting together something special,” Ross said, adding, “Potential means you haven’t done it yet. We still have to win these games. Do we have the talent? Sure, we do.

“I’ve never seen the media decide who wins a football game, but if this motivates my guys, that’s great.”

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