RED OAK — The monkey can kindly remove himself from the back of every Red Oak football coach, player and supporter. On Tuesday morning, the Hawks will walk through the doors of Red Oak High School as winners of a Texas high school football game for the first time in 21 tries after a 17-14 home win over Fort Worth Arlington Heights.
They will be the first Red Oak football team to do such since the Hawks' last win on Nov. 8, 2013, in 35-34 fashion over then district-foe Arlington Seguin. That one-point victory snapped a five-game losing streak.
Friday night also marked the first time the Hawks have played two consecutive opponents to within seven points, one way or the other, since a string of three-straight instances against Ennis (30-23), Mansfield Summit (37-35) and Lancaster (28-21) Oct. 11, 18 and 25, 2013. All three were losses under then head coach Mike Shields.
It was not easy, nor was it textbook, but a win is most definitely a win. The plus-one to the left side of the win-loss column is also the first of Red Oak Head Coach Brian Brown’s tenure in maroon.
“It feels great. Like I told them last week, I have been lucky enough to win a lot of ballgames as a coach but, you saw how excited the fans were, we just wanted to get one for the kids and for them,” Brown said. “It’s a great school. We have just been in a little cycle that we have to get out of. We have played two really good teams and just came out on the wrong side last week. It feels great, it really does. It feels like there is something lifted off of you.”
“[…] [Losing] does start to take a toll on you and you can sometimes start doubting yourself a little bit. Anyone that says it wouldn’t after 20 games like that is crazy. […] You always want a taste of victory. You want a taste of victory for your coaches and your kids and your community. It can cast a little pinch in you on your confidence. We have been confident, the kids have been confident and we just continue to coach them to play tough, hard-nosed football throughout the game and that’s what they did tonight.”
Arlington Heights High School entered Billy Goodloe Stadium having won 12 of its last 13 games, after an 11-1 mark a season ago ended with a second-round exit to Wichita Falls Rider. The Yellow Jackets also took the field with speed, particularly at the quarterback position.
Despite their wheels, the Yellow Jackets were held to 70 yards on 26 carries (2.7 YPC) by the Hawk defense. Of that, AHHS sophomore quarterback, Jaiden Zackery accounted for 56 yards on 16 carries.
For the second-straight game, the Red Oak defense has limited its opponent to fewer than 100 rushing yards after allowing only 97 yards on 29 carries to the Corsicana Tigers during an overtime loss in week one.
In fact, Red Oak’s version of the steel curtain has allowed just 408 yards of total offense through two games as Arlington Heights gathered 193 total yards.
However, in all reality, the going was tougher than those numbers suggest. The Hawk defense held the Yellow Jackets to 133 yards of offense in all drives except for the very last while ROHS held a 10-point lead with fewer than two minutes to play.
“One of the things with some of those yards is that they came when we were running a prevent defense at the end of the game and trying to keep them out of the end zone or limit the big play,” Brown said. “They have some great players and were 11-1 last year. It just shows you how tough our district is. We have played pretty well, but I think we have a team that can compete for a playoff spot. Our defense is playing really well.”
Three Swinton Jackson sacks, a Blake Sonnier fumble recovery and a pair of interceptions — one each by Jordan Munoz and Brady Faulkner — highlighted the defensive stat line.
There was also nine tackles for loss — seven in the first half alone — that established the Red Oak defensive as the aggressor.
THEIR FIRST LEAD
Unorthodox or not, a 24-yard Bugg scampered against the grain of the Yellow Jacket defense to give the Hawks their first lead of the young season. His touchdown capped a six-play, 76-yard drive that spanned less than three and a half minutes.
Munoz played a beautiful center field with the Yellow Jackets backed up facing a third-and-19 for the first Red Oak interception with two ticks over five minutes to play in the opening half.
A second Hawk interception, this time by Faulkner, put a halt to a potentially promising Heights drive after back-to-back 23-yard completions from Zackery to Tariq Deion Woolen and Brian Gonzalez.
To say the Hawks’ defense controlled the line of scrimmage during the first half would have been an understatement.
Through 24 minutes of game time, the Yellow Jacket offense gained 52 total yards. Of those 52 yards, the Red Oak defensive line held AHHS ball carries to three yards on 11 carries (0.27 YPC) and six tackles for loss.
Bugg led the Red Oak offense into the locker room with 42 yards on four carries. The Hawk quarterback also completed 3-of-7 through the air for 22 yards and scored the lone touchdown. Blake Sonnier added 41 yards on four carries to finish the half as the Hawks’ second-leading rusher.
A VICTORY FORMATION
Red Oak wasted no time adding to its lead in the second half.
Highlighted back a 25-yard completion from Bugg to Jake Latimer on third-and-16, Sonnier capped a four-play drive with his first rushing touchdown of the season. His 15-yard score and ensuing Garza extra point put the Hawks ahead 14-0 with just over 22 minutes to play.
Depending on the preference of play, the next 10 minutes of action were either an offensive stalemate or defensive slugfest.
The Yellow Jackets capitalized on the Hawks inability to move the football in the second half when Robinson followed Zackery’s 27-yard run with a three-yarder of his own to cut the Red Oak lead in half, 14-7.
On the ensuing drive, an ill-advised Bugg heave downfield resulted in the only Hawk turnover. The interception put the ball and momentum squarely into the possession of Arlington Heights.
But the Red Oak defense was ready, as it was throughout the night. While the knock-down-drag-out continued in the trenches, the secondary played bigger than itself as the 6-foot-5 Woolen continued to attempt to stretch the field.
It was a well-thrown Zackery pass down the seam to Woolen that Vincent Doblado deflected while parallel to the turf which returned to swagger back to the Hawk sideline with 8:24 to go in the fourth quarter.
“[The defensive backs] just played great and really played with a lot of confidence,” Brown said. “They also tackled well. We knew going into the game that they were going to toss the ball up to [Woolen] a few times and he got one there at the end. For the most part, I thought our guys came out on the good end of the battle outside.”
With a few ticks over five minutes until the final horn, the defense again responded in a tight spot. As the entire Red Oak coaching staff called out the oncoming “reverse” from the sideline, a swarm of Hawks made the stop for a five-yard tackle-for-loss on fourth-down-and-six.
A few plays later, the left foot of senior kicker, Edgar Perez, rewarded the Hawk defense with three points. His 21-yard field goal gave the Hawks a 10-point lead. The kick sealed the inevitable — despite three straight completions by Zackery that concluded in a 34-yard touchdown pass to Woolen with 37 seconds left in the contest.
Red Oak recovered the onside kick attempt. Bugg kneeled. The streak ended.
The Hawks hit the road for a long trip to Athens, where they will look to begin a new streak – a winning one. Red Oak is 0-2 all-time against the Hornets, with the last meeting ending in 38-21 in the opposition’s favor on Nov. 4, 2005.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith