RED OAK — As gusts of wind from the front edge of Hurricane Harvey blew through the west side of Billy Goodloe Stadium, the Red Oak Hawks showed glimpses of a new air of confidence on the gridiron.
Armed with a handful of move-ins, a returning front seven on defense and players entering year four of head coach Brian Brown's system, the Hawks looked every bit the better team Friday afternoon. The scoreboard reflected as much, too, as Red Oak "defeated" Van 14-0 during a 30-minute timed half with a rolling clock.
"The kids were ready to get out here yesterday but being able to get out here today was a big deal," said Brown of the scrimmage originally scheduled for Thursday. "You are trying to get the guys in shape and put everything together and this is one of those times that you can see things that you need to work on when you are playing against somebody else."
During the timed dress rehearsal, Red Oak scored its first touchdown on a 7-yard slant from quarterback Carson Forbes to Jacob Proche. The wideout worked in front of his defender off of the line of scrimmage for an easy pitch and catch.
The Hawks struck again a few possessions later when CJ Johnson took the first-down handoff around the left end for a 54-yard touchdown.
The touchdown came after one of the several three-and-outs forced by a physical and fast Hawk defense.
"Our first defense is as good as we have had since I have been here and I could tell that in practice because we have a tough time against them. That front seven is good, and they are what they are. We have better players in the (defensive) backfield than we have had, not to say we didn't have good ones last year, but we have more depth."
Van did find moments of offensive success that led to scores, but those were against second and third units, which Brown said, "is fine."
"When we have those guys in there we are trying to look at some different things and see who fits where. [...] Overall, I am happy with the defense and happy with the way some of the offensive players played and happy with the way the offensive line blocked during the scrimmage part."
Though the scoreboard was reduced to nothing more than a running clock, one thing was apparent: the coaching staff was having fun.
"They are fun to coach and they play hard. Every time we go through the tunnel I tell them there are two things we can do," Brown said. "We can all run through this tunnel and we can all give maximum effort. We all have that in common. And this group listens to that and they adhere to it on the playing hard. When you have a team that plays hard, that is really all you can ask for."