A potent rushing attack and propensity for the big play was more than enough to fuel the Red Oak Hawks past Denton Braswell on the gridiron Friday night.
The Hawks opened the football season and tenure of new head coach Chris Ross with a 27-7 win over the Bengals behind 224 yards on the ground.
For Ross, the most significant take away from the victory was the opportunity for the Hawks to finally take the field with the new coaching staff and to come out on the other end on the left side of the win-loss column.
"I think the biggest thing is that was my first game with these young men. We constantly talk about, you know, that you have to have the ability to play hard when it hurts, and they did that tonight," Ross said. "We have a lot of things that we have to work on, but they showed me that they can play hard for four quarters."
Denton Braswell jumped out to an early lead — its only of the game — when quarterback Greyson Thompson (8-21, 107 yards) found Jared Shaabani (2-34) for a 23-yard touchdown with 9:15 to play in the first quarter.
The score capped an 8-play, 75-yard drive. It was the longest drive of the evening for the Bengals in terms of yardage, and the Hawks defensive allowed just 128 total yards over the three-and-a-half quarters.
The ensuing Red Oak drive initially stalled at its 42-yard line, but a muffed punt by the Bengal return man was recovered by the Hawks inside the Denton Braswell red zone.
Sophomore quarterback Josh Ervin capitalized on the turnover on the very next play. Ervin (3-9, 46 yards) found KD Hall for an 18-yard touchdown and Angel Mendel tacked on the point-after kick to tie the game at seven with 5:50 to play in the first quarter.
Mendel later added a 33-yard field goal with 6:20 to play in the first half to send the Red Oak Hawks into the halftime locker rooms leading 10-7.
The second half began with sophomore Raymond Gay returning the Denton Braswell kickoff 89 yards for a 17-7 Red Oak lead.
The Hawks defense forced the Bengals to punt on the ensuing drive from deep within their territory and running back Dee Johnson rewarded the effort on the first Red Oak play from scrimmage. The senior running back broke a couple tackles on his way to a 44-yard touchdown run and 24-7 Red Oak lead.
Johnson finished the game as the Hawks leading rusher with 91 yards on 12 carries, while running mate CJ Palmer carried the football 19 times for 89 yards.
Gay added 22 yards on his lone carry, while Ervin finished with 13 yards on 11 rushes and Jaylon Roberson ran once for 10 yards.
When it was all said and done, the Hawks outgained the Bengals 270 to 203 during the victory. The two teams also combined for 21 penalties for 105 yards. Red Oak lost the turnover battle 2-1.
Mendel capped the Hawks win with his second field goal from range, this time from 26 yards, to put Red Oak on top, 27-7, with 5:36 to play in the fourth quarter.
"I couldn't be more pleased with the young men that I get to work with every day," Ross said. "They are just tremendous guys and we have a good staff here. I have really enjoyed my time in the Red Oak community and I love it here."
He added, "This is just a tremendous place to be."
Red Oak returns to action at 7 p.m. Friday on the road against Princeton, while Denton Braswell will face Burleson at 7 p.m. Thursday at home.
Fred Phipps/Daily Light contributed to this report.