The traditional holiday shopping season colors of red and green are not the predominant trappings in the retail district of Red Oak as football mania has whipped the town into a maroon frenzy.

Although it is not unusual for Ellis County to have at least one team still playing in the football playoffs in the month of December, it is not par for the course for that team to be Red Oak. The Hawks (10-2) will host the West Mesquite Wranglers (9-3) at Texas Stadium Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Class 4A Region II semifinals.

Head Coach Mike Shields is happy with the excitement and football hysteria that the Hawks have generated in his first year at the helm of the Hawk program, but right now his thoughts are on how to stop the West Mesquite balanced offense that has put up 2,329 yards passing and 2,112 yards rushing for an average of 370 yards per game.

West Mesquite is another one of those teams that touts a superman type at quarterback. Kendall Thomas has accounted for 2,699 yards of total offense and 26 touchdowns this season. He has run for 409 and passed for 2,290 yards. Completing 171 of 296 passes for 20 touchdowns with just nine interceptions; Thomas has a bevy of receivers from which to choose.

Jordan Schell leads the receiving corps with 61 catches for 737 yards and seven touchdowns. Chazz Virgil (32-524, 8 TDs), Cornell Ridge (30-456, 2 TDs), Quadric Moore (29-447, 3 TDs) and Kenny Davis (15-125) are all quality receivers.

Kenny Davis handles the lionís share of running duties with 174 carries for 1,194 yards and nine rushing touchdowns as well as being a capable receiver.

Red Oak will counter the Wrangler attack with a very good defense.

Michael Carter and Corwin Pace will be counted on to provide pass rush and pressure on Thomas as well as stop the inside running game of Davis. Red Oak has some big hitters on defense including Taylor McCuller, Timmy Hooper and Victor Cooper as the Hawks have allowed just 250 yards per game to opposition offenses. The Hawk defense has been tested by some pretty good offenses this year including superstar types like Deonte McDade of Ennis and Omarius Hines of Corsicana.

Red Oak has a pretty prolific offense of its own. Shields would like nothing better than to see Nic Boyd (222-1,421, 17 TDs) break out some long runs this week to put the Hawks up early in the game.

The Hawks use a run first offense with Boyd, Seth Rushing, McCuller and quarterback Kevin Pruett all very capable runners. Pruett is more than capable of putting the ball into the air as well. He threw 86 completions in 154 attempts for 1,253 yards and 13 touchdowns this season in the control-the-ball with the run oriented Hawk offense.

On paper the game looks to be a very close contest and the deciding factor might be turnovers. Red Oak has been very good this season at taking the ball away with McCuller having picked up several fumble recoveries and Cooper having multiple interceptions.

And while you may not think of Red Oak as a seasoned playoff team, every game in District 15-4A was a playoff game for the Hawks and winning close ones has been this teamís trademark.

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