DALLAS – Most teams struggle to hit the big play. But for Red Oak, it was a lack of short range offense that seemed to plague the team in its season opener against Highland Park.
The Hawks got three receptions of over 35 yards from Ishmael Harris who finished with 140 yards receiving but could not find an answer for the Scots in a 30-7 loss.
“I was hoping we could run the ball a little bit on them and stuff, although they stacked the line and we knew that,” coach Mike Shields said. “And we said that we thought we could get (receivers) open we just had to hit them. And we didn’t, we missed them.”
Senior running back Kentrell Holmes and quarterback Travis Wallis were expected to be threats as runners, but the Hawks offense never found footing on the ground.
The pair’s longest run was for six yards and on a combined 16 carries they netted two yards. Seven of their carries went for negative yardage.
With the running game stymied, Red Oak (0-1) was forced to go to the air. The team found plenty of success on the Wallis to Harris connection. The duo hooked up for six passes for 140 yards. For the game, Wallis finished 11-of-30 for 172 yards. He also averaged 43.7 yards on six punts.
The senior quarterback also hit Dominic Bonner for two passes worth 29 yards including the team’s lone score – a 15-yard fade route in the third quarter.
That score brought the Hawks back within striking distance at 17-7 early in the third quarter. But the Scots (1-0) would answer with a quick drive after a long kickoff return into Red Oak territory. Four plays later, Highland Park running back Preston Miller cashed in with a 17-yard scamper on an option pitch.
Harris would do his best to keep the Hawks in the game as the team was backed up at the nine-yard line two drives later. Wallis hit Harris for a 36-yard gain that appeared to have swung momentum back in Red Oak’s corner.
A pass interference call on a ball in Harris’ direction moved the ball another 15 yards but three incompletions and a three-yard gain stalled the drive as the Hawks turned the ball over on downs.
“It was not good enough. In any kind of way it was not good enough,” Harris said of his performance. “Surprised wouldn’t be the word for (the lack of running). But I was expecting us to be able to run too. I was hoping we could run.”
Even without Louisville commitment Luke Woodley, the Scots got a solid outing from a pair of quarterbacks. Brady Burgin and Jake Howeth combined for a 19-of-26 night with 217 yards. The biggest performance of the night belonged to Miller who carried the ball 12 times for 164 yards.
Miller’s running and some sharp early passing dug the Hawks a 14-0 hole in the first half. The Red Oak defense did get three stops later in the first half that kept the score reasonable.
“We did play them tough for two quarters. In fact, we kept saying, ‘Hey, take three plays away and we could’ve been up 7-0.’ And then it puts a little pressure on them and you don’t know what’ll happen,” Shields said. “But we’ve got to learn to make those plays. That’s part of the game.”