Hawks’ grid slate adds Philly cheese

ROHS schedules Philadelphia private school for Sept. 10 home contest

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
Red Oak tight end La’Kelsey Johnson (11) breaks into the open field during a District 4-5A (I) game at Midlothian last November. The Hawks have filled an open date by scheduling a Philadelphia school, Neumann-Goretti, at Billy Goodloe Stadium on Sept. 10.

Red Oak’s 2021 football season will have some South Philly flavor.

The Hawks recently announced that they will host a Philadelphia team, Saints Neumann-Goretti High School, on Friday, Sept. 10 at Billy Goodloe Stadium.

The announcement was first reported by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football writer Matt Stepp. It’s believed to be Red Oak’s first-ever football game against an out-of-state opponent.

Neumann-Goretti is a Catholic private high school in South Philadelphia that takes both its name and its Saints nickname from two individuals canonized by the Roman Catholic Church, John Neumann and Maria Goretti.

Neumann, the late former Bishop of Philadelphia, is to date the only male American citizen to be elevated to sainthood by the Holy See. Goretti, who died in 1902 in Italy at the age of 11, is one of the youngest saints to be canonized. The co-ed school was formed by a merger of two sex-separated Catholic high schools in 2004.

The Saints feature some talent, including senior wide receiver Kevin Thomas, a 6-foot-3, 187-pounder who 247 Sports says is weighing offers from Michigan State and West Virginia. Recent alumni in college football include Alabama defensive lineman Christian Barmore and West Virginia running back Leddie Brown.

Unlike in Texas, which segregates public and private high schools, Neumann-Goretti is a full member of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association and is classified as Class AAA by the PIAA. It has a current enrollment of about 500 students in grades 9-12, or about a quarter of Red Oak’s enrollment.

Also unlike in Texas, Pennsylvania schools compete in leagues independent of the main governing body in the regular season and qualify for the playoffs separately based on enrollment size and other criteria.

The coronavirus pandemic did a number on football schedules in several states in 2020, including Pennsylvania. The Saints played only one game during the 2020 regular season and ended up with an abbreviated 5-game schedule that extended into the spring of 2021. In 2019, the Saints finished 11-1 with an undefeated Philadelphia Catholic League Blue Division championship, losing by one point in the second round of the playoffs.

Red Oak’s non-district schedule was left in shambles in 2020 because of cancellations created by positive COVID-19 tests among opponents. As a result, the Hawks had a couple of schedule openings that carried over into 2021.

The Hawks will open at county rival Ennis on Aug. 27, then will host Sachse on Sept. 3 and Neumann-Goretti on Sept. 10. An open date Sept. 17 precedes the start of District 4-5A play.

ROISD last week announced the hiring of DeSoto defensive coordinator Tony Holmes as the school’s new head football coach. Holmes will the fourth new head coach on Ellis County sidelines this fall, joining Waxahachie’s Shane Tolleson, Ferris’ Steven Greek and Milford’s Isaac Wells.