Ellis County football previews: Red Oak aims even higher

Hawks come off school-record advance with defensive-minded new head coach

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
Red Oak running back Iverson Young (28) gives a stiff-arm to Mansfield Summit defensive back Sean Smith (5) during the first half of their Class 5A Division I state quarterfinal game on New Year's Day afternoon at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The Hawks’ season ended with a 41-38 loss to the Jaguars.

RED OAK — The Red Oak Hawks may be on their third head coach in three years, but that doesn’t seem to dim their hopes of yet another deep playoff run.

The Hawks overcame some early scheduling chaos caused by opponents affected by COVID-19, and caught a magic carpet ride that lasted into the month of January because of the University Interscholastic League’s staggered schedule.

Enter Tony Holmes, the new Red Oak head coach. Holmes, a well-established defensive mind in North Texas, has served as defensive coordinator at DeSoto the last two seasons. Before that, he was the defensive coordinator at Tyler Legacy (formerly Tyler Lee) and Haslet Eaton. Holmes also coached the defense at Southlake Carroll when it won state titles in 2006 and 2011.

Holmes also has two decades of experience coaching boys’ track and field, producing multiple state gold medalists while at Carroll. Prior to coaching high school, Holmes was the defensive coordinator for the minor league Austin Rattlers in 2000 when they won the NAFL championship.

His hiring occurred days after the departure of former head coach Michael Quintero, who left to become head coach at Cedar Park. In his one year at the helm, Quintero coached the Hawks to an historic playoff advance, leading them to the Class 5A Division I state quarterfinals. The Hawks were 9-3 on the season and averaged 42.1 points per game.

There are question marks, particularly at quarterback, where the departure of Josh Ervin leaves a gap. But with 27 returning lettermen, the outlook could be just as bright this fall for the Hawks, who are ranked No. 11 in Class 5A Division I by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football.

The top returnee is senior tight end La’Kelsey Johnson, who has verbally committed to Baylor University. Last season, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Johnson had 28 catches for 383 yards and six touchdowns.

While serving as a second option to the graduated Zach Sanders in 2020, junior running back Iverson Young had an outstanding first varsity season, rushing for 1,151 yards and 12 touchdowns. Almost the entire wide receiver corps is back for another year: Triston Edwards, Jace Wyatt, Kentrell Anderson, Keith Abney and Warren Roberson.

The offensive line took a graduation hit, but senior returnees Alex Arellano, Kameron Tatum, Justin Nwabueze and Conner Alsup and junior Ari Hillstrom stand ready to step forward.

On defense, junior Brock Lincks returns up front after recording six sacks and 10 tackles for loss in 2020. Senior Elijah Shaw leads a talented group in the defensive secondary.

The Hawks will open at county rival Ennis on Aug. 27, then will host Sachse on Sept. 3. In an interesting wrinkle, the Hawks will host a Philadelphia private school, Saints Neumann-Goretti, on Sept. 10 at Billy Goodloe Stadium in what is believed to be the Hawks’ first-ever football game against an out-of-state team.

An open date Sept. 17 precedes the start of District 4-5A play.

District 4-5A (I): Red Oak Hawks

Head coach: Tony Holmes (first season at school and overall)

2020 record: 9-3, 6-1

Enrollment: 1,961

Returning lettermen: 27

Returning starters: 7 offense, 6 defense