Milford hires Cervantes as head coach, AD

Former Strawn defensive coordinator has winning pedigree with Greyhounds

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
Newly-hired Milford head football coach and athletic director Jose Cervantes (right) introduces himself to Bulldog football players following his hiring recently. Cervantes comes to Milford from Strawn, where the Greyhounds won state championships in three of the last five years.

The Milford Bulldogs’ last taste of state-level football success was almost four years ago. But their newest skipper knows the way to AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

The school district has hired Jose Cervantes as its new head football coach and athletic director. Cervantes comes to southern Ellis County from six-man powerhouse Strawn, where he served as defensive coordinator under head coach Dewaine Lee for the last six seasons.

“We’ve played Milford in the past, and I know the type of athletes they have and the tradition they have,” Cervantes said. “Me coming from Strawn, which is a football powerhouse, it’s really exciting.”

Cervantes was hired on April 21 during the Milford ISD regular monthly meeting. His first official day on campus will be Monday, he said.

Strawn has a storied pedigree on the six-man gridiron. With Cervantes on staff, the Greyhounds won back-to-back state Class 1A Division II championships in 2017 and 2018 and reached the state semifinals in 2019 and 2020, losing to fellow power Richland Springs each time, before finally getting the better of the Coyotes last December. Strawn went on to return to the top with a 73-28 mercy-ruling of undefeated Motley County at AT&T Stadium.

Cervantes coached boys’ and girls’ basketball at Strawn as well and also coached track, sending qualifiers to region and state from 2017 to 2021 (with COVID-19 canceling the 2020 track season).

Cervantes is a native of Gustine and played six-man football his whole time, earning all-state honors. He graduated from Tarleton State University in Stephenville in 2012 and spent his first four years coaching at Rising Star before joining the Strawn staff.

Strawn defensive coordinator Jose Cervantes instructs his players during practice for the Class 1A Division II state championship game in December 2018. Cervantes has been hired as head football coach and AD at Milford.

Cervantes said Lee was his biggest mentor in advising on which job to take and not to take.

“He was honest with me and told me he wouldn’t take that job or that job wouldn’t be good for me,” Cervantes said. “Milford came open last year, but it didn’t cross my mind. This year they contacted me and Coach Lee said it was time. It was time for me to spread my wings and do my own thing. So that’s where we’re at.”

The Bulldogs finished 3-5 last season under former head coach Isaac Wells. They finished a win short of playoff qualification in 2021 after being mercy-ruled by both archrival Avalon and defending 1A Division I state champion Blum.

The coach Wells replaced in 2021, Ronny Crumpton, won election to the Milford ISD board of trustees last Saturday, taking a plurality of votes on an at-large ballot where the top two vote-getters won seats. Crumpton was not elected to the school board before Cervantes’ hiring and confirmed via text on Wednesday he was not involved in the hiring process.

Crumpton, the 2019 inaugural Daily Light All-Ellis County Coach of the Year, won 178 games in 23 total years as head coach at Milford and took the Bulldogs to state twice (2013 and 2018) and the state semifinals (2010) in two separate tours of duty at his alma mater.

Cervantes expects the Bulldogs to return to that level of greatness, starting with a boost in numbers this fall.

“We’ve got a large senior class,” Cervantes said. “I’ve got some guys that didn’t play last year because of injuries that happened either before football or during football. So I’m excited.”

Cervantes becomes the second newly-hired head coach in Ellis County heading into this fall, with a third coaching change in the county still pending after a slow start to the normal coaching carousel.

Last week, Maypearl’s Sam Riepe tendered his resignation after four seasons as head coach and AD and six years overall at his alma mater, in order to become the defensive coordinator at 4A Division I Waxahachie Life. The replacement process at Maypearl ISD is underway.

In late April, Rowlett co-defensive coordinator Lee Wilkins was hired to lead the Italy ISD athletic program. Wilkins has 23 years of experience in education and coaching, including seven years as a head football coach at Princeton and Kemp with a 46-24 record.

The Gladiators’ job came open in March when Craig Horn stepped down after four seasons and became the head coach and AD at Axtell, which is in Italy’s football district.