By Travis M. Smith | Ellis County Sports Sports
RED OAK — An all-around stellar gameplan and execution led the Red Oak Hawks to a home victory against Burleson Centennial in their regular-season finale on Friday.
For anyone who missed the 35-21 Red Oak win, senior quarterback Josh Ervin is thriving once again behind center. He efficiently completed 11-of-his-18 passes for 243 yards and four touchdowns.
“Josh was solid tonight,” Red Oak head football coach Michael Quintero said. “The penalties got us and we dug a hole. We can’t start behind the chains. But Josh battled and I thought his leadership was great.
“There were times when we would hit a lull and you’d hear him on the sidelines trying to get the guys going. I don’t think it was necessarily his best game, but he was solid and he has been solid all year.”
Ervin will enter the 5A Division I playoffs having completed 78-of-his-106 passing attempts for 1,196 yards and 16 touchdowns to just one interception.
Two of those Ervin touchdown passes went to fellow senior and Oklahoma State-bound receiver Raymond Gay Jr, who went off for 203 yards on nine catches.
“Ray is one of our team leaders,” Quintero said. “He is a big playmaker for us and has reliable hands. When we throw him the ball, we expect him to come down with it. He did well tonight.”
The Hawks’ defense also stepped up huge Friday at Billy Goodloe Stadium, limiting the Spartans to 119 total yards in the second half and forcing two third-quarter fumbles.
One of the biggest momentum-shifting plays by the Hawks’ defense came in the first half, though.
Red Oak linebackers Cameron Green and Carter Lincoln combined for a huge sack on fourth-and-17 with seven minutes and change to play in the first quarter. The game was tied at 7-all when Centennial quarterback Phillip Hamilton (6-12, 101 yards) hit the turf at the Hawks’ 36-yard line.
“This [win] feels great,” said Lincoln, who first made the varsity as a special teamer and has since started for the past two seasons at outside linebacker. “[…] We have to keep working and we’ll get to where we want to be.”
Ervin quickly capitalized on the Centennial turnover when he connected with Gay for a 56-yard touchdown on the Hawks’ second snap after the turnover-on-downs. Gay blew by the Spartan cornerback on the go-route and put Red Oak ontop for the first time, 14-7, with 6:30 to play in the first half.
The score held as the two teams headed for the halftime locker room.
The Spartans rushed for 153 yards in the first half, while the Red Oak offense outgained Centennial 203 total yards to 181.
The two teams combined for 14 penalties for 91 yards in the first half. Neither committed a turnover.
The Spartans continued to lean on their running game to start the second half. Centennial quickly tied the game when Phillip Hamilton rushed into the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown with 9:25 to play in the third quarter. The drive covered 74 yards and consisted of six consecutive runs.
Hamilton (19-59) scored all three Spartan touchdowns, adding rushing scores from 32 and 4 yards in the first and fourth quarters, respectively. Christian Hudson led the Centennial rushing attack with 17 carries for 100 yards.
The Red Oak offense responded on its ensuing drive when Ervin connected with Jace Wyatt for a 34-yard touchdown.
Disaster struck for the Spartans a few possessions later when David Clerk’s option pitch out of the wildcat formation hit the turf.
Red oak recovered the fumbled pitch at Centennial’s 19-yard line with 11:50 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Young rushed three times for the Hawks, including a 12-yard scamper on fourth-and-4, to move the football to the Spartan 1-yard line. He scored on the ensuing snap to put Red Oak on top, 28-14, with 10:43 left to play.
The ultimate dagger came with 2:31 showing on the fourth-quarter clock when Ervin connected with Gay on a slant route for a 24-yard touchdown. Ervin had a free play after three Spartans jumped offside along the line of scrimmage.
Hamilton added his third rushing touchdown on the ensuing Centennial possession.
The victory improved Red Oak to 6-2 on the season and 6-1 in District 4-5A. The Hawks, who finished second in the district standings, will enter the 5A Division-I playoffs as the district’s top seed due to enrollment size. District-champion Colleyville Heritage, Burleson Centennial and Mansfield Summit will join Red Oak in Region I of the 5A Divison-I playoffs.
Red Oak will host Justin Northwest in the 5A Division-1 bi-district round next Friday at Billy Goodloe Stadium. It will mark the Hawks’ third-consecutive year to host a first-round playoff game (1-1 overall).
Quintero noted that the opportunity to host a playoff game won’t be taken for granted — especially for the seniors.
“It’s big for our seniors to get another home game,” he explained. “[Our goal is] to make history for the program and this community. I think sometimes the kids don’t realize how big this game is for a community. Being a coach who has now been there and done that, you realize it now, but you don’t then.
“They really make this community proud and that is something that we are going to continue to preach. We are going to try and get some fire under the kids this week.”
All photos by Fred Phipps/Ellis County Sports Sports
Fred Phipps/Ellis County Sports Sports contributed to this report.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith