COUNTDOWN TO KICKOFF 2021: Red Devils stay focused to put disappointment behind them

High expectations are the norm around the Rankin football program and it was no exception entering the start of the 2020 season.

The Red Devils began the season as the top team in Class 1A Division I and were one of the favorites to make it to a state championship game.

Rankin was unable to reach that goal, however, after falling in the second round to eventual state champion Sterling City.

The Red Devils have not forgotten the feeling of falling short and as they prepare to kick off 2021, they have a different attitude on the approach to the season.

“We have something to prove this year,” senior running back Braxxton Kirkland said. “That’s about it.”

Rankin’s Braxxton Kirkland jumps up to make a catch during practice Wednesday at Rankin High School. (Tony Venegas|Odessa American)

Kirkland is one of four starters back with the team in 2021 after the team graduated 12 seniors this past year.

A familiar face but just one of a handful as the Red Devils break in several new starters on both sides of the ball.

“We’re excited to get back to work with these guys,” head coach Garret Avalos said. “There are a lot of new faces but we’ve been really impressed with what we’ve seen from our seniors and some younger guys early on.”

One of those younger players is junior quarterback Blake Wise.

Wise is set for his first year as the starter and says that the bitter taste of how last season for the seniors has motivated him and the rest of the team.

“They had a lot of talent and they wanted it,” Wise said. “We just came up short last year and we just don’t want to do that this year.”

The work in trying to reach that goal in 2021 started almost as soon as the 2020 season ended according to Avalos.

He said that he and the coaching staff looked inward to try and figure out what happened and how to learn and move forward from it.

“We looked back a lot of mistakes that we made as a coaching staff last year and that’s where it started this summer,” he said. “We got together and started identifying some things or some weaknesses of ours that we can fix and translating that so that our kids can understand what we’re trying to do and not make those mistakes again.”

Rankin head coach Garret Avalos (center) looks on during practice Wednesday at Rankin High School. (Tony Venegas|Odessa American)

One point of emphasis is attention to detail and Avalos said that it’s even more important entering 2021 with several new players.

Despite the inexperience, Avalos added that he sees a good opportunity with this group.

“Our biggest obstacle going is to be varsity-level experience but we definitely have some athletes that are chomping at the bit to show that they belong,” he said. “We’re also going to rely heavily on a couple of seniors that we’ve really leaned on for a long time.”

There is also a different mindset within the program.

After dealing with the preseason top billing a year ago, the team has focused more on controlling what it can, focusing on the team itself.

“We’re just going to play our game and not let anyone take that from us,” Wise said. “It’s about never quitting and never giving up on the play. Trust the play, trust the coaches and the team.”

Avalos said that that shift in focus came from the players and was encouraged to see his team take on that attitude.

That may be a small burden lifted from this group of Red Devils as they concern them on the process as opposed to looking too far down the road.

“These guys came to me day one saying that they want to focus on one day at a time and getting better every day and seeing what doors open for us if we work hard so that’s pretty exciting to hear,” Avalos said.





>> Head coach: Garret Avalos.

>> Coach’s overall record: 29-6.

>> Coach’s record at school: 29-6.

>> Assistant coaches, duties: Colton Martin, defensive coordinator; James Gerick; James Wyatt; Chase Riker.



>> 2020 overall record: 10-2.

>> 2020 district record: 3-0 (First, District 6-1A Division I).

>> Last district title: 2020.

>> Last playoff appearance: 2020 (def Van Horn, forfiet; lost to Sterling City, 100-88, in area round).

>> Stadium name: Red Devil Stadium.

>> Base offense: J-Bird.

>> Base defense: 3-3.



>> Returning lettermen: 6.

>> Returning starters: 4 (1 offense, 3 defense).

>> Key returners: Braxxton Kirkland, Sr., FB/LB; Kalob Augero, Sr., WR/DB; David Bunger, Jr., OL/DL; Blake Wise, Jr., QB; Harrison Fouts, Sr., DE.

>> Key newcomers: Baret Jackson; Blake Bunger.



Date   Opponent                Time        Site

Aug. 13 Klondike*               5 p.m.       Rankin

Aug. 20 Sterling City*           5 p.m.       Sterling City

Aug. 27  Balmorhea               7:30 p.m.   Rankin

Sept. 2 Springlake-Earth      7:30 p.m.   Borden County

Sept. 10  Gail Borden County  7:30 p.m.   Rankin

Sept. 17  Leakey                      6:30 p.m.  Rankin

Sept. 24   Calvert                       7:30 p.m.   TBD

Oct. 1   Nueces Canyon        6:30 p.m.  Rankin

Oct. 8  Open

Oct. 15 Lubbock Titans        7:30 p.m.   Lubbock

Oct. 22 Lenorah Grady         7:30 p.m.   Rankin

Oct. 29 Midland TLCA           7:30 p.m.   Midland

Nov. 5  Garden City              7:30 p.m.   Rankin