Harder drive, sharper focus push South Oak Cliff’s football team

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When it was time for the football team to run practice drills, the South Oak Cliff (SOC) High School team couldn’t hustle out to the field behind their school.

That’s because since January 2018, the school has been housed at Dallas ISD’s Village Fair facility while the original campus is being renovated and expanded a few miles away. There’s no space for practice, so the team has been bused to one of six district stadiums to prepare.

But that logistical hurdle hasn’t slowed a team that has defeated all 11 of its opponents on the field so far. They face Aledo High School – also unbeaten – at 7:30 tonight in a Class 5A Division II Region II semifinal to be played at Midlothian ISD Stadium.

When the team heads to tonight’s game, the SOC team will trade the school bus it rode to practices for a luxury charter bus paid for by SOC alumni.

In 2017, SOC got knocked out of the playoffs in the second round. The team has already surpassed that success, but aren’t done just yet. What has been the difference?

“We grew up,” said Davion Wheeler, a senior defensive end. “Also, good coaching. We do everything our coaches tell us to do, we execute and we get the job done.”

Fellow defensive end Steven Parker, also a senior, agreed. “We worked much harder than we had,” he said. “We’re just more focused.”

Head coach Jason Todd said the travel for practices led to some late nights. But they haven’t deterred the team, and his senior players especially want to end their high school careers on top.

“With the senior class, this is their last time,” Todd said. “They just have to lay it all on the line.” In three weeks, the Texas high school season will be over for everyone. “We just have to keep pushing.”

Being the last Dallas ISD team in the playoffs has some benefits.

Community liaison Derrick Battie said staff and players from Carter, Kimball and Roosevelt are planning to fill the stands to support SOC.

“We are all Oak Cliff,” he said.

Battie credits  the school’s male mentor program as another driving factor. It has helped students make better, positive choices and the benefits are showing academically and athletically at SOC.

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