OAKLAND, Calif. - The Oakland High football team has had a pretty dismal record since the pandemic, and even before.
Three years ago, their season ended 0-7. Then 0-10. Again, last year, they had zero wins and 10 losses.
Enter Coach T.
Terry Hendrix Jr. was hired in April to lead the varsity players to victory and he did just that.
On Aug. 31, Oakland High beat Highlands High in Sacramento 16-8 – the first win for the team in four years.
"I'm the coach, so I had to play it cool, like this happens all the time," Hendrix said Monday. "But inside, I was ecstatic."
The players were thrilled, too.
"We fought as hard as we could," said QB Rah’Shaan Buffin, 17, a senior. "Our team has a really strong bond."
Team captain, Jamar Davis, 17, agreed.
"The energy, the overall vibe with Coach T, it's like no matter what, we're gonna do it," he said.
Hendrix said he was recruited to Oakland High by Orlando Watkins, the coach of the school's basketball team, which won their first state championship this year.
Watkins is credited with turning the Wildcats around and he was hoping that Hendrix could do the same for football.
Hendrix – a former Fremont High coach and a current Prescott Elementary teacher – has indeed been doing just that.
Oakland High school beats their first team in four years. August 31, 2023
In addition to practicing with the team on a daily basis, Hendrix makes the players know that he – and the wider community – cares about them.
And it's with that lifted morale, Hendrix said, that gives the players a winning attitude.
"No one has believed in them," Hendrix said. "They've been doormats for some time. The football program has just been laughed at."
So, Hendrix decided to show the teens he loved them.
"Oakland can lack love," he said. "Some households can influence kids to turn to the streets."
Hendrix just started showing up for the kids, giving them rides home, feeding them every Thursday before games, providing bread, turkey, cheese and snacks.
Hendrix gets help from many community members, including Ny Colvin, the mother of a junior varsity player. She fundraisers to buy food for the team and provides overall support.
Hendrix, she said, "gives our kids support and hope."
"I'm just available to them," he said. "And once you gain their trust, you get their buy-in. And then you'll see success."
And success is what Oakland High had last week playing their Sacramento rivals.
Hendrix could see a psychological change in his players when they were up at half-time. He could see their attitude changing.
He could see that his players realized that they could achieve their goals and that their fans, their parents and strangers along the way believed in them.
"Winning that game was everything," Hendrix said. "They had never been to the Promised Land."
IF YOU'RE INTERESTED in helping feed the team or supporting the Oakland High Wildcats, click here.
Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez