Robert E. Lee senior George Martinez had never scored a goal in his varsity career.
Now he has — and it was a game-winner for the Red Raiders in a 3-1 overtime victory over Rockwall-Heath on Tuesday at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
The district defensive player of the year last year, Martinez decided to try his luck from 35 yards out when the ball was played back to him in the first half of overtime. Martinez one-timed a perfect curling ball that drifted over Heath’s keeper into the left corner to snap a 1-1 tie.
Lumi Kaba scored his second of the game in the second half of overtime to secure the win and three points in the District 12-5A standings.
“I can say it was a little bit of luck, but I was (aiming) for the back post,” Martinez said on his game-winning goal. “Sometimes they say you need luck to win a game and I was definitely (fortunate) to get that shot and score the goal.”
The victory moved the Red Raiders to 5-2 in district and gave Lee 15 points in the standings, moving REL ahead of North Mesquite (lost 2-1 to Rockwall) into second place. Rockwall-Heath fell to 0-6 in league play.
The Red Raiders were staring at a third straight defeat when Rockwall-Heath’s Willie Flores took advantage of a misplay by the Lee keeper and mix-up on the clearance. Flores ghosted in and took the loose ball to score in an empty net and give the visitors a 1-0 lead with 20 minutes remaining.
Heath regularly conceded possession and looked to counter, but now that the Hawks were in front, placed nine players behind the ball while Lee attempted to break it down.
Kaba nearly got the equalizer when a ball was played in over the top, but a quick-thinking sliding clearance by Heath’s keeper denied him.
Nothing stopped Kaba the second time he was played behind the defense. As Heath players raised their arms in vain looking for an offside decision, Kaba hammered a low shot into the left bottom corner to tie the game at 1-1 with 7:50 remaining.
“Early in the game we had a few chances, but it was too slow,” said Lee coach Marty Germany about getting the equalizer. “We wanted to attack in two or three touches instead of nine (and were able to do that on Kaba’s goal).”
The score remained 1-1 at the end of regulation, forcing two eight-minute overtime halves. The Red Raiders laid siege to Heath’s goal in the first half of overtime, but couldn’t get the breakthrough goal.
Then out of nowhere, Martinez did just that.
With under a minute to play, Javier Ruiz was closed down at the top of the box, so he played a ball back to Martinez. The defender’s goal set off wild celebrations and his coach was forced to eat a little crow.
“The other day George was going to take a free kick (in practice) and I said ‘I don’t need George doing that.’ I then asked him, ‘George, how many goals have you scored in your high school career and he said none.’
“So as soon as he scored, the bench started saying you can’t make fun of him anymore.”
Trailing 2-1, Rockwall-Heath was forced to come out and be more adventurous, leaving gaps in the back that Kaba took advantage of to score his second goal on a long ball from Travis Bell that he headed in.
Lee next faces Longview at 7 p.m. Friday at Lee High School Field in what Germany believes will be another tightly contested affair.
“There are no easy games and we just need to play quicker; play cleaner and I just told them we need to play smarter,” Germany said.
Lee girls lose 1-0 at Rockwall-Heath
ROCKWALL — For the second time, only one goal separated Rockwall-Heath and Robert E. Lee and it was the Hawks who scored it.
Taryn Wheeler converted a penalty kick to defeat Lee 1-0 Tuesday at Wilkerson-Sanders Stadium.
Rockwall-Heath beat REL 1-0 in overtime in their first meeting.
The loss drops Lee to 0-6-1 in district play.