This is a little unusual for Robert E. Lee soccer.
The boys and girls teams begin district play against Rockwall Heath — and neither is defending district champion.
That hasn’t happened in nine years!
The Lady Raiders finished as runner-up in 2012 with the Red Raiders turning a third-place league finish into a long playoff run that culminated in Lee reaching the regional semifinals.
So, winning district is not everything, but Red Raiders Marty Germany is quick to point out how serious his team is taking district play, beginning with Heath.
“We don’t know anything about them, but in our eyes we are going up there expecting them to be the best team in the district,” Germany said. “We have to prepare that way. We are going to take every game that way.”
The Red Raiders (5-3-1) is on the road against Heath with the game scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Friday at Wilkerson-Sanders Stadium. The Lady Raiders (7-5) will face Heath at 7 p.m. at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
Lee is in a bit of a skid heading into district play. The Lady Raiders rebounded from a slow start to win six straight, but has since dropped three of their last four and been outscored 8-2. REL was stopped 2-0 by Pine Tree on Wednesday.
Senior forward Brooke Johnston, a first team all-district play last season, leads the Lady Raiders with six goals and four assists. Mallory Curtis and Betsy Arellano also have three goals apiece while goalkeepers Madi McCann and Alyson Johnston have combined for three clean sheets.
Heath travels to Tyler with a 4-6 record, but is coming off a 2-1 win Tuesday against Frisco Heritage.
Heath is moving up to 5A after going three rounds deep in the playoffs last year in 4A.
Also new to the District 12-5A is Rockwall, which enters with a 3-3-1 mark. Both Mesquite Horn and North Mesquite come into league play with 7-3-1 records while Mesquite looks to build off last year when the Skeeters narrowly missed the playoffs.
Defending district champion Longview is 12-1, its only loss to Pine Tree.
“We are going to have to (bring our A game) every game in this district,” said Lee coach Chris Woodard. “We’ve always had a team (in the league) that may have been a little weaker than others, but now you have to be on every night.”
Lee polished off Pine Tree 4-0 on Tuesday to enter district with a 5-3-1 record. The Red Raiders have thus far scored 24 goals in nine games, led by senior Lumi Kaba, who has been on fire with 10 goals and two assists.
REL now tries to start with a district road win against Heath, a team that 6-3-2 thus far and enjoying a three-game win streak. The Hawks, competing in 4A last year, reached the playoffs but was stopped in the bi-district round.
Only one team, Mesquite (3-5-2), begins league play with a sub .500 record. Rockwall is 11-2 with Mesquite Horn and North Mesquite 4-3-3 and 5-5, respectively. Defending district champion Longview is 9-2-1.
“Rockwall has a good record, but I still think Longview is the favorite and North Mesquite has played a lot of quality teams,” Germany said. “Even with us being 5-3-1, any of those games we could’ve won if we’d done a little better. All of those games were close. I feel good (about our chances).”