Robert E. Lee coach Darrell Piske repeatedly characterizes the Red Raiders as a puzzle and he wants to have the right pieces in place by Sept. 28 when District 12-5A play begins at home against Mesquite Horn.
Following Friday’s 21-0 loss to John Tyler, Lee is 0-3 through three non-district games and Piske said there are positives and negatives with each result.
In losses to Sulphur Springs and Lufkin, the Red Raiders offense averaged 32.5 points and 368 yards. On defense, Lee surrendered an average of 38 points and 408 total yards.
But against John Tyler, ranked No. 7 in Class 4A, the Red Raiders limited the high-powered Lions offense to 21 points and 266 yards. The Red Raiders also forced two fumbles, both on plays where a Lee defender stripped the JT ball carrier. Both were recovered by senior linebacker C.J. Thompson.
The first halted a JT drive at the REL 25 in the second quarter and the second stopped the Lions again, this time at Lee’s 36.
“They did well; they’ve been getting better,” Piske said following the game.
REL’s offense was limited to 139 yards and seven total first downs. It marked the first time Lee had been shutout in 18 games. Ironically, it was also against JT, a 17-0 setback in 2010.
Lee senior running back LaQuintas Wallace totaled 283 yards and six touchdowns in his first two games against the Lions. Against JT this season: 12 carries for 33 yards.
The Red Raiders trailed 7-0 at halftime and got the ball first to start the second half. After beginning the third quarter at Lufkin game with a three-and-out, REL came out determined to establish itself on offense. And it would’ve worked out that way, if not for a referee’s flag.
On first-and-10, Raleigh Poster faked a handoff and rolled out to connect with sophomore Matthew Weeks. The 6-4 tight end then rumbled 45 yards before being brought down at JT’s 25. With senior Lumi Kaba already having a 54-yard field goal on his résumé this season, REL now looked destined to at worse cut JT’s lead to 7-3.
Seemingly everyone was up field, except for a single official still standing at the line of scrimmage, motioning for everyone to come back.
The penalty was for illegal man downfield.
The air was let out of Lee’s side of the stadium.
REL did not threaten after that until the final seconds of the game, which was stopped by an interception in the end zone.
“We wanted to come out and score on that first drive of the second half and we threw that bootleg and got Weeks the ball,” Piske said. “The kids have struggled so much, that (penalty) was another big letdown, but they have to (learn) to overcome (those kinds of things) and just go back the next play and play football.”
The Red Raiders now face Texas High (1-1), which is coming off a 54-7 loss to Evangel Christian (La.). It is the first meeting of the former district foes since 1999.
“We’ve got one more game; the defense is fixed and now we get the offense back where it was and we’ll be fine,” Piske said.
In other words, the puzzle is not complete — yet.
ROBERT E. LEE REWIND
Final Score: John Tyler 21, Robert E. Lee 0.
Turning point: The penalty on Matthew Week’s big catch and run proved vital. The Red Raiders stopped JT with a fumble recovery, but a 9-yard loss by Wallace pushed REL back into its own territory. The Red Raiders did not take another snap in Lions territory until it was 21-0.
The game was over when: JT’s DeQuante Woods picked off a Lee pass on second-and-12 and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown and 21-0 lead on the final play of the third quarter.
Key stat: Lee punted nine times.
Plus signs: Lee’s defense stood tall while Lee senior Lumi Kaba continues to be a weapon, averaging 48 yards on nine punts with a long of 64. He also continues to stop opposing kickoff-return teams by blasting his kickoff into the end zone for touchbacks.
Warning signs: After having no interceptions in its first 38 pass attempts, REL has been intercepted three times in its past 16 pass plays.
What this loss means: JT has bragging rights in the city, but Lee won this game last year and lost the rest. JT lost and went on to reach the state semifinals. Lee would gladly take a similar outcome.
Next Game: Texas High at Robert E. Lee
When: 7:30 p.m., Friday
Where: Earl Campbell Field
at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium
Radio: ESPN East Texas 92.1-FM, Tyler