Lufkin jumps on Lee early in 38-20 win

Robert E. Lee running back LaQuintas Wallace heads upfield against Lufkin on Friday at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium. (Christopher R. Vinn | Tyler Morning Telegraph)

The search for a new football coach continues, but Robert E. Lee does have its 2012 football schedule taken care of.

Rod Kaspar, TISD athletic director, finalized Lee’s schedule this morning after the biennial realignment was announced.

The Red Raiders are in a new District 12-5A that also includes fellow 11-5A holdovers Longview, Mesquite Horn, North Mesquite and Mesquite. The two newcomers to the group are Rockwall and Rockwall-Heath, who both move up from Class 4A. DeSoto moves to District 7-5A and Region I.

Rockwall is back after being in District 12-5A in 2004 and 2005.

“It ended up exactly like I thought it would be,” said Kaspar about Lee, which turned in enrollment of 2,600. “We have the two Rockwall schools which are going to be some good competition and the travel is not that bad and I think it’s a good district for Lee to be in.”

As for who will lead the Red Raiders into the 2012 season, Kaspar said the process is ongoing.

“The date I had for (a new coach in place) was realignment, but that was really just a wish date,” Kaspar said. “You just never know how this process is going to flow or how it’s going to happen, but it’s not a bad deal.

“I don’t see any reason to panic or any reason to get nervous about not having anyone in place (yet). I feel once we name that coach, we’ll hit the ground running and Lee will get going and we’ll get back on track.” 

An announcement was expected soon following word that current interim head coach Randy Huffstickler was no longer a candidate. Lindale’s Mike Meador confirmed the he was a finalist and had pulled his name out of consideration. Rumors are of other finalists following Meador’s lead.

Kaspar said despite the talk, he is confident that the search committee will hire the right man for the job from the current group of candidates.

“I think we still have some viable candidates that we are looking at,” Kaspar said. “I don’t see us going back out there and spreading the net for more candidates. I think what we are sitting on is good, and once the process goes through, we are not going to leave any stone unturned to find out what we have to find out about these people.”

Whoever the coach is will have to prepare for the Sulphur Springs Wildcats. Lee is scheduled to open the season against the 4A school as part of the Trinity Mother Frances Football Classic. Following that game are annual non-district clashes against Lufkin and John Tyler before completing non-district against Texas High.

The District 12-5A slate opens with a home game against Mesquite Horn. Lee is also at home against Rockwall and Longview. The Red Raiders go on the road to play North Mesquite and Mesquite with its final game of the regular season at Rockwall-Heath.

“All of us look at this (new district) as a positive,” said Lee assistant coach Gary Fleet. “Any time you lose a team like DeSoto … it’s not that both Rockwall schools are not talented, but I think everyone would agree that DeSoto is one of the most talented schools in the state.”

While the departure of DeSoto may be welcomed in basketball and track and field where both the boys and girls teams are defending district champs, the addition of Rockwall and Rockwall-Heath also ratchets up the competition for Lee in golf, swimming, tennis, soccer, baseball and softball.

“My kids will actually have to try harder and have to prove themselves,” said Lee tennis coach Jessica Taylor, whose team won its seventh consecutive team tennis title in overwhelming fashion. “Longview is going to be good again next year, but our kids are going to have to (push themselves) now more which I view as a positive.”

The Lee boys golf team has also captured seven consecutive district crowns. The last time the Red Raiders were denied a district title was in 2004 and Rockwall was the culprit.

“They’ve got real good golf programs and it just makes it tougher,” said Lee coach John Taylor. “You have to treat it like a tough course; you are going to have to concentrate harder and compete harder.”

Said Lee boys track coach Elgin Johnson:

“I hate that DeSoto is leaving, but we’ve got one more shot at them this spring. I don’t know a lot about Rockwall and Heath. We played Rockwall in football, but I imagine they have some good athletes.”

The Newbies By The Numbers

Rockwall High

Mascot: Yellowjackets

Colors: Orange and Black

Stadium: Wilkerson-Sanders Memorial (8,330)

Head Coach: Scott Smith

2011 Football: 3-7



Mascot: Hawks

Colors: Red and Black

Stadium: Wilkerson-Sanders Memorial (8,330)

Head Coach: Mickey Moss

2011 Football: 11-2 (4A Division I Regional Semifinalist)