PALESTINE — You need clinical finishing and sometimes a little luck to survive and advance in the playoffs.
Robert E. Lee benefitted from both Wednesday in a 3-0 win over A&M Consolidated in their Class 5A Region II bi-district playoff at Wildcat Stadium.
The Red Raiders used a goal from senior Tanner Tebbetts in the first half and two more in the second half from Mikey Wilkins and Lumi Kaba to take out the Tigers in bi-district for a second time in three years.
“I thought they had some good chances in the first half and I told (their coach) the game would’ve been closer if they’d finished those,” said Lee coach Marty Germany. “The guys played well and played how we like them to play.”
It was Germany’s first-ever playoff game as Lee head coach after being a longtime assistant under now retired Rich Brands. Two years ago, Lee stunned the heavily favored Tigers 1-0 in College Station.
Lee senior Reed Pool, who was on the field for that game, wanted to make sure the Red Raiders showed that win was not a fluke. REL missed the playoffs last year.
“It’s nice to be back,” Pool said.
Lee (13-6-5) moves on to the area round where it will face either Richardson Berkner or Garland Naaman Forest later this week. A&M Consolidated completed its season with a 14-6-3 mark.
The Red Raiders managed one shot on goal in the first half, but it was all the opportunity Tebbetts needed to add to his goal-scoring tally.
With the game scoreless in the 24th minute, Tebbetts refused to give up on a long clearing ball, running down and eventually outmuscling the A&M Consolidated defender for it. His angle was horrible to try a shot, but Tebbetts tried his luck anyway and rifled a shot that surprised A&M Consolidated keeper Kyle Duncan, beating him at the near post.
“He’s got jets; he just has a different level than everyone else,” Pool said of Tebbetts. “And when he gets his chances he puts them in.”
REL also rode its luck in the first half.
A&M Consolidated Brandon O’Donovan lofted in a corner kick that was headed goalward by Daniel Zivney. The ball looked destined for the net until the left goalpost intervened.
In the 16th minute, Kolby Graff forced a diving save from Lee keeper Austin Martel to deny his flick attempt from reaching the corner.
Five minutes later, Zivney had another header stopped by the goalpost as Lee went into the break with a 1-0 lead.
“We just didn’t finish our chances, that’s what it boils down to,” said A&M Consolidated coach Chris Kovacs. “But it was a good season and we lost to a good team. Tyler Lee played well and their ball skills are excellent.”
The Red Raiders received the cushion they needed in the early minutes of the second half. On a free kick from 15 yards out, Wilkins fired it low and right at Duncan. The Tigers keeper got his hands on it, but it slipped underneath him and into the net for a 2-0 lead.
A&M Consolidated tried to pressure Lee after this, but rarely threatened Martel. A&M Consolidated’s pushing up left the Tigers susceptible for a counter attack, and Lee capitalized with Sergio Molina playing a pass to Kaba, who beat Duncan with 2:40 left to play, sealing the win.