Raiders find winning formula entering playoffs

Robert E. Lee's Graham Thompson looks downfield for a teammate to pass to as he nears the sideline during Monday's game at Red Raider Field. Lee won in overtime and now faces Rowlett in a Class 5A bi-district playoff game. (Lang White | Correspondent, File)

Robert E. Lee (8-9-3) vs. Rowlett (14-8-1) in a Class 5A bi-district playoff soccer game, 7 p.m. Friday at Red Raider Field at Lee HS 

 

"Who do you play for?"

It was a simple question posed by Robert E. Lee boys soccer coach Marty Germany one afternoon at practice in early March.

The Red Raiders had lost three district games in a row, two of them in overtime to sit perilously close to being out of playoff contention altogether with just three left to play.

His question was met with an awkward silence, so he asked again.

"Who do you play for?"

Many of his players had seen the movie "Miracle" when the U.S. hockey team had to skate suicides until Mike Eruzione gave his coach the correct answer to that question, which was he played for the USA — therefore showing that they all need to come together as one team and not individuals.

So, back to the afternoon when Germany posed the same question, many of his varsity players answered like Eruzione and said, "Robert E. Lee."

Germany's response: "No. Start running."

Germany felt the Red Raiders were putting too much stock into 2013 when the team was in first place after the first half of district only to falter down the stretch and miss the playoffs. That team featured forward Lumi Kaba, who threatened the school's all-time scoring record.

With REL held goalless days earlier in a loss to Mesquite Horn, players were grumbling about how things were ending up the same way they had in 2013.

After a couple 100-yard sprints, Germany asked the question again.

"Who do you play for?"

Lee senior goalkeeper Henry Plancarte spoke up with the answer he wanted to hear.

"I play for this year's Robert E. Lee team and not last year," Plancarte said.

Practice then began.

Lee hasn't lost since.

"I told them that they have to remember who they are playing for and it's not last year's team," Germany said of his intentions. "They all understood at that point what we were talking about. If you believe that you're not going to make it because of what happened last year, then you won't.

"We've played better since then."

The Red Raiders reeled off three-straight wins to not only make the playoffs, but finish as the No. 3 seed. Two of those victories came on the road, defeating Mesquite 3-0 and rallying from two goals down in the second half to ultimately beat North Mesquite 3-2 in overtime.

The cherry on top was Monday's overtime win over Rockwall, the first time the Yellowjackets had been defeated outside of a shootout in district this season.

Lee now looks to stay on a roll against a Rowlett team that enters with a 14-8-1 record and winners of three of its last five games. The Eagles have scored 42 goals this season and boast a balanced attack.

Rowlett has played two other District 12-5A opponents earlier in the year, losing to both Rockwall and North Mesquite.

The Red Raiders enter with 38 goals scored this season, led by Case Carnes, who has 10 goals including Lee's game-winner Monday over Rockwall.

Raider Rap: This is not the first time Rowlett and REL have met in the soccer playoffs. The teams faced off in 2007 in the area round with Rowlett scoring the game-winning goal with 1:42 remaining in the match … This is the second time the Red Raiders have played a home playoff game at Red Raider Field with the last one a win over Longview in the 2012 regional quarterfinals … Rowlett has reached the playoffs for 12 straight years with its longest run to the regional semifinals in 2008 and 2010.

 
 

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