CORSICANA — Robert E. Lee coach Marty Germany summed it up in his postgame talk.
“It was one of our worst possession games of the year, but it’s all about who has more points on the scoreboard — and it’s those dang Rebels!” Germany said, drawing a cheer from his players.
The press box announcer may have accidentally mispronounced Lee’s mascot — REL changed from the Rebels to the Red Raiders in the 1970s — but Richardson Berkner will never forget.
Tanner Tebbetts scored in the early minutes of the second overtime and REL hung on after that to stun Berkner, 3-2, Friday in their Class 5A area playoff at Tiger Stadium.
The Rams (19-2) entered as the third-ranked team in the nation according to ESPN RISE. Lee (14-6-5) now advances to the Class 5A Region II quarterfinals where it will face district rival Longview at a time and place still to be determined.
“We knew they were ranked, but we feel like sometimes East Texas soccer gets disrespected and our theme (this week) was we were going to earn respect,” Germany said. “One way or the other, when we walked off the field, DFW soccer was going to respect us.
“It wasn’t a pretty win, but (we’ll take it).”
Berkner had only allowed 16 goals all season prior to this game.
Tebbett’s game-winner was his 14th goal of the year.
“He always shoots from the worst angles and the worst moments with the most pressure,” Germany said of Tebbett’s goal, which Berkner keeper Taylor Tokerud fumbled.
“(Tebbetts) was struggling with the physicality of the play and their (fans heckling him). I took him off and told him to settle down and if he wanted to (quiet them down), just put it in the back of the net. He smiled and said, ‘OK.’”
It took a last-minute comeback from Berkner to necessitate Tebbett’s heroics. Lee led 2-1 until the last two minutes of the game. Berkner defender Carlos Angelina had pushed up and played a cross into the box that was headed in by Mohammad Elashi.
It was the second time Berkner had rallied back to equalize. Lee grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first half on a penalty kick by Reed Pool and led 2-1 at halftime off a free kick by Mikey Wilkins.
After Tebbett’s overtime goal, Lee withstood wave after wave of Berkner attacks thanks to strong goalkeeping from senior Austin Martel and lockdown defense by REL’s back line. Martel tipped one shot just over the cross bar, lunged to tip away another with one hand and finally took charge against numerous balls played into the box.
“We lost our focus in the second half and gave up a goal, but we regained it in overtime,” said Martel, who finished with 12 saves. “I’d been playing this game since I was five years old and I don’t want to quit now.”
Tebbetts nearly put REL in front in the opening minutes of the first overtime when he got in behind the defense, but his shot drifted harmlessly wide.
Given a second chance in the second overtime, Tebbetts smashed a shot from long distance that Tokerud looked ready to catch. The ball slammed off his gloves, but it wasn't enough to prevent it from going into the net.
Robert E. Lee was not intimidated by Richardson Berkner’s record and immediately came out on the front foot in the opening minutes.
The Red Raiders continually pressured Berkner’s back four in the game’s opening minutes and it paid off with the opening goal. Pool stole the ball away from Berkner’s left back, giving Lee a 2 on 1 with Tebbetts open. Pool played the ball to Tebbetts, who was about to shoot when he was brought down in the box.
The referee awarded a penalty kick and Pool did not miss, calmly slotting it to the left corner of Tokerud for a 1-0 lead just eight minutes into the match.
Jack Wolf equalized for Berkner in the 21st minute. Elashi found some space down the left wing, settled and lofted a perfect cross into the box which flew over Martel’s outstretched fingertips, enabling Wolf to head it home at the back post.
Berkner’s good feelings were short lived thanks to Tebbetts forcing Berkner into another foul, this one outside of the box.
Wilkins surveyed the situation from 25 yards out and unleashed a swerving kick that would’ve made Cristiano Ronaldo proud, as a diving Tokerud was powerless to stop it from ripping the net in the top left corner.
Wolf nearly had another equalizer with three minutes left in the half, thanks to another good cross, but this time his header went wide.
RAIDER RAP: In the 2004 Class 5A Division I football state championship game, the announcer at the Alamodome in San Antonio called Lee the Rebels instead of the Red Raiders. Lee went on to defeat Spring Westfield, 28-21, for the school’s first-ever football state title.