No more rehearsal needed. It’s time to raise the curtain on opening night.
Robert E. Lee and Mesquite Horn begin the games that count at 7:30 p.m. Friday in their District 11-5A opener at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium. The Red Raiders (1-4) and Jaguars (1-4) both challenged themselves with difficult non-district schedules and their records paid the price.
The slate is wiped clean and a victory is the first step toward a district title.
“We know we’ve got to get off to a good start in the district race, so I look for us to have some high energy and I look for Horn to have high energy as well because it’s also an important game for them,” said Lee coach Randy Huffstickler.
The Red Raiders produced eye-catching rushing numbers in four of their five pre-district games, highlighted by a 414-yard effort in Lee’s win over John Tyler. Led by senior Dalaven “Bo” Baker, the Red Raiders are averaging 207 yards rushing per game. Through the air, Lee quarterback Joseph Seeber has passed for nearly 400 yards and three scores.
Injuries have hampered REL’s offense since the win over JT, but Huffstickler said everyone has practiced this week — including preseason Dream Team running back LaQuintas Wallace, who is averaging eight yards per carry with four touchdowns. Wallace has not played in three weeks and is officially questionable for tonight, but Huffstickler said him being cleared to practice is a good sign.
“We are getting a lot of people back this week and we will back close to full strength,” Huffstickler said.
The Red Raiders also welcome back fullbacks Marcus White and Aneas Sutton. White (26-206) missed the past two games after averaging 7.9 yards per carry through the first three and Sutton (26-189) was injured in Lee’s fourth game at The Woodlands and did not play two weeks ago in a home loss to Beaumont West Brook.
Defensively, the Red Raiders are anxious to get back on the field after surrendering 289 yards rushing and three passing touchdowns in the 37-7 home loss to West Brook. The Bruins also converted 6 of 10 third downs, one of them a third-and-19.
“I didn’t have to say much to them because they were disappointed like I was,” Huffstickler said about the team. “The seniors need to step up and lead and I think they are trying to. We had a good physical week last week. We got after it pretty good.”
Mesquite Horn is coming off consecutive losses against Denton Guyer (31-23) and Stephenville (28-20), both at home. Freshman Destri White was forced to play in this game at quarterback last year out of necessity because of an injury to then-starter Collin Strahan. White passed for just 93 yards, but two passes went for touchdowns in a 28-14 win over Lee.
The sophomore enters this contest with 563 yards passing and four touchdowns, completing 60 percent of his throws. White also has rushed for 426 yards and a touchdown with senior tailback Medgar Coleman carrying 53 times for 248 yards and a score.
“I think (Horn coach) Rodney (Webb) does a good job of scheming defenses,” Huffstickler said. “He’s good at attacking the weakness of a defense. If you overload the strong side, then he’s going to work weak and we get loaded up on weak he’s going to work the strong.”
When White puts it in the air, he’s usually looking for Vincent Hobbs or Courtland Charles. Combined, the two nearly have as many catches (30) as the entire Lee team to go along with 360 yards and two touchdowns.
“They run that ‘look-back’ offense where they see how you line up and then you see the whole offense look back and then (Webb) will call his play based on how we’re lined up,” Huffstickler said. “We have to do a good job of showing a three-man front and then jump into a four-man front, things like that.”