Robert E. Lee hosts longtime district rival Longview on Friday at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
It is a game of two teams that have faced similar obstacles this season, but enter on very different paths.
The Lobos (5-3, 2-2 in District 12-5A) were primed to pick up where they left off in 2011 — they lost to eventual state champion Spring Dekaney in the regional round — when everything took a new turn in their first game of the season.
Bivins Caraway, who committed to Louisiana-Monroe prior to the season, suffered a season-ending injury. Longview lost that game and were forced to turn to a sophomore as its new starting quarterback. Dezmon Chumley enters tonight's game with 653 yards passing and nine touchdowns with just one interception. Longview has gone 6-2 with Chumley, who is coming off a dominating effort against North Mesquite where he threw four touchdowns passes in the first half of a 52-3 win.
The Lobos have the postseason in sight, but need victories in their final two games to make sure.
Lee (1-7, 0-4 in District 12-5A) also began the season without its starting quarterback because of injury. The Red Raiders turned to junior Raleigh Poster and most recently to Christian Diosdado, who replaced an injured Poster last week.
Unlike Longview, the Red Raiders offense hasn't been able to get on track, averaging 10 points per game in district while giving up a league-high 41 points per contest. Lee is desperate to break through for a first district victory in two years.
Lee coach Darrell Piske believes it comes down to Longview players being accustomed to winning while the Red Raiders have won four games in three years.
"We are having a hard time staying positive because after three or four years of not turning it around and not winning those games late and doing that kind of stuff, it's hard to get these kids to believe in themselves enough to believe they can turn it around," Piske said.
The Red Raiders trailed district-leading Mesquite 22-9 at halftime last week and had just stopped the Skeeters on their first drive of the third quarter.
Then the wheels fell off.
A mistake on a fake punt, a missed tackle on a quick pass and a lost fumble conspired to turn the game into a rout.
Longview is tied for the district lead in forced turnovers (18), led by senior safety Cory Bartley's five interceptions. The Lobos are giving up a league best 104 yards rushing per game. North Mesquite running backs Ta'Varius Luke and Corey Hunt, who rushed for 157 yards and a TD against Lee, combined for 90 yards on 31 attempts. All told, Longview held North Mesquite to 145 yards of offense.
Piske said REL senior Marcus White (66-372, two TDs) will start again with Le Terrance Simmons (33-254, two TDs) also in the backfield mix.
Piske said White has earned the start based on his commitment down the stretch this season.
"Marcus is going to give you everything he has got on every play," Piske said. "He's going to run hard and hit the crease and point of attack.
At quarterback Piske plans on using both Diosdado and Poster, who is back after missing last week. Diosdado (9-15-0, 75 yards) will start with Poster (48-102-6, 586 yards and two TDs) rotating in.
"They are both going to play," Piske. "If one of them gets the hot hand, we may stay with him, but we are going to roll them in every two series, so they can get some rhythm."
Two years ago, a one-win REL team played at Longview and was leading 17-14 with seven minutes to play, but an untimely turnover helped the Lobos turn the tide and win the game.
Piske said he'd take a close game in the fourth quarter this time around too.
A win for Lee over Longview would be the Red Raiders' first since 2003.
"It's going to be a physical game on both sides," Piskie said. "But we've got to match (Longview) physically, show up and fight for four quarters and be physical and attack. Not just take it, but give it also."
Probable Starting Lineups
LONGVIEW — QB 20 Dezmond Chumley (5-10, 180, So.), FB 33 Jamycal Hasty (5-10, 185, So.), RB L'Darrius Peterson (5-8, 160, Jr.), LT 51 Rendell Harris (5-10, 180, Sr.), LG 99 Roderick Alexander (5-10, 290, Jr.), C 64 Mark Malone (6-2, 200, Sr.), RG 71 Adrian Jackson (6-2, 280, Sr.), RT 63 Kennry Andrews (6-2, 250, Jr.), TE 81 Colin Jeter (6-6, 210, Sr.), WR 5 Justin Spady (5-9, 170, Sr.), WR 15 Dorian Leonard (6-4, 195, Jr.). K 94 Miguel Cabrera (5-8, 155, Jr.).
ROBERT E. LEE -- QB 13 Christian Diosdado (Jr.); RB 20 LaQuintas Wallace (5-10, 205, Sr.); FB 34 Chris Manuel (Sr.); TE 87 Matthew Weeks (6-4, 250, So.), RT 71 Ian Chase (6-4, 305, Sr.); RG 75 Lane Haeger (6-2, 240, Sr.); C 64 Josh Wyscarver-Smith (6-1, 240, Sr.); LG 74 Ryan Rendon (6-1, 255, Jr.); LT 77 Zacchaeus Page (6-4, 280, Sr.), WR 4 Diondre Allen (Jr.); WR 10 Cedric Brown (5-10, 170, Sr.); K 37 Lumi Kaba (Sr.).
ROBERT E. LEE (3-4) -- DE 29 Etim Asangansi (5-10, 230, Jr.); NT Triston Taylor (6-1, 290, Jr.); DE 99 Delkei Derrett (6-1, 245, Sr.); OLB 26 Teddy Matlock (So.); OLB 35 Deontay Walker (6-1, 215, Sr.); ILB 47 Roderick Gaines (So.); ILB 32 Brandon Durman (So.); S 6 Greg Lavely (Jr.); FS 15 Rezzin Pullum (5-10, 175, Sr.); CB 41 Patrick Udofia (So.); CB 3 Davier Harris (5-10, 155, Sr.) P 37 Lumi Kaba (Sr.).
LONGVIEW(4-3) -- DE Tre Allen (6-1, 225, Sr.), DT 92 Cornelius Williams (5-10, S90, Sr.), DT 99 Roderick Alexander (6-0, 235, Jr.), DE 43 Jalen Porter (6-0, 225, Sr.), OLB 3 Jacoby Redden (5-8, 170, Jr.), MLB 42 Torean Sheppard (5-10, 185, Sr.), OLB 25 Demarkus Lathan (5-9, 190, Sr.), CB 13 Nakia Brown (5-10, 180, Sr.), SS 7 Stephan Maxey (5-10, 180, Jr.), CB 4 Jaylan Lawson (5-9, 165, Sr.), FS 6 Corey Bartley (5-7, 165, Sr.).