With Robert E. Lee’s three straight 9-loss seasons contrasted to John Tyler’s four-straight double-digit win seasons, the Lions have had most of the momentum on the gridiron in recent years.
This year, however, JT may enter the annual grudge match as something of an underdog after the revitalized Red Raiders’ 2-0 start to the season.
Lee comes into tonight’s 7:30 clash at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium off a 42-30 win over Lufkin, the same team that beat the Lions 52-28 to start the year.
The Red Raiders are 2-0 for the first time since 2005 and picking up steam under second-year head coach Darrell Piske.
“They’ve got some kids that believe in the program right now and they’re getting it done,” JT coach Ricklan Holmes said. “They’re starting to buy into what coach Piske is having them do and that’s where the success is coming from. I’m real proud of them for being 2-0 right now.”
While the Lions have enjoyed more wins in recent years, that hasn’t always translated to victories over the Red Raiders. JT hasn’t beaten Lee in back-to-back years since 1998, which capped a run of five straight wins.
In 2011, Lee’s lone win came in a 39-30 triumph over JT.
“My sophomore year they beat us and they were 1-9,” Lions senior Terry Ausborne said. “It really doesn’t matter the records — it’s how you go out there and play each other.”
The Lions enter the Lee game 1-1 after a thrilling win over Lancaster. Quarterback Geovari McCollister and kicker Jose Perez came through in the final 5.5 minutes as JT, which led 22-7, scored the game’s final nine points for a 31-28 victory.
McCollister completed his final nine passes for 116 yards on the final two drives; Perez kicked the game-winning field goal with 1 second left. Both are juniors who will face Lee for the first time today.
“That’s big for us, not just only to get the win but to prove to ourselves that we’re going to be willing to fight to the very end,” Holmes said. “It teaches them first of all that they can win and they can win under any circumstances.”
The Lee team JT faces today will be unlike those in recent years in that the Red Raiders can throw the ball. Lee passed for 808 yards all of 2012 and 738 in 2011. This year Lee has thrown for 458 yards in two games. The Red Raiders are also running well, averaging 337 yards per game on the ground.
“They’re doing the same thing they were doing last year, they’re just doing it a lot better,” Holmes said. “We’re going to put a lot of pressure on (our front seven) to make sure they contain the run and we make them throw the ball.”
Lee sophomore Zach Hall has completed 19 of 28 passes for 448 yards, five touchdowns and one interception while running for 298 yards and three more scores.
The Lions have had success defending the pass this year. The JT secondary held three future NCAA Division I receivers to a combined six grabs. Lancaster’s Nick Alexander, an Arizona State commit, had one catch for minus-5 yards on Saturday.
“We practice against a passing team every day,” said Ausborne, a free safety who leads the team with 19 tackles. “We just gotta go out there and play.”