Slow and steady wins the race — but it doesn’t hurt to jump out early and leave the competition in the dust.
Robert E. Lee is aiming for the latter as the Red Raiders (1-3) play host to Beaumont West Brook (3-1) at 7:30 p.m. today at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
In four games thus far, Lee has enjoyed little time in the ascendancy. Breaking it down: the Red Raiders have played 192 minutes of football this season. Lee has been in front for 24 of those minutes.
“We need to get off to a fast start and have success on both sides of the football,” Lee coach Randy Huffstickler said. “We can’t play from behind; we need to get ahead and stay there. Our offense is not necessarily built to play from behind.”
Lee has scored first in one of its four games, and it ended up being the Red Raiders’ lone victory. The Red Raiders grabbed a 3-0 lead against John Tyler in an eventual 39-30 win.
“We are going to try and get the ball (on the opening kickoff) and go down and score, then get a stop and then we kind of get momentum on our side.” Huffstickler said.
The Red Raiders were shorthanded last week because of an injury to leading rusher LaQuintas Wallace and a coach’s decision to bench starting fullback (Marcus White) and backup tight end (Justin Ewini), both of whom will miss the next two games. An injury to running back Aneas Sutton during Lee’s loss to The Woodlands forced even more scrambling and led to REL attempting nearly as many passes (30) as it had in the three previous games combined.
Quarterback Joseph Seeber finished 14 of 30 for 186 yards and two touchdowns. Seeber led REL on a 10-play, 80 yard drive with three third-down conversions. Huffstickler said it showed Lee can pass when it has to, but would rather filter in passing plays when it wants to.
“We are still working the passing game. We are working four-wide every day, in case we need it. We just don’t want to always have to use it when we are behind,” Huffstickler said. “It’s something that we have to evolve into, to where we can jump into it on second-and-6 if we want to, to kind of keep them off guard.”
Beaumont West Brook is using a balanced attack with 443 yards rushing and 609 passing. Senior quarterback Joshua Stump is 53-of-80 through the air for 609 yards and five touchdowns.
“They are calling more pass plays, but he scrambles a lot,” Huffstickler said of Stump. “He has the ability to extend the play with his legs, so we are probably going to have to spy him or something like that to match up with him. He got out on us last year, so we’ve got to contain him.”
In last year’s Lee-West Brook game, Stump passed for only 75 yards, but he more than made up for it by rushing for 173.
“Some of them are designed runs, but a lot of them are just busted plays that he starts scrambling on,” Huffstickler said. “It’s a pass play in the huddle and he sees daylight and just takes off running and gains 25 yards, so we’ve got to be able to keep him in the pocket.”
Lee will also have to contend with linebacker Caleb Bluiett, who Huffstickler said keys their 4-3 defensive alignment.
“They’ve got a UT commit in Bluiett and he can play,” Huffstickler said. “They line up pretty vanilla and don’t blitz a lot. They just try to out-athlete you a little bit.”
West Brook is coming off its first loss of the season, a 42-7 humbling at the hands of second-ranked Katy.
Both teams have a bye next week before starting district in October. A win for Lee would give the Red Raiders a 2-3 finish to this pre-district gauntlet that began with third-ranked Euless Trinity, followed by Lufkin, John Tyler and The Woodlands.
“It’s a big game and we talked about it (this week),” Huffstickler said. “They want it. They were focused in practice … they understand the level this game means to us. It’s not a make or break because we still have five district games, but it would sure be nice going into the open week with this win.”