Lee seeks much-needed win in rivalry

Robert E. Lee offensive lineman Idong Okon and the Red Raiders look to open holes for the Lee backs against a John Tyler defense that has had trouble stopping the run in the first two games. (Jaime R. Carrero | Tyler Morning Telegraph)

Friday is the 56th meeting between John Tyler and Robert E. Lee in the Rose City Rivalry.

It is a game circled every year on the calendar as the longtime foes battle for city bragging rights.

The game has produced classics, such as in 2000, when Lee’s Jimmy Gamble turned a fullback trap into a 73-yard touchdown in the final minutes in the mud for a 6-0 Red Raiders win. In 1998, JT’s Farrel Asbell plunged in from 4 yards out in double overtime to give the Lions a heart-stopping 34-28 win over the then 10th-ranked Red Raiders.

But this is a first for the rivalry.

JT and Lee enter this game with identical 0-2 records. It is the first-time ever that both the Red Raiders and Lions are winless prior to this annual showcase.

One team is going to get a much-needed kick start to its season while the other will leave Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium 0-3 and still searching for answers.

Lee coach Randy Huffstickler is aiming for the former.

“I know (JT head coach) Dereck (Rush) wants this one and I do, too,” Huffstickler said. “We’ve both played two good teams before us and someone is going to get a mark in the left-hand column. I don’t have to say anything to get our kids fired up.”

The Red Raiders have faced third-ranked Euless Trinity and Lufkin, a team about to break into the top 10. Lee lost 30-7 at Trinity and 38-20 last week. A quick look at the games shows Lee playing its best football in the first half against the Trojans, but was undone by two turnovers. Last week against the Panthers, the Red Raiders stormed out in the second half to total 159 of their final 193 yards rushing.

Huffstickler said now Lee needs to combine the two halves for a solid full-game effort.

“I think it happens this game,” Huffstickler said. “It started off bad (last week), but we regrouped and got back in the game at 17-7. And then we were able to finish in the second half. (John) Outlaw did not pull out their starters; they played the entire second half and we outplayed them in the second half.”

Some Red Raider players are viewing this game as Lee being the underdog against JT. Aneas Sutton, a senior running back, even goes so far as saying REL wants to “shock the world pretty much” like it did in 2009.

In that year, a seemingly overmatched Lee team entered the annual clash at 2-5 and ripe for the picking against a JT team firing on all cylinders at 8-0. Pre-game chatter was all about how many touchdowns JT would win by.

Well, LaQuintas Wallace returned the game’s opening kickoff for a touchdown and Lee never looked back, building a three-touchdown advantage in an eventual 28-17 win.

But this game is not the same as that.

Neither team is worried about by how many points it beats the other. Neither is going to overlook the other because both are desperate for success.

“We are both 0-2 and somebody has to win,” said Lee senior Dalaven Baker. “And there is no question that if it’s us, it will help us a great deal going into the rest of our season.”

RAIDER RAP: Lee and JT did not have a win in 1958 and 1959 because it was the season-opener for both teams.

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