Robert E. Lee was on the wrong side of the record books Friday against Garland, but could’ve ended up on the right side of the scoreline.
Only no one was able to latch on to an onside kick that was there for the taking.
It would’ve been Lee’s second successful onside recovery had it not gone out of bounds. Had it been successful, Lee had a little more than a minute to continue its amazing comeback.
In the end, the bounding ball stayed just out of REL’s grasp, much like how Garland running back Markeith Miller eluded Red Raiders tacklers all night in an eventual 62-54 loss.
Miller rolled up 342 yards rushing and five touchdowns with the Owls amassing an amazing 584 yards on the ground.
Both are records for an opponent against REL.
“Really their backs did a good job of being patient,” Lee coach Darrell Piske said of Garland’s success. “They’d bunch up in the middle and then (Miller) would just set, set, set and then wait for a crease.
“Our guys didn’t do a good job when it was cloudy in the middle. Someone needs to be ready for (him to bounce it outside).”
It is also the most points combined for an REL game. This one (116) surpassed last year’s 61-54 (115) Lee victory over Mesquite by one point.
Amazingly, neither offense could get on track for their first two possessions.
Lee then fired the first shot when junior Devonte Craver raced through the line and did not stop until he was in the end zone after a 49-yard touchdown.
Garland and Miller responded with the first of many scoring drives to come for the visitors.
The Red Raiders had a chance to go back in front, but an overthrown pass on a play that could’ve been a touchdown led to a three-and-out.
From that point, Garland put Lee in a perpetual catch-up scenario with the Owls going 76 yards in 10 plays, converting on a fourth-and-short, to make it 14-7.
The Red Raiders were able to do this for the next two scores on a 1-yard run by Carr and 30-yard scrambling run for a touchdown by Zach Hall. That tied the game at 14-14 and 21-21.
But Garland did not stop, whereas Lee’s offense finally blinked with a three-and-out and a field goal.
The Owls led 35-24 at halftime and tacked on two unanswered scores in the third to push their advantage to 49-24 with 4:46 remaining in the quarter.
“We just had to score every possession,” Piske said. “Defensively, we tried every adjustment we could think of at halftime and we just didn’t make tackles.
“We will probably see a lot of missed tackles on film, but we just knew we had to score every chance we got.”
The Red Raiders nearly did from that point forward. Hall heated up with a 40-yard TD pass to Isjuwan Barker and a 29-yard scoring strike to Jordan Devers.
That made it 56-46 with Miller continuing to score for Garland.
It was a turnover by Lee on its next drive and turnover on downs by the Red Raiders that prevented the comeback and enabled Miller to put Garland ahead 62-46 with 2:09 remaining.
The Red Raiders kept up the chase with Barker making a one-handed touchdown catch and Hall connecting with Trevor Carr on a second two-point conversion pass.
The onside kick that eluded everybody ended it.
Robert E. Lee Rewind
Final score: Garland 62, Robert E. Lee 54
Turning point: Lee making its only offensive miscue, an interception on a screen pass. The Red Raiders had just successfully recovered an onside kick and were driving to cut even further into a 56-46 deficit. That turnover enabled Garland to inch out six points more and that proved to be the difference.
The game was over when: Lee failed to recover an onside kick with 1 minute remaining and no timeouts left.
Key stats: Garland converted on third down 10 times.
Warning signs: The Red Raiders have allowed an average of 456 yards and 41 points per game in district play.
Positive signs: Lee again showed its ability to comeback. After Garland went ahead 49-24, the Red Raiders converted third down 4 of 6 times and were successful 3 of 4 times on fourth down.
What this loss means: The numbers are not in REL’s favor. Lee must win out, including taking down unbeaten Rockwall, to guarantee itself a playoff spot. There is a chance Lee could make the postseason as the third or fourth team with a third district loss, but it would mean other teams would have to slip up.
Fast forward: The must-win gauntlet of games starts Thursday on the road against winless North Garland.