MESQUITE — Robert E. Lee could’ve moved a step closer to clinching a playoff spot, but much like how Mesquite quarterback Alex Cooper eluded them, the Red Raiders opportunity all but closed following a 38-7 loss Friday at E.H. Hanby Stadium.
On three separate occasions, the Red Raiders pressured Cooper and were in position to sack the Mesquite quarterback.
But Cooper was an escape artist, buying enough time to find open receivers for long pass plays. The final one was a Houdini act as Cooper slipped out of three separate sack attempts, racing left and then right before hitting Junior Session for a 31-yard completion down to the Lee 1. The other two scrambles finished up in the end zone with Cooper connecting on touchdown passes of 81 and 28 yards.
The loss dropped Lee to 1-7 on the season and 0-3 in District 11-5A, while Mesquite clinched a playoff spot with the win, moving to 5-3 and 2-1.
“They battled so hard, but it’s a group that is always waiting for something bad to happen,” said Lee coach Randy Huffstickler. “They are waiting for the bridge to go out from underneath them instead of just crossing that bridge and getting safely to the other side.”
Lee junior Marcus White rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown with senior quarterback Joseph Seeber completing 13 of 22 passes for 135 yards. The Red Raiders lost two fumbles, one of them on a botched snap on a field goal attempt and had an interception. All three turnovers occurred deep in Mesquite territory.
The Skeeters were led on the ground by Session, who finished with 103 yards and a touchdown while Cooper passed for 216 yards and two scores while running in for another.
The Red Raiders grabbed a 7-0 lead in the opening minutes of the game and could have made it 10-0, but Lumi Kaba’s 47-yard field goal attempt was tipped, causing it to fall short.
Lee’s defense stiffened following a 40-yard run by Session, to eventually force a 23-yard field goal by Mesquite’s Jose Salas.
The game then turned toward the home side when Cooper turned what looked to be a sack deep in his own territory into an 81-yard, catch-and-run touchdown pass to Kavaski Ervin.
Trailing 10-7, Lee went backwards on its next drive with three false start penalties, eventually forcing Austin Martel to punt out of the back of his own end zone under a heavy rush. His punt was returned to the Lee 25. Four plays later on fourth-and-13, Cooper struck again to deliver a 28-yard touchdown pass and a 17-7 halftime lead.
“We lost our focus a little bit and you can’t do that, but we had a hard time tackling (Cooper),” Huffstickler said. “They hit two big plays on us, but our kids are trying to make plays. There isn’t anyone out their loafing, I know that.”
Lee began the second half driving deep into Mesquite territory, but on second-and-8, Seeber’s pass was picked off.
Mesquite needed eight plays to go the other way, capped by a 5-yard scoring run by Session.
Two more times Lee drove deep in Skeeter territory, but both ended in turnovers.
The Red Raiders next face Longview at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
Mesquite 38, Robert E. Lee 7
At E.H. Hanby Stadium, Mesquite
Robert E. Lee 7 0 0 0 — 7
Mesquite 0 17 7 14 — 38
LEE—Marcus White 19 run (Lumi Kaba kick), 10:59.
MES—FG Jose Salas 23, 11:20.
MES—Kavaski Ervin 81 pass from Alex Cooper (Salas kick), 7:18.
MES--Rashard Higgins 28 pass from Cooper (Salas kick), 3:39
MES—Junior Session 5 run (Salas kick), 7:15.
MES—Cooper 1 run (Salas kick), 11:17.
MES—Dezmon Jackson 42 pass from Cooper (Salas kick), 9:01.
EST. ATT. —800.
First Downs 14 16
Rushes-Yards 39-102 37-133
Passing Yards 135 212
Comp.-Att.-Int. 13-22-1 11-16-0
Punts-Avg. 5-32.8 3-22.3
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 1-1
Penalties-Yards 8-40 4-39
RUSHING—Robert E. Lee, Marcus White 14-80, Dalaven Baker 10-34, Aneas Sutton 10-39, Joseph Seeber 4-(minus 1), TEAM 1-(minus 50). Mesquite, Junior Session 18-103, Chermeer Underwood 5-16, Tyson Reed 4-12, Devin Wright 2-12, Dameon Gamblin 1-1, Trey Leblanc 1-1, Alex Cooper 6-(minus 12).
PASSING—Robert E. Lee, Seeber 13-22-1 135. Mesquite, Cooper 11-16-0 212.
RECEIVING—Robert E. Lee, Jordan Richardson 4-39, Sutton 3-34, White 3-34, Luke Swanson 1-16, Dreak Scott 1-12, Baker 1-0. Mesquite, Rashard Higgins 4-63, Dezmon Jackson 2-17, Jordan Bracy 2-13, Kavaski Ervin 1-81, Session 1-31, Gamblin 1-7.