Tyler Lee DBs stepping up to the challenge

Robert E. Lee's defensive backs came up with some big plays last week in the Red Raiders' win over rival John Tyler. (Sarah A. Miller | Tyler Morning Telegraph)

Robert E. Lee junior cornerback Davier Harris had played nine varsity snaps before he was called into action. With Euless Trinity facing third-and-6, quarterback Kailahi Kautai rolled out and looked to have a wide-open receiver near the back corner of the end zone.

Harris thought otherwise, racing to deflect the ball at the last moment. It was one of two end zone breakups Harris had in the game.

And Harris wasn’t alone in making his first varsity start in that game.

Only senior LaDarrell Smith saw enough playing time last year in the defensive backfield to be considered a returning letterman. Senior safety Tony Ray was supposed to play last year before a season-ending injury in REL’s season opener prevented that.

Smith finished his junior season with 22 tackles while senior

So, it’s an inexperienced secondary that through three games is giving up 162 yards passing per game with three touchdowns.

“They are progressing each week, and they are doing it against good teams,” said Lee coach Randy Huffstickler. “It’s not like we have a chance to just go out and get a dominating performance to where you feel good about yourself. We are going out against good teams and we are making progress.”

Through three games, opposing teams have put it in the air 65 times. Of those attempts, 35 have been complete (53 percent) for 494 yards and three touchdowns. Against John Tyler’s air attack last Friday, the Red Raiders gave up 278 yards, but had a key knockdown on a two-point conversion to help clinch a 39-30 victory.

“We have a lot of young people but we’ve still got a lot of talent,” Smith said. “I feel like every day at practice we get better. Since two-a-days we’ve gotten better and grown together.”

Smith was matched up one-on-one last week against John Tyler receiver Fred Ross. Ross came into the game ranked fourth in the area with 180 yards receiving and two touchdowns through two games. He finished the game with eight catches for 109 yards and a touchdown, but Huffstickler said that doesn’t tell the whole story.

“LaDarrell had a great challenge the other night trying to cover Fred Ross,” Huffstickler said. “We told LaDarrell going in that he was going to have him and I thought he did a commendable job.”

Smith also provided one of the plays of the game when the senior scooped up a fumble in the second quarter, which stymied JT and led to a Lee field goal. Smith now has 10 tackles this season and that fumble recovery.

Ray is just happy to be on the field and currently is tied for fourth with 12 tackles, along with a caused fumble and pass breakup. He said Lee has matched up with Trinity, Lufkin and John Tyler, and up next is The Woodlands.

“It will probably be just like John Tyler, and if we come in with the right mindset and do the same thing (we will have success),” Ray said.

Huffstickler plans on using plenty of rotating defenders against The Woodlands, like Lee utilized against JT. Besides Smith and Harris at corner and Ray at safety, Huffstickler has called on Britt Ezell and Rezzin Pullum at free safety, and reserves Bryce Stewart, Chris Bell and Stuart Hurst.

“We are trying to play more people on defense,” Huffstickler said. “We do not have to play 13 or 14 people; we are playing 19 or 20 people throughout the night. Our job is to get the offense the ball the best field position we can possibly can and keep them out of the end zone.”

RAIDER RAP: In last week’s subvarsity games, the Lee JV lost to JT 27-8 while the Lee freshmen edged JT, 16-14.

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