The road to recovery began in earnest Monday morning for Robert E. Lee football.
Music could be heard faintly on the practice field as it blared away from the loudspeakers near the track. Also distinctive was the sound of exertion, coaches commanding players and the siren to signal the next drill.
Two consecutive losing seasons (2-9 in 2010 and 1-9 in 2011) for the first time since 1994-96 prompted widespread changes to the Lee coaching staff, beginning with a new head man — Darrell Piske. At Fairfield, Piske turned around a program that hadn’t won more than five games since 1991. The past two seasons, Fairfield went 9-1 and 10-1.
Joining Piske is new defensive coordinator Shane Anderson (Waco Midway) and new offensive coordinator Dan Roberson (Fairfield).
Piske said the players came back ready to work on Day 1, which is a good sign.
“They hustled and they retained a good portion of what we learned in the spring and that’s the important thing,” Piske said. “I know defensively, coach Anderson said they retained quite a bit and offensively it looked like they picked up where we left off so I thought it wasn’t a bad first day.”
Lee junior offensive lineman Ryan Rendon said the team got a good first impression of their new coaches during the spring and are anxious to keep it going now that the season has begun.
“When these new guys came in we forgot about last season and we set new goals and expectations for this year,” Rendon said. “We are looking to meet (those expectations) and go as far as we can in the playoffs.”
Added junior defensive lineman Triston Taylor: “I believe this new staff can take us all the way.”
Lee returns six starters on both sides of the ball from last year’s team, led by senior offensive lineman Zacchaeus Page and senior tailback LaQuintas Wallace, both chosen by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine for its preseason list of the Top 300 players in Texas.
There is a competition going on, however, and it centers on who will be taking snaps for the Red Raiders. Senior Jordan Richardson had moved to the front of the pack last spring in the quarterback competition before a leg fracture kept him out of the spring game and all of summer 7-on-7 play.
In his absence, juniors Raleigh Poster and Christian Diosdado took advantage to share passing duties and lead Lee to the championship bracket of the Fox Sports Southwest 7-on-7 state tournament.
All three took turns throwing passes on Monday.
“Right now Poster and (Diosdado) are (battling for starting job),” Piske said. “Until we can figure out who can lead us down the field and manage the offense, we will just rotate until one gets in front of the other one.
“Jordan will be released Friday when he gets out of his boot and is 100 percent released. He will have to get re-acclimated and moving around and all of that.”
The Red Raiders play a scrimmage Friday, Aug. 24 at Marshall with the season opener on Saturday, Sept. 1 against Sulphur Springs in the final game of the Trinity Mother Frances Football Classic at TMF Rose Stadium.
Senior receiver Cedric Brown summed up every Lee player’s feelings about practice and the weeks ahead.
“We are coming out here and we’ve got to hustle (it up) to set the tone,” Brown said. “We want to come out strong for the first game.”