All season Robert E. Lee's players have held up one finger and five fingers in pictures in honor of Jacob Spillers, a JV player last year who has been battling through cancer. His number was 15.
The Red Raiders celebrated their district championship Saturday on the turf at Williams Stadium in Garland, and again held up a 1 and 5, but this time it had a dual meaning — honoring Spillers and junior forward Alex Ruben. Ruben, who wears No. 6, was knocked unconscious by a collision with Naaman Forest's goalkeeper on a 50-50 ball during Saturday's game.
He was later taken to the hospital, but not before he gave coach Marty Germany instructions to win the game and take care of the district title.
Lee honored that request, defeating Naaman Forest 1-0 to finish District 11-6A at 13-1 and enter the playoffs as the district's top seed with an 18-3-1 overall record. REL will face Killeen Ellison in the Class 6A bi-district round at 8 p.m. Friday at Lion Memorial Stadium in Ennis.
"It's exciting for our kids and our program to win a district title," REL coach Marty Germany said. "We are kind of just checking things off the list and looking down at the next goal and beginning work on that."
Lee needed just a point Saturday in its final league game to clinch district while Naaman Forest was already eliminated from the postseason. The Rangers did not make things easy for REL, however, battling to a 0-0 stalemate in the first half.
"We really had a hard time getting into our rhythm, but Naaman Forest had a lot to do with that," Germany said. "We were missing two starters: one out with an injury and the other because of (an accumulation of) yellow cards. We didn't play real well, but our kids always seem to hang in there and do what needs to be done."
The game was still scoreless with 20 minutes remaining, but the final result then took a backseat following a shocking collision between Ruben and Naaman Forest's keeper.
A deep ball was played into the box and both players leapt up fully committed to win it. The resulting collision left Ruben on the turf motionless and Naaman Forest's keeper worried he had accidentally done serious damage to his opponent.
Ruben had no feeling in his extremities after the collision according to Germany.
Germany said as Ruben was about to be taken away in an ambulance, Naaman Forest's coach made a proposal.
"He said his goalkeeper would not be able to continue and offered to go straight to penalty kicks as a tie," Germany said. "That would've given us the district title. I told him I would go ask the team. His goalkeeper was really upset and it was unfortunate because it wasn't his fault. I went and asked my players and then (Ruben) who wanted us to finish the game and win it."
With three minutes remaining, Lee won a penalty kick and senior co-captain Collin Berry blasted his shot into the upper 90 for the game-winning goal.
The Red Raiders totaled 37 points, with North Garland (12-2, 35 points) — defeated Lakeview Centennial 1-0 — in second and Rowlett (8-6, 25 points) — defeated Sachse 4-0 — in third. Sachse and Lakeview will face off in a play-in game for the fourth and final playoff slot.
Raider Rap: Lee enters the postseason on a 13-game unbeaten streak … Germany said he is "not sure" if Ruben will be available to play in Friday's playoff game because he has to go through concussion protocol and be cleared. … Both the Lee girls and boys soccer teams reached the postseason and will play a doubleheader on Friday. The girls are scheduled to play at 6 p.m. against Waco Midway at Ennis' Lion Memorial Stadium.