What kind of legacy do you want to leave?
That is the only thing at stake at 7:30 p.m. tonight when Robert E. Lee hosts Rockwall-Heath on “Senior Night” in its season finale at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
Both teams are eliminated from playoff contention.
The only thing Lee’s seniors can control is whether they walk off the field in their final high school game as winners. To provide the school with its best season since 2009 and a .500 record, or finish under .500 for the fourth-straight year.
Lee coach Darrell Piske said he has challenged his players and expects them to respond.
“An athlete, no matter what (the playoff) scenario is, has to take pride in himself, his town and his school,” Piske said. “You’ve got to be prideful enough to fight and not think, ‘Oh well, I can’t get into the playoffs,’ but just continue to battle: ‘I want to show that I am better than that guy across from me.’”
The Red Raiders (4-5, 1-4 in District 12-5A) have already achieved, regardless of result, their most wins since 2009, thanks to a 3-1 record in non-district with wins over Sulphur Springs, Lufkin and Texas High — all of which have already clinched playoff spots in their respective districts.
But as sophomore quarterback Zach Hall succinctly put it, this game is about the seniors.
“They’ve worked their tails off the last four years and we need to send them off right,” Hall said. “We have to send those seniors out right with a ‘W.’”
Rockwall-Heath (5-4, 1-4 in 12-5A) snapped a four-game losing streak last week in resounding fashion by pummeling a North Mesquite team 35-6 that needed a win to secure its own playoff future.
“They kicked North Mesquite’s lungs in last week and they have the No. 1 defense in the district,” Piske said about Heath. “The more film you watch on them, the more nervous you get because they really get after it.”
Injuries to Heath’s two quarterbacks thrust senior R.J. Williams under center last week. Then all he did was rush for 127 yards and three touchdowns while the Hawks forced North Mesquite into four turnovers, one of them an interception that linebacker DeShon Elliott returned for a touchdown.
Heath leads the district with 13 interceptions with junior defensive back David Richardson accounting for five of them.
The Red Raiders are coming off their worst passing performance of the season in a 63-7 loss at Longview. Hall will look to put behind him a 1-for-6 outing that yielded 5 yards and two interceptions.
He enters this game with 1,111 yards passing and 10 touchdowns while also rushing for a team-high 704 yards with eight scores. Sophomore tailback Tavon Wesley, who missed the loss to Longview, is back healthy and ready to add to his 671 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. Also in the mix is junior Kyjuan Johnson, who has 318 yards and three scores, nearly all of it coming in REL’s last two games.
In 2009, REL went 6-6 thanks to a deep playoff run that ended in the regional semifinals. The Red Raiders will not be able to duplicate that, but Piske said achieving five wins is something that will show the REL program is moving forward with hopes of get back to playing football in late November and December.
“The seniors finishing off with a victory and break-even record and finishing the stuff we improved on, … to end on a high note, that’s a pretty big deal from where we’ve come,” Piske said.
ROCKWALL-HEATH AT ROBERT E. LEE
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Where: Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium (Earl Campbell Field)
Radio: KTBB 600-AM, Tyler
Records: Rockwall-Heath (5-4, 1-4 in District 12-5A); Robert E. Lee (4-5, 1-4 in District 12-5A)
Last Week’s Result: Rockwall-Heath 35, North Mesquite 6; Longview 63, Robert E. Lee 7
2012 Result: Rockwall-Heath won 34-3
All-Time Series: Rockwall-Heath leads 1-0
Players to Watch: Rockwall-Heath — ATH R.J. Williams (Sr.), RB Rico Henderson (Jr.), LB DeShon Elliott (Jr.). Robert E. Lee — WR Bryce Wilkerson (5-8, 158, Sr.), OL David Hogge (6-3, 273, Sr.) LB Desmond Dunn (5-10, 180, Sr.), CB Greg Lavely (5-8, 153, Sr.)
Quick Slant: This game is solely for pride and for seniors to say they won their final high school football game. Both teams feature dual-threat quarterbacks with Heath’s Williams coming off a three-touchdown game in an upset win over North Mesquite and Hall accounting for 1,800 yards of offense rushing and passing with 18 touchdowns. The Red Raiders were able to rack up yardage against Heath last year, but turnovers denied them on the scoreboard. Heath enters this contest with a district-leading 13 interceptions and five forced fumbles. The last time REL was at TMF Rose Stadium, senior Raleigh Poster was leading the Red Raiders to a heart-stopping win over Mesquite. A win would be REL’s first on “Senior Night” since 2010, when the Red Raiders topped North Mesquite 44-28.
Stadium Address: TMF Rose Stadium (12,000, field turf), 700 Fair Park Drive, Tyler.