Robert E. Lee and John Tyler meet on Earl Campbell Field for the 55th year in a row tonight. Both teams are coming off victories last Friday with the Red Raiders (2-0) enjoying their best start since 2005.
The winner of Friday’s clash at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium will continue their strong start to the season. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.
But that pales in comparison to the main prize JT and Lee seek. Quite simply, it’s not just another game.
“It’s just a big rivalry in Tyler and we have to have this win,” said senior Triston Taylor. “It just means everything to me.”
Following Lee’s win over Lufkin, senior linebacker Desmond Dunn provided a few parting words to the Lions while heading to the locker room to celebrate a victory.
“I hope they are ready to face us,” Dunn said.
The Red Raiders were on the wrong end of a 21-0 score line last season as part of a 1-9 season in Darrell Piske’s first year. It was one of two shutout wins JT has had over Lee in the past three years.
The teams have split their last four meetings overall.
The Red Raiders have experienced an offensive resurgence this year under sophomore quarterback Zach Hall.
In two games, Hall has already thrown more touchdown passes (5) than REL did all of last season with multiple quarterbacks. He also has accounted for 298 yards rushing and three scores to go along with 448 yards through the air.
All of that has led to REL scoring 97 points in wins over Sulphur Springs and Lufkin. That is the highest consecutive game combined point total the Red Raiders have achieved since 2000 (98 in wins over Marshall and Longview).
“We know we have to click (on offense) every Friday night, and especially this Friday because (JT) is so athletic on defense and so fast,” Piske said.
Along with Hall, REL has been able to count on tailbacks Tavon Wesley and Marquian Jones, and receivers Bryce Wilkerson, Diondre Allen and Marquiston Williams – all of which have scored at least one touchdown in Lee’s first two games.
The Red Raiders now go up against a JT defense that held Lancaster to 267 yards of offense, and more importantly, scoreless in the fourth quarter of its 31-28 comeback win. The Lions enter with a 1-1 record and are perceived underdogs in this clash.
“They’ve got plenty of motivation since we are having success. They want to make sure they knock us off that ladder of success and put us back in our place, per say,” Piske said. “It doesn’t matter (about records); it’s going to be a war and whoever makes the least mistakes is going to win.”