The Robert E. Lee defense forced and recovered a combined 10 fumbles last season.
Thanks to Greyson Calhoun's efforts, REL is already on pace to double that total in 2014.
The junior outside linebacker produced two key strips in the second half of Saturday's loss to Keller Fossil Ridge. The Red Raiders also had an interception in the game, finishing plus 3 in turnover differential.
"They have been working on (stripping the football) even against us in practice," Lee head coach Darrell Piske said. "If we have a big play, they are going to chase us to the end and then try to strip the ball at the end.
"That is what the defensive (staff) have been talking to them about. You can take a big play for the opponent and turn it into a big play for you."
This is exactly what Calhoun did twice for the Red Raiders.
Listed at 6-1 and 181 pounds, Calhoun ripped the ball away from a Fossil Ridge ball carrier three yards away from the goal line, and later dislodged the ball after a long run by Fossil Ridge. In both instances, REL pounced on the recovery. The first was one was by Roddrick Gaines and the second by Patrick Udofia.
"We are trying to get 11 guys to the football instead of just one, and I think that showed," said Calhoun, who finished with seven tackles, three for loss. "We've been trying to force a lot more turnovers and try to change momentum in games. It is just something that we're after."
These were Calhoun's first forced fumbles in high school.
It had been an altogether rough season opener for Calhoun because he was also the team's deep snapper.
Going into the locker room at halftime, Lee had punted four times. All four attempts produced high snaps. Kicker Matthew Hawk was able to leap up and catch three of them, but one sailed over his head and was recovered by Fossil Ridge at Lee's 12-yard line.
That led to a quick touchdown.
But this was a tale of two halves and Calhoun gave Lee just what it needed to attempt a comeback.
He was a perfect 5 for 5 on deep snaps to the punter in the second half and also delivered perfect balls to his holder for converted PATs.
"I think in the first half we were pretty timid. You don't work special teams as much," Calhoun said. "I think in the second half we got a lot more comfortable. All of our emotions were real high and we just needed to settle down."
Calhoun's first varsity start occurred last year on the wrong end of Lee's worst loss in team history (63-7) at Longview. The Red Raiders do not get a chance to play the Lobos and avenge that defeat, but have the next best thing. Lee goes on the road Friday to play Lufkin, which is fresh off its own drubbing (44-14) of the Lobos.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Abe Martin Stadium in Lufkin.
"They are really big and athletic and have a lot of speed on the edges," Calhoun said of the Panthers. "But we can work hard and we can compete with them."
Raider Rap: Tickets for Friday's game between Lee and Lufkin at Abe Martin Stadium can be purchased Thursday and Friday for students and faculty in the West Cafeteria. The cost is $3 for students and $5 for adults. Tickets can also be purchased at the TISD Athletic Office (807 W. Glenwood Blvd.) Wednesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Tyler Athletics (5520 Old Jacksonville Highway) from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. All general admission tickets at the gate are $6, with reserved seating $8.