Robert E. Lee aims to win its home opener over Lufkin for the second time in three years.
But to do that, coach Darrell Piske said his team must play better than last week.
The Panthers (0-1) and Red Raiders (0-1) tee it up at 7:30 p.m. Friday on Day 2 of the Trinity Mother Frances Football Classic at TMF Rose Stadium.
Red Raiders quarterback Zach Hall battled through the aftereffects of food poisoning to pass for 179 yards and a score in a 59-35 loss, but was held to 27 yards rushing in his first game after averaging 137 per game last season.
Lee also surrendered 518 yards last week in its loss at Keller Fossil Ridge. The Red Raiders gave up touchdowns on six of Fossil Ridge's eight drives before reserves played mainly in the fourth quarter.
"Everyone was concerned because Zach wasn't himself and he had to have an IV and all of that, but Zach doesn't play defense," Piske said. "We have to play better defense. We are not going to shut people out, but we've just got to get enough stops to where we can score enough points to win. That's what we've addressed on defense and we've been tenacious on it and we're going to get it fixed."
The Red Raiders now host a Panthers team still stinging from a 21-20 loss last week at Longview in which Lufkin's would-be game-tying extra point was blocked in the final minute.
Lufkin quarterback Kordell Rogers threw two interceptions and although the Panthers forced four fumbles from Longview, the Lobos were able to recover all of them.
REL gave up an 84-yard punt return for a touchdown last week and was victimized by Lufkin last year in this game by kick returns. REL allowed 200 total yards in returns, highlighted by an 80-yard kickoff return touchdown by Keke Coutee in a 43-19 loss.
Coutee has graduated, but Lufkin's special teams dominance remains as evidenced by last week at Longview when sophomore Savon Fields returned a punt 92 yards for a score.
REL also provided several highlight kick returns against Fossil Ridge. Senior Datavion Thacker returned a kickoff 63 yards, with senior Isjuwan Barker taking one punt back 53 yards and another back 64 yards. Both punt returns were nullified by penalties.
Lee also muffed a critical kickoff in the second half, which in a sense gave Fossil Ridge three straight possessions and led to a 21-point deficit after the score had been tied at 28-28 late in the first half.
REL did not force the turnover needed to turn the tide with the defense producing nine negative- yardage plays, but giving up 8 of 14 on third down conversions. The biggest of those was a third-and-23.
"Mentally our kids let down … and that part bothered me," Piske said. "I felt like once those bad things happened, we continued in our mind to feel like we were defeated when we really had a quarter and half left to play (to turn it around)."
The Red Raiders won over Lufkin in 2013, snapping a 10-year losing drought to the Panthers.
Piske said REL has a chance to make it two in a row at home against Lufkin.
"We are going to have to play really well, but we need to; we need to look a lot better than we did last week," Piske said. "They are a lot faster and a lot bigger than Fossil Ridge. If we play a great football game then we will be in the game at the end."
Lufkin Panthers at Robert E. Lee Red Raiders
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium
Radio: ESPN East Texas 92.1-FM, Tyler
Records: Lufkin 0-1; Robert E. Lee 0-1
Last Week: Longview 21, Lufkin 20; Fossil Ridge 59, Robert E. Lee 35
Last Meeting: Lufkin 43, Lee 19
All-Time Series: Lufkin leads 16-37-1
Players to Watch:Robert E. Lee - RB Tavon Wesley (6-1, 200, Sr.), WR Tyrec Grayson (5-8, 155, Sr.), LB Campbell Miller (6-2, 250, Sr.). Lufkin - RB Ellis Jackson (5-8, 170, Sr.), WR Ja'Darrien Bennett (5-8, 170, Sr.), DL Bronson Massie (6-3, 210, Sr.)
Quick Slant: Both teams' season openers did not go as planned. While Lufkin's offense sputtered in a 21-20 loss to Longview, REL's defense surrendered 518 yards in a 59-35 loss at Fossil Ridge. One area that was dominant for both was on the ground. Lufkin's Jackson carried 17 times for 159 yards and a 38-yard TD, with Lee's Wesley rushing 15 times for 127 yards and three TDs. All told, Lufkin rushed for 191 yards against the Lobos, but also gave up 272 yards on the ground in its loss. Lee allowed 262 rushing and 256 passing. This game last year turned on special teams touchdowns from Lufkin. The Panthers got a 92-yard punt return for a TD from Savon Fields in their loss last week, while REL gave up an 84-yard punt return TD to Fossil Ridge. Lee had two long punt returns nullified by penalties.
Quotable: "They made a mistake at the end getting their extra-point blocked, but they are Lufkin - they're well-coached, athletic, big, fast. We are going to have to play really well. If we play a great football game then we will be in the game at the end."
Stadium Address: 609 Fair Park Drive, Tyler
Next Up: Lufkin vs. West Monroe (La.), 8:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11, at Independence Stadium, Shreveport; Robert E. Lee at John Tyler, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11.