Robert E. Lee unleashed years of frustration on two clock draining, power rushing drives that were enough to get the Red Raiders over the finish line in a 42-30 victory Friday over Lufkin at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
It was the first time REL had won a TMF Football Classic game since 2006. It was the first time Lee had beaten Lufkin since 2003. Two consecutive seasons of going 1-9 and three combined years fielding just four wins.
A roster filled with underclassmen now has Lee at 2-0 to start a season for the first time in eight years.
“Guys were injured and we had I think six sophomores starting (Friday),” said Lee coach Darrell Piske in the moments after the win. “We thought if we played a good football game, we had a chance to win the game.
“The 70 in red are about the only 70 that thought we could do it. (Everyone else) thought we’d hang around early and get our (tails) beat late, but the kids showed they are going to fight, keep battling and not panic and just keep playing football.”
It began with the defense forcing the only turnover Lufkin provided. The Red Raiders led 21-16 at halftime, but the Panthers scored a quick touchdown at the beginning of the third quarter to move in front 23-21.
The Panthers then held strong as Lee tried to answer, forcing a punt. Lufkin got 11 yards on first down, but on third-and-10, a screen pass to its tailback led to a fumble. Lee players swarmed and punched the ball loose with Amier Wilson recovering at Lufkin’s 26.
“We just fought through adversity and our defense (did what needed to be done),” said Lee senior linebacker Desmond Dunn. “We’re turning heads right now.”
REL was in the end zone six plays after the fumble and never relinquished that advantage.
The two TD drives in the fourth quarter took nearly eight minutes off the clock and featured 13 running plays, culminating in scoring runs by junior tailback Marquian Jones and sophomore quarterback Zach Hall.
Hall racked up 72 of his game-high 174 yards rushing on those two fourth-quarter drives.
“Hall played good, broke tackles and ran their offense well,” said Lufkin head coach Todd Quick. “You’ve got to be able to stop them; you can’t give up the long run or the long pass or allow them to drive the length of the field.”
Robert E. Lee Rewind
Final score: Robert E. Lee 42, Lufkin 30
Turning point: Lee’s Amier Wilson recovered a fumble deep in Lufkin territory that enabled REL the chance to retake the lead.
The game was over when: Zach Hall coasted into the end zone from 14 yards out with 48 seconds remaining.
Key stats: Lee has led for 88 of 96 minutes of football in its two games this season.
Warning signs: The Red Raiders committed seven false start penalties.
Positive signs: Lee’s offense has combined for six touchdown passes in two games, going to four different players. Last season, REL had three touchdown passes all of last season.
What this win means: The Red Raiders keep their momentum going into next week’s annual matchup with John Tyler.
Fast forward: Lee has been shutout in two of its last three Rose City Rivalry clashes with JT. The Red Raiders and Lions meet at 7:30 p.m. Friday on Earl Campbell Field at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
JT is the home team.