Sometimes things get too complicated and overblown, so Robert E. Lee coach Darrell Piske wanted to simplify his team’s focus for Friday’s game against Mesquite.
The kickoff is 7:30 on Earl Campbell Field at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
“We just need to worry about getting better the next play than we were the last previous one,” Piske said. “We can’t think about (facing a must-win) and all of that stuff and put more pressure on us than is already there.
“We just need them to go out and do what they are coached to do, in the heat of the moment, on every play; and if we screw up that play, then get it back on the next play. Just take it one at a time.”
The Red Raiders (3-4, 0-3) have dropped their first three District 12-5A games. Lee is scoring points, averaging just over 25 per game in district, but is giving up more than 40 per contest.
Last week at Rockwall, the Yellowjackets dusted off the Cal-Stanford lateral play on the final play of the first half and it ended up going the distance for a touchdown. The play garnered national attention from ESPN, which chose it for its Top 10 Plays that aired on Thursday.
“Rockwall made mistakes the other night, we just made more than them,” Piske said. “On that play right before half, not making a tackle, or also throwing an interception in the end zone on second down when we have a chance to (take the lead). Those are the things that can’t happen.”
Mesquite began its district slate as defending league champions, but was manhandled 69-17 in its opener by Longview. The Skeeters have since dusted themselves off and won three in a row to sit at 5-3 and 3-1 in 12-5A.
The Skeeters are led by senior tailback Shadavian Reed, who enters with 904 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. Mesquite senior quarterback Trey Leblanc has passed for 825 yards and nine touchdowns with only three interceptions.
“They have what you want when you get your program going,” Piske said of Mesquite. “They had a great team last year and lost 50-something seniors and this year they are starting seven seniors on defense and seven on offense, so they had juniors who were probably on JV getting ready and now they can step in.”
Last week against North Mesquite, the Skeeters trailed 27-14 entering the fourth quarter before rallying to win 34-33 on a 48-yard touchdown pass from Leblanc to Reed with 1:18 remaining.
Lee lost 43-33 to Rockwall despite sophomore quarterback Zach Hall passing for 321 yards and three touchdowns and tailback Tavon Wesley rushing for 174 yards and a score.
Hall was limited to 30 yards rushing and has struggled to get going on the ground in district after entering league play as the top rusher.
Piske believes Hall is about to turn the corner and get back to his dual-threat best.
“Zach is getting back to 100 percent, and once he gets there we will be back to where we were early in the season (on offense) with him running the ball,” Piske said. “That thigh bruise has limited him, but I saw him make a cut yesterday that reminded me of early in the season, so that’s good.”
ROBERT E. LEE VS. MESQUITE
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Earl Campbell Field, Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium
Radio: ESPN 92.1 FM, Tyler
Last Week’s Result: Mesquite 34, North Mesquite 33; Rockwall 43, Robert E. Lee 33
2012 Result: Mesquite 51, Lee 9
All-Time Series: Even (6-6)
Players to Watch: Mesquite — QB Trey Leblanc (Sr.), RB Shadavian Reed (Sr.), KR Charles Grant (Sr.). Robert E. Lee — QB Zach Hall (5-10, 155, Soph.), RB Juwan Banks (6-1, 207, Jr.), LB Desmond Dunn (5-10, 180, Sr.), DL Amier Wilson (6-3, 245, Sr.).
Quick Slant: To break it down to basics this is a game that features a team that has grown accustomed to winning and another trying to break through into the district win column for the first time in a long while. The Skeeters showed last week that it will take all four quarters to beat them, rallying back from a 27-14 deficit in the fourth quarter. Lee has produced a two-touchdown comeback too this season, but it came in non-district against Texas High. The Red Raiders hope to put it all together Friday and play spoiler to Mesquite while serving themselves district success. One wild card in the game is Mesquite’s Grant, who leads the district in kick returns, averaging 44 yards on four returns with a 100-yard touchdown.
Next Up: Robert E. Lee at Longview, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31.
Stadium Address: Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium, 700 Fair Park Drive, Tyler.