Well, the genie is out of the bottle.
After decades of being known as a power rushing team that won games with a methodical approach, Robert E. Lee was anything but in a 55-20 win at Sulphur Springs last week.
The Red Raiders accounted for 645 yards, with 10 of their 67 plays going for 25 yards or more. Sophomore quarterback Zach Hall, in his first varsity start, passed for 288 yards and four scores and rushed for 124 yards and two TDs to be named American State Bank Player of the Week.
So, was it an anomaly or sign of things to come for the victory-starved Red Raiders — they had four wins from 2010-12 — and their fans?
Coach Darrell Piske said Lee (1-0) doesn’t have to wait too long for a measuring stick. It will arrive today in the form of the Lufkin Panthers.
“We did well, but we will need to be ready for Lufkin because they aren’t going to do us any favors,” Piske said.
It is game No. 2 of the Trinity Mother Frances Football Classic with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Earl Campbell Field at TMF Rose Stadium. The Panthers (1-0) are coming off a 52-28 home win against John Tyler.
Hall now faces a Lufkin defense that has studied him all week after harassing JT quarterback Geovari McCollister to tally 14 sacks.
“I expect Zach to continue to work hard and to get better,” Piske said. “You can have one good game, but you need to be consistent week to week. He’s getting a lot of press, but he’ll have to stay focused on trying to be as good as he can be. We’ll (stay) on him enough to keep him humble.”
The last time REL started the season 1-0 was 2007, and it quickly turned sour with REL losing three of its next four games. The Red Raiders are also mired in a slump against their longtime rivals, dropping the past six meetings to the Panthers. REL’s last win over Lufkin occurred in 2003 when the then-district foes faced each other twice in loop play.
Piske said if REL is to snap the skid, look no further than who wins the battle up front.
“Lufkin is huge (on the line) and the difference is their huge guys can run,” Piske said. “They’ve got a lot of team speed on defense. They pretty much got everybody back from a four-round deep playoff run last year.”
The Red Raiders had two receivers go over the century mark in yards last week against Sulphur Springs, along with Hall and junior tailback Marquian Jones rushing for 124 and 91 yards, respectively, but Piske stressed that his young offensive line will have to stand up to the Lufkin pressure.
“We’re going to have to trust our roles and be very physical,” Piske said. “If we do that, it will give us a chance. I am excited because it’s a big challenge to see how we match up to a top 10 football team.”
Lufkin-REL At A Glance
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium (Earl Campbell Field)
Radio: ESPN 92.1-FM, Tyler
TV: KCEB/METV Suddenlink Ch. 2 (Tyler), Ch. 8 (Nacogdoches), Ch. 10 (Longview). Will air at 12:30 a.m. after ETFinalScore.com Highlight Show; also will be replayed at noon Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday.
Records: Lufkin 1-0, Robert E. Lee 1-0
Last Week’s Result: Lufkin 52, John Tyler 28; Robert E. Lee 55, Sulphur Springs 20
2012 Result: Lufkin 41, Robert E. Lee 31
All-Time Series: Panthers lead 36-15-1
Players to Watch: Lufkin — WR Jamal Jeffery (5-10, 170, Sr.), WR Key’vantanie Coutee (5-10, 170, Jr.), DL D.J. Williams (6-3, 295, Sr.). Robert E. Lee — OL Ryan Rendon (5-11, 260, Sr.), OL Amier Wilson (6-3, 245, Sr.), LB Josh Bice (5-10, 181, Jr.)
Quick Slant: It is cliché, but this game will be decided in the trenches. If Lufkin produces a sequel of what it did against John Tyler, which was manhandle its offensive line to help produce 14 sacks, REL is in for a long night. But if the Red Raiders can give QB Zach Hall and his offensive weapons time, Lee has enough firepower to cause the Panthers problems. Even if Lee does contain Lufkin’s experienced front early on, the real test will be in the third and fourth quarters. Lufkin on offense boasts Texas commit Coutee and Texas A&M commit Jeffery, who should challenge REL’s secondary. It will be up to Bice and his mates to put pressure on Lufkin QB Trey Cumbie.
Quotable: “We are going to have to fit right where we are supposed to and tackle well if we are even going to have a remote chance of slowing them down. … It’s really going to take a tremendous effort. When you play someone the caliber of Lufkin, it all (has to work) to have a chance, and really that is what we want; to have a chance to win in the fourth quarter.” — Darrell Piske, Lee HC
Next Up: Lufkin at Nacogdoches, Friday, Sept. 13; Robert E. Lee vs. John Tyler, Friday, Sept. 13.
Stadium Address: Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium (11,500), 700 Fair Park Drive, Tyler.