Final score: North Mesquite 63, Robert E. Lee 61
Turning point: The Red Raiders drove the ball into the red zone five times in the first half, but came away with two field goals, one touchdown and two turnovers on downs. That equaled a 35-13 halftime deficit, from which REL nearly came all the way back. After North Mesquite thought it had sealed the game with a late interception, the Stallions fumbled on a snap while trying to take a knee to run out the clock. This gave REL the ball back with a chance to tie.
Quotable: "Our kids were ready to play until the final snap. Campbell Miller was ready and strange things happen sometimes and that was one of those strange things. Every snap must be contested and our kids did a good job on that play of getting the turnover. Our offense then gets the score and we just fell a little short." - Clayton George, REL head coach.
The game was over when: After Lee was unable to convert its two-point conversion try with an incomplete pass, the Red Raiders had 7 seconds remaining, if they could recover a second onside kick after Makyle Sanders secured the first one, but this time it ended up with North Mesquite to end the game.
Key stats: After being held to 13 points and 92 yards rushing in the first half, REL finished with 291 rushing yards and 665 total yards while scoring 48 second-half points, more than half of Lee's second-half scoring output of the previous eight games combined. Lee rattled off 34 points alone in the fourth quarter. REL entered the game with 45 points total in the final quarter this season.
Warning signs: The Red Raiders have given up 34 points or more in district play this season and allowed a season-high 671 yards of offense to North Mesquite in the loss.
Positive signs: The Red Raiders opened up the passing game with several players producing season and career highs. Chance Amie passed for a school-record 374 yards and three touchdowns, with Rhett Parker posting a career-best eight catches for 129 yards and safety Makyle Sanders joining Parker in playing both ways and finishing with a career-best three catches for 85 yards. The game also set a new school record for combined points (124) eclipsing a 2014 playoff loss to Waco Midway (76-47).
What this loss means: The Red Raiders have consistently stressed focusing solely on the game in front of them. Well, the next game is the most important for every member of the REL team. Any district struggles would be wiped away from the memory banks if REL is able to defeat its cross-town rival a third straight time and end its season by winning the last game.
Fast forward: The Red Raiders will enter as heavy underdogs to John Tyler, but recent history shows that may not be a bad thing. Lee won only once in 2011 and it came against JT. The Lions were also favored in 2014 and 2015, with REL coming out on top both times. Of course, JT also was favored in 2012 and 2013 and shut out Lee in two double-digit victories. Kickoff is slated for 7:45 p.m. Friday at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium with Tyler ISD honoring its newest inductees into the athletic hall of fame at halftime.