The first sentence in the Tyler Courier—Times Telegraph story on July 18, 2004, said it all.
“In its sixth bid at a summer passing championship, Robert E. Lee went all-out and outlasted 63 challengers en route to 7-on-7 supremacy.”
The Red Raiders produced a dominant two-day stretch in which REL ripped through the field to win eight consecutive games and capture its first and only 7-on-7 state championship.
In the championship game, played on Kyle Field at the end of swelteringly hot day, quarterback Josh Hill helped the Red Raiders build a 26-6 lead over Katy Taylor in the championship on TD passes to Walter Simpson, D’Angelo Jones, Tony Bush and Jones again.
Taylor made a bit of a challenge by scoring at the end of the first half and start of the second half to make it 26-18, but a TD pass to Jonathan Williams and a final one to Bush sealed the win and the state crown.
Randy Womble will take Lee to the 7-on-7 tournament for the 16th consecutive year this week.
The longtime coach said the 2004 Lee team simply finished the job.
“We had got so close (in previous years),” Womble said. “The year before Matt Flynn led us into the quarterfinals or semifinals to Abilene Cooper on a Hail Mary at the end and we thought we had the team that year.
“One year we went down there and set a record for the most points that had ever been scored (in pool play) and then we lost to Gladewater the next morning (in bracket play). It just seemed like we could never get over the hump.”
Womble said an early loss provided the spark that team needed to light a fire for REL that it carried the rest of the summer.
“That year we lost to Bullard in our league play and didn’t score more than seven points,” Womble said. “We kind of challenged the kids after that. They committed themselves to get better and the further along we went we started to get more dominant.”
Womble said REL did not lose another game the rest of the summer, which included going unbeaten through the rest of league play and going 9-0 in their state qualifying tournaments after having already qualified for state.
In the week prior to state, the Red Raiders were dealt an injury blow. Tyrone Ross, who was an integral part of REL’s offense, hurt his foot and was ruled out of the state tournament.
“When we got down there, we could see the guys had just a little different (look) about them,” Womble said. “Once we got rolling in those three (pool play) games and then the next day we got out there and I think that is when the kids felt like they had a real shot.”
Womble said Lee employed a speed-it-up style that probably wouldn’t phase defenses now that have grown so accustomed to no-huddle offenses. Back in 2004, it had opposing defenses on their heels and out of gas by the second half.
Early on it looked like a potential all-Tyler showdown for a spot in the state title game as John Tyler was progressing through its bracket, but the Lions were taken out in the quarterfinals by North Mesquite.
Lee and North Mesquite were about to be placed in the same district in 2004, so the semifinal had a little extra motivation for bragging rights. The Red Raiders got past North 38-32 before closing the deal against Taylor.
Womble credits assistants Andy Bergfeld and Lonny Uzzell with the team’s success. All three of them are still on the sideline today for the Red Raiders.
The 2004 team was comprised of quarterback Hill and receivers Bush, Simpson, Jacob Amie, Peyton Price, D’Angelo Jones, Jason Williams and Jonathan Williams. The defense was made up of Micah Johnson, Jason Stripling, Cole Scates, Lance Heap, Laquett Nicholson, Errik Ejike and Nicholas Mitchell. Other team members included Adrian Beard, Tekerrein Cuba, Justin Hanson, Preston Hill and Jeremy Moore.