Robert E. Lee football was riding high coming off of the bye week.
The Ganders were gaining more attention from the media, some were talking rankings and REL was an undefeated team electrifying the stat sheets at 60 points per game in three routs.
Then came Port Neches-Groves.
The host Indians burst the REL bubble a week ago in a 31-14 win over the Ganders to open District 12-5A II play and send them back to the drawing board.
The byproduct of this bounce back week on the gridiron will be discovered at 7:30 tonight when the Ganders (3-1, 0-1) host Santa Fe (1-3, 0-1) for Homecoming and a chance to get their first district win in a push for a long-awaited playoff spot.
“They handled the week off better than we did,” REL head coach Tim Finn said. “We made some game one mistakes when it was game four.”
The Ganders were undone by a couple drives that bogged down in PN-G territory, including an interception that stopped a potential drive which would have given REL the lead late in the third quarter.
“We didn’t keep enough drives alive on plays we could have made and we allowed them to make plays on favorable down and distance for our defense,” Finn said. “It comes down to making the plays when you need to make them and we didn’t. We knew we had to play our best game of the season to come out victorious and we didn’t do it.
“We have to push forward and learn from it for another tough district game.”
Santa Fe may not look threatening on paper but Finn knows better.
“They are tough kids that believe in winning the line of scrimmage and dominating on both sides of the ball,” Finn said. “It’s going to be a physical contest. Defensively, they are going to play very hard and they depend on being more physical than the opponent. We have to match that. We have to win the physical war.”
Senior REL quarterback Igenea Wooley hopes the team gets back in gear after a week of maybe reading too many of their press clippings.
“I felt like we needed that loss as a team,” Wooley said. “We got a little big headed and forget how to practice. Our practice last week transferred to the game. This week it’s been much better. Everybody came back hungry. Coaches didn’t have to coach effort.
“We got it over with. I got so used to winning that I forgot what it’s like to lose. So we needed that.”
The Ganders need to also know when to step up in the big moments.
“We need to make the plays in the close games that get us in the win column,” Finn said. “We had our chances against PN-G and have a chance to win it at the end. We want to have a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter.”