Elijah Partida, 3, and the Robert E. Lee offensive players are aiming for a better showing at 7:30 this evening when the Ganders play host to Nederland in District 12-5A II play. REL is 4-2 overall and 1-2 in district play.

REL faces litmus test vs. Nederland

Robert E. Lee football has opened District 12-5A II play with two road losses against two top teams sandwiched around a home win against Santa Fe.

A mashup of those two scenarios takes place at 7:30 tonight at Stallworth when REL (4-2, 1-2) plays hosts to perennial playoff participant Nederland (2-4, 2-1) with a chance to throw the district race into even more turmoil than it is in after three weeks.

The Ganders are in sixth place, a game behind four teams tied for second at 2-1, with all of them trailing Barbers Hill (3-0), who beat REL 28-0 last week in Mont Belvieu.

With a win over Nederland, REL would be no worse than be in a three-way tie for third place and at worse, would be one of four teams tied for fourth.

A defeat would still put them only a game outside a playoff spot. 

“We have got to take care of ourselves,” REL head coach Tim Finn said. “The logjam in the standings is a testament to how tough the district is. It says that everybody is still fighting for those spots that everyone wants to be in.

“The only thing we can do is take care of ourselves and beating a program like Nederland would be a huge step.”

Finn is remiss that the Ganders have not beaten a “quality” program on the road, but his team still can finish the season unbeaten at home and is 3-0 so far with two games to play.

“We want to be in the hunt after this week,” Finn said. “We want to win the game. That would be a huge feather for us and from where we have come from.”

Nederland presents a serious threat to the Ganders, who, with a win, would record their best overall mark for wins since 2012.

“Their non-district schedule is not indicative of the type of team they are,” Finn said. “They have a sprint relay team on their offense and they are always a sound football team. You are going to have to knock them off if you want to beat them.

“We will have to play our best football game of the year to beat them.”

Last week, the REL offense struggled with a few key pieces out with injuries – but they are expected back – and the passing attack suffered as Barbers Hill’s defensive line continued to beat REL’s front line and led to quarterback Ijenea Wooley’s struggles with no completed passes.

“We did talk about it after film and we need to pick it up at practice,” REL center Rashad Futch said. “We can’t just take being defeated. The biggest thing was miscommunication on echoing the calls. 

“We just have to not let it affect us.”

Finn was happy that the Ganders were able to stop the bleeding after trailing 21-0 in the game’s first six minutes.

“The kids battled, we kept fighting and we gave ourselves two or three chances, we just could not break through and their defense played outstanding,” Finn said.

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