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Elijah Partida, right, and the Robert E. Lee Ganders football team begin a potential two-week run of must-win games to advance to the Class 5A II playoffs 7:30 Friday at Vidor.

Vidor contest first of two must win situations

The official start to the bi-district football playoffs isn’t until the weekend of Nov. 15, but don’t tell the Robert E. Lee Ganders that.

For REL the playoffs begin Friday.

Facing a win or stay home prognosis, the Ganders (5-3, 2-3) must win their last two games starting with a 7:30 p.m. Friday clash at Vidor to secure a playoff spot. 

With games against the Pirates  (3-4, 2-3) this week and the season finale on Nov. 8 at home against Crosby (3-4, 3-2), the two teams other than REL still in contention for the postseason, the Ganders control their destiny.

“The main thing we do is to focus on what we have to do next,” REL head coach Tim Finn said. “If we would have sat back before the season and said ‘you control your destiny with two games left in the season,’ we’d probably have said, ‘we’ll take it.’

“We are just glad to be in the situation that we are in and that we can  be playing for something in the last game of the year.”

With last week’s 35-34 squeaker win at Dayton, the Ganders cemented their first .500 season or better since 2012. It was also the first district road win for Finn since he moved into his current post in 2017.

“It’s not going to be easy when you are trying to grow a program and your confidence level,” Finn said. “That was demonstrated the other night. A fourth-quarter comeback, while being on the road and short personnel, it was a really good team win for us.

“You don’t reach all your goals at one time. You can’t win a district playoff win without a progression of steps along the way. What we did last week is get our fifth win. Now we have to fight for one of those playoff spots.”

Now they hunt for a first playoff appearance since 2009. 

That will have to happen without standout junior Keke Davis, who is out for the season with a broken ankle, and Trudell Berry, who is nursing a sprained ankle will come down to a game-time decision.

“We are probably going to war with the same people we went to war with last week,” Finn said. “It’s a big adjustment to miss those two players. We had some players step in and do a good job. I was really proud of them and happy for them that they overcame and the things they overcame. But we had to overcome just due to the personnel we were missing, but we can’t do it to ourselves as far as overcoming turnovers and penalties.

“We have to focus on playing our best game so far.”

Vidor’s slot-T attack will offer a different challenge that the Pirates players have bought into according to Finn.

“They know what they are doing and what they want to look for and where they want to attack,” Finn said. “They are a precision offense and defense. They do a good job coaching over there to get what they want out of their kids.”

The Ganders players do not feel they are overwhelmed by the challenge. 

Including the special teams which came up big in last week’s win according to punter Adrian Boston.

“We got to win both of them,” Boston said. “We have practiced so hard we can win. We got enough. Last year we were seven points from the playoffs. We were there, but now we need to get there.”

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