The Lee Gander football team opened District 12-5A DII play with a measuring stick game and came up on the short end.
Port Neches-Groves celebrated its homecoming with a 31-14 win Friday night at The Reservation. But the dance came close to being a somber affair. Lee battled back from a 14-0 deficit and was on the verge of taking the lead in the third quarter. Ijenea Wooley scored on a 17-yard run to start the half and pull the Ganders within 17-14. The defense got a three-and-out and the offense went back to work, driving into PN-G territory.
Momentum quickly turned the other way as disaster struck.
Sophomore Indian cornerback Matthew Kendrick jumped a route and picked Wooley off, returning the ball to the REL 30. Ja’Kenan Davis made a touchdown-saving tackle, but it only slowed what turned out to be the inevitable.
On 4th and long, Blake Bost found Brady Nail open behind the secondary for a touchdown. Lee was not right from that point and PN-G iced the game with a fourth quarter score. Bost was 25 of 42 for 269 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Indians.
“We were driving for the lead,” Lee head coach Tim Finn said. “We were in their territory; good field position and we can at least kick a field goal. The turnover hurt. That was kind of our nemesis all night. We turned the ball over three or four times.”
Finn also cited a struggle to finish on fourth down as Lee came up short in some key situations offensively while allowing PN-G to keep drives alive.
“When you think about how the open week went, they just shook the rust off better than we did,” Finn said. “With not being able to practice the week with the storm and then coming out and trying to get ready for a team that is really a good football team. We just didn’t handle it very good.”
Lee didn’t handle the start of the game very well. PN-G opened the game with a touchdown drive capped with a 3-yard run by its Swiss army knife-type player in Zane Hernandez. Lee appeared to gain some momentum late in the first on a turnover. A lateral was picked up by Edgar Pulido and returned to the Lee 22. The offense failed to move the ball and a 37-yard field goal attempt was short.
Lee continued to shoot itself in the foot on its next possession with an interception. The Indians made the Ganders pay, cashing in on a four-yard pass from Bost to Peyton Proenza to extend the lead to 14-0.
Lee got a big play moments later as Trudell Berry took a pass from Wooley and sailed down the sideline to cut the lead to 14-7. PN-G added a field goal late in the half for a 17-7 lead.
The offense was held to 120 yards in the first half and 280 for the game. Wooley was 12 of 30 for 184 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Berry hauled in six passes for 82 yards and a score. Elijah Partida caught three passes for 68 yards.
“It’s district football and we are in a really good district,” Finn said. “And we know that. We had to play our best game of the year so far to have a chance to win and we didn’t do it.”
Lee will return to action when it hosts Santa Fe at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Other District 12-5A-II results
Barbers Hill (1-0) 27, Dayton (0-1) 0
Vidor (1-0) 37, Crosby (0-1) 27
Nederland (1-0) 48, Santa Fe (0-1) 0