REL, Eagles meet again after 2018’s classic result
A year ago at this time, the Robert E. Lee football team wanted to make a statement and Barbers Hill was shooting for a District 12-5A II title.
REL lost an instant classic 52-49 decision in Baytown, but the Ganders announced its resurgence while Barbers Hill was off to the playoffs.
Fast forward to 7:30 p.m. tonight and the two teams meet again with improved rosters, levels of execution and expectations.
The Ganders will aim to end a dubious distinction of being 0-8 on the road in district play during head coach Tim Finn’s two-plus years in charge of the program.
“They are very good, well coached football team and what we have to prove to ourselves is we have to go on the road and beat a quality opponent,” Finn said. “Our mission is to play our best game on the road and best game of the year - because we have to have that to win the game.”
Finn said his team has to get over the need for comfortable conditions to be in place to aid in winning.
The Ganders just need to play football and worry about nothing else, he said.
“Barbers Hill has a reputation of being a good football program and we want to get to that level to be considered in the same mode as them,” Finn said. “The only way you can get there is to beat some of them.
“Beating a team like that would be a great accomplishment for us right now. It’s a barrier we have to get over. It’s about playing on the road with great confidence.”
Last week’s 34-3 rout of Santa Fe saw REL (4-1, 1-1) play a superlative second half to break the game open.
“As soon as we got that two-score lead, we dominated from there,” Finn said. “I challenged the team to win the hitting war and I think we did that.”
Barbers Hill (4-1, 2-0) and head coach Tom Westerberg is keeping its eye on a district title and beating REL is part of that process.
“Whatever game is the next one is the biggest game,” Westerberg said. “In order to win a district championship you have to win them all.
“They have some good athletes over there. We enjoy competing against those guys. They have a good coaching staff ... we’ve grown together a little bit. We will compete like crazy, but consider them friends off the field.”
Will this edition be as good a game as the one a year ago?
“If you were a fan and didn’t enjoy the game, you don’t know football,” Finn said. “It was a fun, wild game and it was a difficult game for us to lose.”
Senior REL safety Joseph Jones has 20 tackles an interception and a number of pass breakups as the defense continues to gel.
“We are getting better every week,” Jones said. “We prepared better over the week and practiced harder. We knew the game wasn’t over and knew we still had to fight.
“We got to play even better this week.”
Westerberg hopes his defense plays better than last year in this same matchup.
“The defensive guys have been reminded on how they played last year,” Westerberg said. “I feel we will play better.”
The Eagles come in off an impressive 40-14 beat down at Nederland despite having to sit delays due to lightning strikes forced them to play until almost midnight.
“We just relaxed and kept the kids updated on times,” Westerberg said. “We handled it pretty good. We just hung in there as a group. It was also good that we didn’t get any real rain.”
The Eagles players are ready to carry their momentum into the REL challenge.
“We are way better than we were last year,” senior Eagle Casey Collier. “I am pretty sure we are going to win.”