A season ago, the Robert Lee Steers outlasted the Santa Anna Mountaineers in an epic 50-48 double overtime thriller. Matching that type of drama will be difficult to duplicate, but the Mountaineers’ ultimate objective is reversing the outcome.
Santa Anna enters the Bulletin’s Six-Man Game of the Week with a 2-0 record, while Robert Lee is 0-1, having had last week’s contest against Borden County cancelled due to weather. Mountaineers head coach Lloyd Fields feels having an extra game could be to Santa Anna’s advantage, though he expects another brawl with the Steers Friday night.
“I think having played one more game does give us a little advantage, but at the same time we didn’t get to practice Monday because of the weather,” Fields said. “Robert Lee got their first game in, but didn’t get to play the second. They’re ranked 14th and we’re 15th (according to sixmanfootball.com). They’re a four-point favorite and beat us in double overtime at our place last year. I expect a good game going in.”
Santa Anna — whose offense has gone from pass-happy to ground-oriented in the blink of an eye — is still averaging 53.5 points per game after blanking Coolidge, 53-0, in the opener, and taking care of upset-minded Eden, 54-22, last week.
Offensively, the Mountaineers have been led by Terrence Jackson, who has rushed for 333 yards and nine touchdowns thus far. Fausto Maldonado has added 155 yards and two scores and Chris Tate has 99 yards and one touchdown.
“We’re doing things a little bit different from last year,” said Fields of the offense. “We beat teams with the pass last year, but this year we’re running the ball and not passing much. Every year we seem to reinvent ourselves and it’s still a work in progress. I’m happy with where our running game is, but not as happy with our passing game, mainly because we are not throwing much. We haven’t had to with the way we’ve run the ball, but we’re going to have to be able to throw the ball better in close games.”
Santa Anna’s passing game has been lacking partly due to leading receiver Demetrus Reese’s recovery from offseason knee surgery. Fields stated Reese was probably three-fourths of the way to a complete recovery, and his role in the offense will increase as his health and conditioning improve.
“He’s 75 percent now, but that’s better than the 50 percent he was at around the start of two-a-days,” Fields said
Like the present-day Mountaineers, Robert Lee is known for its rushing prowess, led by backs Josh Gallegos and Brody Dillard. In their one game this season, however, the Steers accumulated more yards through the air than on the ground.
Gallegos rushed for over 2,000 yards a year ago, but was a non-factor in the Steers’ 68-22 loss to No. 4 Rankin on Aug. 31.
Dillard, however, threw three touchdown passes — two to Jeremy Martinez and one to Taylor Perciful — and completed 6-of-13 passes for 241 yards against Rankin.
“Gallegos is a super running back that has ate us alive every time we played them,” Fields said. “As a freshman he scored four touchdowns on us in an 87-45 game where they just put him in toward the end. Last year he turned into one of the top backs in the state.
“We’re going to have to force a couple of turnovers and contain Gallegos and Dillard. If we slow them down, we have a chance.”
A chance is something Fields admitted he felt his team might not have against Robert Lee heading into the season. But a defense led by Maldonado’s 31 tackles and a fumble recovery and Jordan Whaley’s 22 tackles and two interceptions is allowing just 11 points per contest.
“We thought we were going to be real good against the spread and struggle against tight teams, but it’s been the other way around,” Fields said. “Coming out of the spring, we felt like we wouldn’t have a chance against Robert Lee, but as we’ve progressed through the season, I really like our chances.
“We just have to make sure we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot and make the little bitty mistakes that might not hurt you in big wins, but can hurt you in close games.”
SIX-MAN GAME OF THE WEEK — Santa Anna (2-0) at Robert Lee (0-1), 7:30 p.m. Friday — Steer Field. 2006 Result: Robert Lee 50, Santa Anna 48 — Double Overtime