It wasn’t just an explosive display from the Tyler Lee offense that led the Red Raiders to a surprising 55-20 victory at Sulphur Springs.
And it wasn’t just an avalanche of key injuries crippling the host Wildcats. It was both.
The Raiders’ offense burned up the field with big play after big play. Six of Lee’s eight touchdowns came on plays of 30 yards or greater. Four of those went for more than 50 yards.
Sophomore quarterback Zach Hall completed four touchdown passes, three of which were caught by senior wide receiver Bryce Wilkerson. Hall also ran for two scores, including a 64-yard scamper late in the second quarter that put Lee up 35-20 and began the rout.
Ivery leaves early, status uncertain
Sulphur Springs suffered mightily from the loss of key players. Running back Willy Ivery, one of the most highly touted players in the area, left the game late in the first quarter and did not return.
Ivery showed some of his usual flash with a 54-yard touchdown run in the early going, but his evening ended early following a play that typified the Wildcats’ disappointing season opener.
Lee’s Hall had just connected with Wilkerson for a 71-yard touchdown that gave the Red Raiders a 14-6 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, Ivery juked past a flock of defenders and then turned on the jets for a 90-yard kickoff return for an apparent touchdown.
But the score was called back on a foul against Sulphur Springs away from the play. Ivery left the field under his own power, in no obvious distress, but did not return to the field during the remainder of the half.
In the second half, Ivery appeared on the sideline, out of uniform, using crutches and with an ankle wrapped in a bandage. There’s no official word on Ivery’s injury or status for next week’s game at Sherman.
A statement performance on offense
Lee’s offensive linemen gradually gained the advantage over their smaller counterparts on Sulphur Springs. On the Raiders’ possessions, play at scrimmage was fairly even in the early going. But as the game developed, the big Lee front was able more often than not to dictate action in the trenches.
Scoring began early, with a 31-yard touchdown on a keeper by Hall. Sulphur Springs answered with Ivery’s big TD run, but a blocked extra-point attempt left Lee leading, 7-6. Wilkerson then torched the Wildcats’ secondary with his 71-yarder.
Sulphur Springs stayed close, when junior Larry Pryor, the Wildcats’ new starting quarterback, ran the ball in from 48 yards out, again pulling the home team to within a point.
But Lee scored on yet another huge gain to close out the first quarter. Marquiston Williams’ scintillating run after the catch resulted in a 69-yard touchdown that gave the Raiders a two-score lead to begin the second.
Pryor threw his lone touchdown pass of the night, a 30-yarder to Alex Burney that once again closed the margin to one. But the Wildcats did not score again.
Lee pulled away with a 21-yard toss from Hall to Wilkerson and went up by 15 at the half thanks to Hall’s dramatic 64-yard scoring run.
The Red Raiders cruised in the second half. When Hall and Wilkerson connected again for yet another big-play touchdown, a 55-yard score, observers could feel the energy evaporate on the Sulphur Springs sideline. That put Lee ahead 41-20 with 10:22 to play in the third – a nearly inconceivable state of affairs earlier in the evening.
The triumphant Raiders showed restraint as the lopsided contest wore down. Marquian Jones added a rushing touchdown and Averis Clewis caught a TD from backup quarterback Raleigh Poster to conclude the evening’s scoring.
Tyler Lee 55, Sulphur Springs 20
Tyler Lee 21 14 13 7 - 55
Sulphur Springs 13 7 0 0 - 20
Lee-Hall 31 run (Blas kick), 14:49
SS-Ivery 54 run (kick failed), 3:26
Lee-Wilkerson 71 pass from Hall (Blas kick), 2:30
SS-Pryor 48 run (Watson kick), 1:20
Lee-Williams 69 pass from Hall (Blas kick), 0:00
SS-Burney 30 pass from Pryor (Watson kick), 10:40
Lee-Wilkerson 21 pass from Hall (Blas kick), 4:05
Lee-Hall 64 run (Blas kick), 2:40
Lee-Wilkerson 55 pass from Hall (pass failed), 10:22
Lee-Jones 33 run (Blas kick), 1:55
Lee-Clewis 7 pass from Poster (Blas kick), 6:43