Cavaliers face tall test again at First Baptist


Revenge will not be on the minds of the Robert E. Lee Cavaliers on Friday when they travel to Charleston to face undefeated First Baptist in the semifinals of the SCISA 2A state playoffs, according to REL head coach David Rankin.

The opportunity is certainly there though since it is the Hurricanes who defeated Lee 28-21 in the 2A title game last year. However, Robert E. Lee certainly does have some extra motivation.

"Our players are at a point now where they expect to be playing in the championship game," said Rankin, who led the Cavaliers to the 2015 1A state title before moving up to 2A last season. "That's a good thing. They don't want to be the class that doesn't get to go back."

It will not be an easy task for the Cavaliers, who are 10-2 on the season. FB is 9-0 and has run roughshod over its competition, outscoring its foes 476-33.

"They're a big-play offense and they're better on defense than they were last year," Rankin said of First Baptist, which is on a 14-game winning streak. "They've got everybody back on defense."

The Hurricanes, who own a 40-0 win over 3A Pinewood Prep and a 38-14 victory over defending 3A state champion Porter-Gaud, are led by junior running back Michel Dukes. He is averaging 136.3 Rushing yards a game, 1,227 total and 23 touchdowns on 133 carries. Dukes, who is being ranked by the University of South Carolina, also has 11 catches for 231 yards and two more scores.

FB, which defeated Spartanburg Christian 52-0 in the first round of the playoffs, is averaging 207 rushing yards a game and 189.7 passing yards.

Junior quarterback Tremez Brown has completed 81 of 117 passes for 1,729 yards and 25 touchdowns against just one interception. Brown's favorite target is junior wide receiver Tylan Major. He has 31 catches for 852 yards, a 27.5 per-catch average, and 14 TDs.

Lee has been far from a defensive juggernaut, allowing 26.9 points a contest. However, it is coming off its best defensive performance of the season, not allowing an offensive touchdown in a 42-7 victory over Hilton Head Christian in the first round.

"We were replacing nine starters from last year," Rankin said. "We were having to use a lot of young sophomores, and we've gotten better as the year has gone on.

"I'm proud of the defensive effort we had last week."

Robert E. Lee is averaging 40.0 points a contest as it has scored 480 points. The Cavs will need a big effort from quarterback Bryce Barrett and wide receiver Nick Laney.

Teams have tried to take away Barrett's running ability by stacking the box this season. Barrett is still around 1,000 yards after rushing for 1,485 yards last season.

"They made it where they wanted to see if we could beat them passing," Rankin said. "Bryce has shown he can do that."

Rankin is also pleased with the way his offensive line has progressed and it will need a strong performance on Friday.

"We're going to have to hold on to the football, control the clock," Rankin said. "We don't want to give them a whole lot of opportunities.

"We've got our kids focused. We're going to go down and see if we can give them a game. We'll see what happens."