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It may not be a long trip, but it's the most important one of the season for the Robert E. Lee Academy football team.
The Cavaliers will travel just 20 miles down the road to Darlington to face top-ranked Trinity-Byrnes on Friday with a chance to win the SCISA Region 2A-I title.
REL enters the game 9-1 on the season with a 3-1 record in region play. Their only loss came against Florence Christian School, a team that had its own region championship aspirations until T-B whipped them last Friday.
REL is coming off a 36-7 victory over Greenwood Christian last Friday.
"We played hard again," said Robert E. Lee head coach David Rankin of the triumph. "We've had a great year. Our offensive line is getting better every week, so we're running the ball really well. I'm super proud of our defense. We threw an interception for a touchdown, so the defense actually didn't give up any points on Friday night, and they're getting better with tackling in space. We're seeing improvement every week, so we're really happy about that."
The Titans, meanwhile, have won 10 straight games since opening the season with back-to-back losses against First Baptist and Charlotte Country Day. Trinity-Byrnes' 32-point victory over FCS was its lowest margin of victory of the season. The Titans outscored their region opponents 213-75 so far this season.
The two teams met in the final game of the regular season last year as well; Trinity-Byrnes won that contest 38-21.
"It's going to be a tough challenge," said Rankin. "They're very fast. They run an option offense, so we gotta tackle well in space, which is something we struggled with early in the year. Defensively they're very, very quick and get after it."
Due to SCISA 2A tie-breaker rules, the Cavaliers will need to beat Trinity-Byrnes by 15 or more points in order to win the region title. They'll finish in second, ahead of Florence Christian, if they win by 12 or more points, while the other scenarios have them finishing in third place behind T-B and FCS.
Regardless of where they wind up in the standings, it's been yet another extremely successful season for the Cavaliers. Rankin's teams have won 51 of their past 62 games, including the 2015 state championship, wrapping up the most successful 5-year run in REL history.
That success has come from playing consistent, fundamentally sound football, and that's exactly what it will need to do in order to pull out the win.
"We have to limit our turnovers," said Rankin. "We can't get behind the chains on penalties or turnovers. We have to make sure we take our assignments and do our job, and then we'll have a chance."
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