With two minutes left in Lamar’s bi-district playoff game with Seven Lakes, it looked like the Redskins season would be looked at much differently than it is now. All the other 4A and 5A HISD schools had exited in the first round and Lamar, unbeaten in the regular season, stumbled out of the gates against the Spartans, trailing 20-7 at halftime and 33-28 in the final minutes of the game.
“We kind of took Seven Lakes for granted. They kind of looked like the other teams we had beaten,” Lancaster said. “But when they came out they punched us in the mouth and we had to get back up on it.”
That’s when the Redskins went to their ace in the hole, their big play capability. Two way star Cedric Lancaster took a short pass with a minute left in the game and weaved through the Seven Lakes defense for a 47 yard touchdown and Lamar advanced with a 35-33 win.
“I told him to call something different but the coaches know more than we know,” Lancaster said with a laugh. “I just did what I could do. Had a one on one, you’ve got to take advantage of a one on one, just took it to the house.”
“(After the win) We came back and on defense and our coach said never be complacent or satisfied with what you’re doing. You always have to step it up. So we took that game as a lesson.”
Since then Lamar has come up with the home run plays to advance all the way to the 5A Division I Region III final against North Shore on Saturday. A 71 yard interception return for a score by Lancaster and an 87 yard bomb from Darrell Colbert to Nicholas Turner helped put Alief Taylor away 30-14 in the area round. Then it was a pair of blocked punts by defensive end Zelt Minor and a 20 yard run by Colbert that dispatched Fort Bend Travis in the third round.
“We do kind of live by the big play,” Nolen said. “We’d like to be more consistent. The guy who triggers that is our quarterback, he’s had a great year. He’s just a junior, still learning how to play. A 16 year old kid, still he’s made a lot of plays.”
Those plays and a defense that controls the line of scrimmage now has Lamar in the region finals, a place no HISD team has been since Lamar reached this round in 2003. Its opponent then was also North Shore, which was on its way to a state championship.
“I think we were the only team to give them a game that year, they were that good,” Lamar coach Tom Nolen said of the 41-19 2003 region final.
As for this year’s squad, the headlines Lamar grabs will be because of what it accomplishes as a team.
“This has been a real enjoyable bunch of kids,” Nolen said. “We don’t have any superstars or Rivals five star kids and all the baggage that comes with that. Everybody enjoys being at Lamar and playing and trying to win for the Redskins.”
Whether the Redskins can be the first HISD team since to win Region III since the Vince Young led Madison Marlins did it in 2001, or the first one to reach the 5A finals since Yates lost to Temple in 1993 remains to be seen, but if they do the big play will likely get them there.