[By Nathan Wright, Special to ETSN.fm]

TYLER – Marquiston Williams caught a 41-yard touchdown pass from Raleigh Poster with 31 seconds left to give Tyler Lee the lead and Bryce Wilkerson knocked down a Hail Mary pass as time expired to give the Red Raiders a 61-54 victory against Mesquite on Friday night at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.

With the dramatic win that saw the teams combine for 79 second-half points, the Red Raiders kept their playoff hopes alive by improving to 4-4 overall and 1-3 in District 12-5A play. Mesquite dropped to 5-4 and 3-2.

Robert E. Lee's Michael Dorsey goes after Mesquite quarterback Colby Callaway. (Noreen Nartia, ETSN.fm)

“I don’t think I have ever had a 61-54 game,” Tyler Lee head coach Darrell Piske said. “I’m that old-school guy who usually likes to play good defense. That is the new wave, they score, we score.”

There wasn’t much defense to speak of – especially in the second half.

The game was close at halftime with Mesquite holding a 20-16 lead. Then both offenses came to life.

On Tyler Lee’s second play of the half, Kyjuan Johnson broke off a 61-yard run. On the next play, Zach Hall ran it in from 4 yards out to give the Red Raiders a 23-20 lead. Mesquite answered with a 22-yard touchdown pass to make it 27-23.

Johnson scored his second touchdown of the half on Tyler Lee’s next possession. His 11-yard run made it 30-27. Mesquite again answered right back with a TD pass and a two-point conversion to take a 35-30 lead with half of the third quarter still remaining.

Again, Johnson scored for the Red Raiders on their next possession. This one gave Tyler Lee back the lead at 36-35.

The Red Raiders appeared to get a break by recovering a Mesquite fumble and converting a field goal to go ahead 39-35. But after the field goal, the Skeeters answered right back with another long pass to go back ahead 41-39.

That was the score at the end of the third quarter as the teams combined for 44 points.

Tyler Lee then scored twice in a row – on a pass from Hall to Diondre Allan and then a 2-yard run by Johnson after the Skeeters fumbled a kickoff. That gave the Red Raiders a little breathing room with a 53-42 lead.

However, Mesquite matched Tyler Lee’s feat – scoring twice in a row around a Red Raider fumble to take a 54-53 lead with 5:24 left in the game.

The teams then traded punts before Tyler Lee got the ball with 1:51 to go. On their final drive, the Red Raiders converted two third downs before backup quarterback Poster’s pass to Williams with half a minute to go. Tyler Lee was successful on a two-point conversion to go ahead 61-54.

“Raleigh kept his eyes downfield and did a great job,” Piske said. “Just his character as a backup quarterback, keeping his head in the game, staying focused and working hard every day. So you have to be proud of him for that.”

Mesquite was able to drive to the Tyler 43-yard line before a final pass attempt was knocked down by Wilkerson.

The Red Raiders scored first late in the opening quarter. Juwan Banks caught a 20-yard pass from Hall to give Tyler Lee a 6-0 lead after a missed PAT with 2:19 remaining in the first period.

Mesquite answered right back on its first play after the Tyler Lee touchdown. Shadavian Reed took a handoff and raced 63 yards to the end zone. The Skeeters failed to convert a 2-point attempt and the game was tied 6-6 with two minutes to go in the first quarter.

Tyler Lee scored the next 10 points – on a field goal and a 1-yard run by Tavon Wesley to go ahead 16-6, but the Skeeters scored twice before halftime, on a 43-yard run by Reed and a 38-yard pass to give them a 20-16 lead at the break.

Johnson finished the game with 17 carries for 179 yards – all in the second half. For Mesquite, Reed rushed 18 times for 265 yards.

Next week, Tyler Lee will try to keep its momentum going from its first district win when it travels to Longview. Mesquite hosts Rockwall.

Robert E. Lee's players run out onto the field before the Red Raiders' game against Mesquite on Friday night at Rose Stadium. (Noreen Nartia, ETSN.fm)