It took a state championship winner to knock Longview from the 2011 playoffs, and the Lobos figure to be a contender once again in 2012.

Longview, ranked No. 9 in the Associated Press preseason Class 5A poll, has only two returning offensive starters, but they’re good ones in quarterback Bivins Caraway (6-0, 200) and running back Tory White (5-9, 175). Caraway threw for more than 2,400 yards with 22 touchdowns

and only five interceptions last year, while White ran for almost 800 yards. With a rebuilt offensive line, emerging receiver Justinn Spady (5-9, 155), and Division I prospect Colin Jeter (6-6, 215) at tight end, the backfield duo has high expectations this season.

But what has Longview fans perhaps even more excited are a loaded defense and what could be a special junior class. Longview’s defense returns eight starters, none more important than defending consensus Class 5A Player of the Year DeMarkus Lathan, the Lobo linebacker who made 150 tackles and blocked two kicks in 2011. Cornelius Williams (5-10, 290) and Jalen Porter (6-0, 210) will lead the defensive line, while a stout defensive backfield will feature hard-hitting safeties Corey Bartley (5-7, 155) and Stephan Maxey (5-11, 185), who had a breakout sophomore season a year ago. Lathan, Bartley, and Maxey are all on the 2012 Preseason East Texas Super Team.

The aforementioned junior class has been compared by some Lobo fans to the class of 2009, which boasted quarterback Aaron Johnson, receiver Carey Fortson, and tailback Tyler McCray, a trio that helped Longview to consecutive Class 4A Division I state championship appearances. Maxey is part of the junior class, as well as offensive lineman Zaycoven Henderson (6-3, 268) and receivers Dorian Leonard (6-5, 185) and Chris Pellum (5-11, 170), among others.

Longview is the clear favorite in the new District 12-5A. A Sept. 28 game at Mesquite could decide the district championship, but matchups at Mesquite Horn (Oct. 19) and vs. new-to-5A Rockwall-Heath (Oct. 12) could also have big league implications. Potentially standing in Longview’s way out of the 5A Division II Region II bracket is old nemesis Lake Travis, the five-time defending 4A Division I state champion that has moved up to 5A. The Cavaliers beat Longview in the two aforementioned 4A D-I title games in 2008-09.

If Longview can get past its Region II competition, the Lobos can compete with anyone for the state title.

5A/4A Countdown

No. 1: Longview

No. 2: John Tyler

No. 3: Lufkin

No. 4: Sulphur Springs

No. 5: Tyler Lee

No. 6: Texas High

No. 7: Jacksonville

No. 8: Whitehouse

No. 9: Hallsville

No. 10: Lindale