Head Coach John King + Longview Begins Practice For Upcoming 2015 Season
Games are not won on the first day of practice, but a tone for the upcoming season can definitely be set. The Longview Lobos officially began preseason workouts Monday evening, practicing in temperatures in excess of 100 degrees.
"I thought our conditioning went very well," said Longview coach John King, who's entering his 12th season on the Lobos' sideline. "As the practice wore on, they kinda wilted on me, which is to be expected on the first day. We were able to get everything done in under two hours, and it was all on the grass field. We didn't go to the turf, because of the heat."
Overall, King said the first day of workouts was a success.
"We want to see retention from spring ball, and we normally have a few position changes with some kids new to certain positions," he said. "It's basically how well we execute, especially in the heat. We also see what kind of shape we're in, and our conditioning was good at the beginning, moving from drill to drill."
Longview lost a few key pieces on the offensive side of the ball from last season's 9-3 Class 5A Division I area finalist. But the Lobos do bring back starting tailback Tylan Miller, who rushed for more than 1,400 yards in his first season as the No. 1 option out of the backfield.
"He may have surprised some, but he wasn't a surprise to me," King said of Miller. "I knew he had what it took. Tylan's a physical back and he's a guy that can carry the ball 20-25 times a game. And the more carries he gets, the better he's going to run. The thing that a lot of people don't realize is how good he can catch the ball. If we asked him to play fullback and block for us, he could probably do that. He's a very important part of the offense and our football team."
Miller should have plenty of holes through which to maneuver, as the Lobos' offensive line returns quite a bit of experience.
"We have five guys that saw playing time on the varsity last year," King said. "Johnathan Sneed, Tim Clay, Kendall Starling, Zach Gipson, Marcus Polk … we had all five of those guys out there at the same time."
Longview will have a new quarterback under center following the graduation of three-year starter Dezmond Chumley.
Senior Michael Ross is taking over the reins, and has impressed his head coach from the time spring practice began to Monday's first official team workout.
"I thought he had a good spring and continued that through the summer with his leadership, 7-on-7, and getting the kids together on his own; he spearheaded all of that," King said of Ross. "He's a natural born leader, it's just one of the things he has, and he knows how to do it in a genuine way. He's got the respect of the team, and lot of playmaking ability. I'm sure he'll be a little rusty early on when you throw him in there against the likes of Ennis, Lufkin, John Tyler and (Shreveport Byrd), which should test him pretty good. I think he has a chance to be special, he's that type of player. We think we can do big things for us."
Over the years, Longview has developed a reputation as having one of the stingiest defenses in all of East Texas. And one group in particular will be instrumental in keeping that trend going in 2015.
"We feel like the triangle of safeties (is our biggest strength)," King said. "We've got guys like Keenan Madden, Joshua Johnson, De'Keithon Ingram who played for us last year. We've also made a position change with Travion Webster; we think we can play the free safety spot at a high level for us. I feel good about those four guys playing those three safety positions. Our defense is constructed for those three spots; they funnel everything through our 4-2-5 alignment, and handle all the adjustments and formations against those up-tempo speed offenses."
Longview hosts defending Class 5A Division II state champion Ennis in a scrimmage on Aug. 21 before opening the season at home against longtime rival Lufkin at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 28.