[By Cliff Gibson, Special to ETSN.fm]

MESQUITE – Two teams entered Friday’s game at Hanby Stadium as the favorites to take the District 12-5A crown in 2012. After 48 minutes on the gridiron, one clear favorite emerged. Mesquite jumped out to a big, early lead while Longview failed to overcome nine fumbles in the Skeeters’ 33-7 win over the Lobos.

Mesquite quarterback Alex Cooper finished with 273 total yards (213 passing) and two touchdowns, while Rashard Higgins pulled down six grabs for 136 yards and a score to lead the Skeeters (5-0) to their best start since 2001, when Mesquite finished 15-0 and won the Class 5A state title.

Longview quarterback Stephon Dunn feels the pressure from the Mesquite defense Friday night. (Jaime R. Carrero, ETSN.fm)

Longview (3-2) lost five of its nine fumbles, finished with only 150 total yards and clearly missed Bivins Caraway, the quarterback who’s been out since the opening week of the season with an injury.

Dezmond Churley completed 8-of-11 passes for 64 yards and Tory White rushed for 61 yards. Antonius Sanders ran for 36 yards and Longview’s only touchdown. Mesquite was limited to a season-low 300 total yards, but capitalized on enough Lobo mistakes to put Longview away early.

Both teams stalled on their first offensive series, but Mesquite won the early battle for field position, taking over for the second time at midfield. Cooper found Jordan Bracy for a 28-yard gain to the Longview 1, setting up Junior Session to score the first points of the game on the next snap. Marco Rodriguez added the PAT for a 7-0 lead.

Things got ugly for the Lobos when they mishandled Mesquite’s onside kick, giving the Skeeters the ball just 36 yards from the end zone. Mesquite wouldn’t reach the end zone, but Rodriguez was able to push the lead into double digits with a 28-yard field goal with two minutes left in the opening frame.

The Lobos were bit by the turnover bug again as Chumley coughed up the ball three plays later, and this time Mesquite took full advantage. On the Skeeters’ first play following the fumble, Cooper pumped fake to free up Higgins down the sideline for a 49-yard touchdown and a 17-0 lead.

Longview’s third fumble came on the ensuing kickoff, allowing Mesquite to move into position for another Rodriguez kick, this one from 22 yards to give the Skeeters a 20-0 advantage. And like a broken record, Chumley lost another fumble on the Lobos’ next play, which gave Rodriguez a chance to boot his third field goal of the half (36 yards), making it 23-0 with more than nine minutes until halftime, but that score would hold up as the teams entered the break.

The defenses clamped down in the second half, but Longview was able to finally able to get on the scoreboard with nine minutes to play as Sanders trotted in from eight yards. Cooper added the final touchdown with 4:54 to play, bursting through the middle of the Longview defense for a 49-yard touchdown.

The Skeeters will hit the road next Friday to face Rockwall-Heath at Wilkerson Sanders Stadium, while Longview will have a week off before hosting Heath on Oct. 12. The Hawks (4-1, 1-0) crushed crosstown-rival Rockwall by a 45-12 count Friday.