New-Look Longview Lobos Will Be Tested Early and Often
LONGVIEW -- Program sales should be higher than normal when the Lobos kick off the season in 17 days at Lufkin.
There are a handful of major starters returning to the lineup, but if one of East Texas' premiere programs over the years is to compete for a deep run in Class 5A there are going to be names to learn along the way.
"It's really exciting to be out here with all the guys," junior wideout Jon Sorey said after Monday's season-opening practice. "I've grown up watching Friday night football my whole life. Now I've got the chance to show what I can do. It's going to take a lot of work. We have a lot of stuff to work on and the coaches were getting on my butt all practice. We're going to have to step up to replace Dorian (Leonard) and (Chris) Pellum and all the other guys gone."
Head coach John King's team has some amazing building blocks to work with. Running back JaMycal Hasty, a Baylor commitment, is one of the best at his position nationally.
Quarterback Dezmond Chumley, offensive tackle Broderick Washington and kicker Andres Perez are other players with preseason college attention. The other side of the ball returns defensive back Antonio Carter while defensive end Omar French will become available to reassume a starting job later this fall after an injury sustained in the spring.
That's about it though. Longview's 2014 hangs on guys like Sorey -- who battled the flu Monday -- stepping in immediately.
The schedule is tough from the start with a scrimmage against Ennis at the Lions' place Aug. 22. Ennis returns 11 starters from a Class 4A Division II state semifinalist team and gave juggernaut Aledo, by far, its closest game of the year before falling 29-6.
"We're going to try to install as much as we can in shorts," King said. "We're going to try to perfect our craft, so to speak, with the blocking and the tackling. We just kind of limped in what we can do in shorts and helmets, but, if we have a good understanding of schemes and are moving around, we're going to accomplish what we want."
There aren't many teams in the state that can eye the pie in the sky with just seven returning starters and critical losses in the form of three major FBS recruits and three junior college players.
This is Longview, however. A program rooted in winning.
The Lobos' 2013 junior varsity team went 8-1 while varsity carryovers enjoyed a trip to the third round of the playoffs in the 5A Division II bracket.
For all purposes, Longview was realigned down into District 15-5A with former Class 4A schools while most of its 2013 district competition moved to the brand new 6A classification.
There are more than a few perils on this level though, especially for a top heavy team with its all-around depth still a work in progress.
Games against Lufkin and John Tyler make up the non-district schedule along with an out-of-state game against Monroe (La.) Neville in Shreveport, La. The Panthers and John Tyler Lions are realistic contenders alongside Ennis in the adjacent District 16-5A.
District meetings against Texas High, Sulphur Springs, Hallsville, Marshall, Mount Pleasant, Pine Tree and Greenville aren't gimmes either.
A team from 16-5A, rounded out by Nacogdoches, Whitehouse, Lindale, Jacksonville and Corsicana, will take on Longview in the first round of the postseason if the Lobos match minimum preseason expectations.
"Ennis should be a great team in District 16-5A with Lufkin and John Tyler," Sorey said. "I think that's going to be a tough district this year with a lot of talent coming out of there. I wish Longview was actually in that district, honestly, because it'd give us some good reps going against all those guys. But we have games against Lufkin and John Tyler. That's East Texas right there. Great football towns and they should be great games.
"I think there's some potential in this district, too. You can't sleep on anybody. Any team can come up and beat us. Some things have rated us No. 1 in the district. We don't need to be reading any of that and need take it with a grain of salt. We just need to keep our minds focussed. We have a lot to work on these next days before we can get into any of that."
Monday's practice was considered a success by King.
"We did try to get a bunch of reps," the head coach said. "We had to change up our structure with a lack of depth at certain areas. But that was the plan. We don't do a lot of walking and standing. We try to do a lot of running and moving on the practice field. We were able to get that done in group and team settings and hopefully we'll be able to pick up the pace more tomorrow."
The clock is ticking.
Ennis, Lufkin, John Tyler, Texas High and a slew of other solid 5A programs are looking forward to seeing how they stack up against a few stars and the new supporting cast.
"The goal right now is to just keep going at it," Chumley said. "Just fighting through it and staying up as a team."