Riding Four-Game Winning Streak, Longview Looks to Keep Momentum Going in 11-6A
Anyone who knows Longview coach John King knows he's a man who doesn't mince words and gets to the point.
And when it comes to the Lobos and their four-game winning streak, King has one focus: winning the next one.
"As tough as this league is, we have to have tunnel vision on Rockwall (on Friday night)," King said.
But that's not to say King isn't impressed with his team so far in 2016. Not only has Longview won four in a row -- including a wild 56-35 one over rival Tyler Lee last Friday night -- but he sees a young team starting to hit its stride when it matters most.
The Lobos (4-1) returned just four starters from a 2015 team that reached the state quarterfinals in Class 5A Division I. Then they moved up to 6A and rejoined some familiar names in the Metroplex. Then, for the fourth time in five seasons, Longview lost its season opener -- this year a 35-24 setback to arch-rival Lufkin.
Four wins later, Longview looks like a team that could compete for much more than just a playoff spot.
"We were a real inexperienced group when we started the year, but we've settled down and started to figure things out," King said. "We just have to keep improving on both our weaknesses and our strengths."
The Lobos are coming off a 21-point win over Tyler Lee where the first half ended in a way to drive any coach crazy. The two teams scored 22 points in a span of 34 seconds -- Longview scored on an 85-yard blocked field goal return, Lee followed with a 74-yard touchdown pass and two-point conversion, and then the Lobos returned the ensuing kickoff 74 yards for a score with 1:35 left in the first half.
"I've never seen anything like it, big play after big play like that," King said.
But Longview settled down afterward, holding Lee to just seven points in the second half and the Lobos ran away with it.
"We finally got lined up right and did the things we practiced throughout the week. We were absolutely horrible at how we lined up in the first half. We got outplayed, out-coached and everything else," King said. "But we settled down at halftime and played a lot better."
Up next for Longview is a team that could easily be considered the most dangerous 1-4 team in Texas. Rockwall's only win was a 59-58 district victory against John Tyler in Week 4, but three of the Yellow Jackets' losses have been by seven points or less.
Like Longview, Rockwall has plenty of weapons. The most notable is Sam Crawford, a three-star recruit at receiver who has two 200-yard games already this season. He had nine catches for 200 yards and four touchdowns against John Tyler, and he has caught seven of Matt Jones' 11 touchdown passes this season.
When asked if Rockwall's 1-4 record was deceiving, King's answer was quick and simple: "Hell yeah I would."
"They could be 0-5 and it'd still be deceiving," King said. "They're full of great players over there. The Crawford kid gets the most press, but (Jones) has had a heck of a year, too. He's a danger in the running game, too. They've played a lot of tough competition, and they're just coming off a rivalry game (against Rockwall-Heath) and got the short end of the stick. There aren't any gimmes in this district, especially with Rockwall."
Just like with Tyler Lee, Longview could find itself in a shootout situation with Rockwall. Quarterback Gaylon Wiley and Co. are averaging 55 points per game during Longview's four-game winning streak.
Wiley has grown into quite the weapon in his first year under center. He threw three touchdowns and ran for another against Tyler Lee, and has nine TDs to two interceptions through five games. And, as usual, the Lobos are stout in the running game, led by Kendrevian White's 639 yards and eight touchdowns.
King referred to his team -- specifically the offense -- as "blue-collar," largely since he called the Lobos' offensive line the driving force behind their success so far this year.
"Our offensive line doesn't have any marquee names, so to speak, but they are a solid bunch. They make our football team better and are the heart and soul of this group," King said. "They make us have a workmanlike mentality in our locker room, and they know what's expected."
Longview's focus from here on out -- as much as it sounds like coach-speak, King said -- is to maintain that "tunnel vision," starting with Rockwall. Because it doesn't get any easier from here. District 11-6A is one of the strongest in the state, and The Dallas Morning News recently called it the deepest 6A district it covers.
"It doesn't matter if you've won four in a row or lost four in a row, every week in this league is going to be a challenge. The difference in one play can mean a game and even your season in this district," King said. "This team doesn't have a Vondrell McGee, JaMycal Hasty or Malcolm Kelly, but they play well together. That can be a strong advantage. We just have to keep playing together because if you don't play together you're not going to win football games."