Longview has won or shared eight consecutive district championships, but the quest for a ninth may have to go through Mesquite.

Longview, which visits Mesquite on Sept. 28 in a District 12-5A opener, has owned the Skeeters since becoming a regular district opponent in 2004.  The Lobos have played Mesquite six times since then and won every game, with an average victory margin of 22.5 points, including last season’s 54-21 rout in Mesquite.

But the Skeeters were young a year ago and return a ton of starters who survived the district schedule with a 2-3 mark to squeak into the playoffs and last three games before falling in a regional semifinal with a 7-6 record. The offense fueled Mesquite’s postseason run, and quarterback Alex Cooper is back after throwing for more than 2,500 yards, once again joining Junior Session (20 rushing touchdowns) in the backfield.

Longview counters with what could be its best defense in years. Consensus 2011 Class 5A Defensive Player of the Year DeMarkus Lathan returns for his senior season at linebacker, along with a veteran secondary led by senior Corey Bartley and junior Stephan Maxey. As always, the Lobos will have speed everywhere on the defensive side of the ball.

One thing to watch is how Longview bounces back from a trip to Lufkin the previous week, regardless of the outcome at Abe Martin Stadium. That’s a tough back-to-back, especially when the second game is a district opener that will heavily influence the league championship race.

The trip to Mesquite isn’t the only potentially pivotal game Longview faces during the district schedule. Another big matchup features new-to-5A Rockwall-Heath visiting Longview on Oct. 12. Rockwall-Heath will bring multiple Division I FBS-bound defensive linemen, including Texas A&M commit Jay Arnold, to Lobo Stadium to try to slow down the Lobos’ ground game.

Top 25 Games of the Year

No. 7: Arp vs. Tatum

No. 8: John Tyler vs. Corsicana

No. 9: Henderson vs. Chapel Hill

No. 10: Henderson vs. Kilgore

No. 11: Carthage vs. Chapel Hill

No. 12: Kilgore vs. Chapel Hill

No. 13: Chapel Hill vs. Gilmer

No. 14: Alto vs. San Augustine

No. 15: Texas High vs. Sulphur Springs

No. 16: Waco La Vega vs. Palestine

No. 17: Hughes Springs vs. Elysian Fields

No. 18: Gilmer vs. Atlanta

No. 19: Whitehouse vs. Carthage

No. 20: Daingerfield vs. New Boston

No. 21: Carlisle vs. Big Sandy

No. 22: Palestine vs. Jacksonville

No. 23: Tenaha vs. San Augustine

No. 24: Gilmer vs. Daingerfield

No. 25: John Tyler vs. Tyler Lee