Thunder & Lightning: Longview’s Running Back Duo Ignites Offense
LONGVIEW – While it is true that Longview quarterback Haynes King has set school records for single-season passing yardage and touchdowns, the Lobos still butter their bread by running the football.
And with the duo of seniors Keilyn Williams and Jessie Anderson, Longview’s rushing attack has never been better.
Williams and Anderson have both eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark heading into Saturday’s state championship game.
Both offer unique styles of running, and perhaps Anderson summed it up best.
“Keilyn can run all around the field and tire the defense out,” he said. “When I get the ball I’m coming straight downhill, and not many people wanna hit you when you’re running at them full speed and everybody’s tired. That’s the great thing about us, it’s a good one-two punch.”
DON’T BE FOOLED
To look at Williams, nothing screams “exceptional.” He stands at just 5-feet, 5-inches, and weighs less than 150 pounds.
He plays much bigger.
“He’s extremely strong, he wins every pull-up competition we got in the weight room, so he is powerfully built,” Longview coach John King said of Williams. “He’s a kid that’s gonna compete regardless of the situation, he’s just one of those that has a will to win. I’ve watched him do that since middle school whether it was football or basketball or track, he’s gonna find a way to compete and win.”
According to Williams, he’s been prepared since childhood.
“When I was younger when I started playing football I never really did play with people my age,” he said.
Williams has run for a team-leading 1,449 yards and 13 touchdowns. But he also has 21 catches for 480 yards and six touchdowns.
“He will run the ball in the traditional I-formation with off-gap power and the counter and sweep stuff,” Coach King said. “He’s also one of those you can spread out and get the ball to on the perimeter, whether it’s with jet motion handing him the ball or throwing him bubbles. He’s a pretty good route runner with excellent hands.”
But his contributions don’t end there. Williams also returns kicks, where he burst onto the scene last season by returning the opening kickoff of the year for a touchdown against Lufkin.
“Any time he’s got the ball in his hands we’ve got a chance to score points,” Coach King said. “I think what he did last year with Lufkin to open the year and what he did in the fourth-round playoff game last year, a kick return to get us on the plus side of the field to win the ballgame. He’s just one of those kids that’s got a knack for making a play.”
Williams plays with a certain level of confidence, mostly because of his offensive line.
“I wouldn’t be able to do nothing without the O-line,” he said. “Sometimes it feels like I’m untouchable. It’s the best line I’ve ever had.”
LONG TIME COMING
Anderson missed most of his junior season because of an injury, which he said had a profound impact on him.
“I knew that with me being hurt, I knew that I had to come back and be way better than I was my sophomore year and my junior year,” Anderson said. “I feel like that’s kinda what I’m doing this year.”
Anderson, who plays both fullback and tailback, has run for 1,047 yards and a team-best 24 touchdowns. He has run for at least 100 yards in each of Longview’s last two playoff games.
Unlike Williams, Anderson (5-11, 225) is all power.
“They’ve got a make a business decision,” Coach King said about potential tacklers of Anderson.
And it’s as if he is making up for lost time this season.
“The thing about Jessie, he’s been a varsity player since his sophomore year, and really showed signs of being of what he is today,” Coach King said. “Losing him for his junior year really hurt him and us both. I felt like if he’d had a complete junior season, Jessie Anderson would’ve been receiving multiple (scholarship offers) from Division I programs. But it set him back, and he just continued to work.”
And Anderson’s patience and perseverance paid off as he signed with Abilene Christian earlier this week.
“It’s been a real burden lifted off of me,” Anderson said. “I felt like nothing was gonna come, but I kept playing and kept my head up, and they finally came through. I went up there to see the coaches and campus and everything, and I fell in love.”
Coach King couldn’t be happier for Anderson.
“I just kept telling him to keep believing and have faith. ‘Keep doing what’s right. You’re a good person, you’re a good student, you’re a good football player. That’s what recruiters are looking for, and you’ve got all three,’” Coach King said.
“I don’t know if Jessie has ever missed a day of school, I don’t know if he’s ever been written up. That’s a reflection of what his mother expects out of him. Abilene Christian is stealing them a great running back.”
Anderson is just as valuable as a blocker, according to his coach.
“That’s something we’ve talked about since he was a freshman is what he did without the football,” he said. “He’s just a big body, we need him to block well and he has blocked well most of the year. He catches the ball well out of the backfield for us whether it’s on boot passes, play-action passes or screens. He’s got soft hands for a big man.”
The duo all adds up to a dynamic aspect of a Longview offense that averages more than 50 points and almost 500 yards per game.
“This offense has been getting molded since about the time we were in the seventh grade,” Anderson said. “We’ve been playing together for a long time, so Haynes and (receiver Kamden Perry) has gotten that timing and everything like that together. It took a while but now that we’ve actually grown together and played on the same team for a long time it’s just there naturally.”
GOING OUT ON TOP
Saturday marks the end of the road for both Williams and Anderson in a Longview uniform.
The Lobos (15-0) meet Beaumont West Brook (13-2) for the Class 6A Division II championship at 3 p.m. from AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
“I wouldn’t say that it’s unbelievable because we already had a dream for it,” Williams said. “We’ve always strived to be in a state championship. I’m just excited that I’m playing with my brothers.”
Longview and West Brook have met in each of the previous two postseasons, with the teams splitting their bi-district matchups.
“The intensity level is gonna be high because I know a couple of them dudes,” Williams said. “It’s gonna be real fun playing against them again.”
It’s been 81 years since the Lobos have brought a state championship to the city of Longview, and the players know how special it would be for them to end the drought.
“It would mean a lot,” Anderson said. “There’s a lot of people that’ve been saying they’ve been waiting, and they felt like our class was gonna be the class that was gonna do it. Us knowing that we have the whole city on our back, we’re gonna try to keep them up and not let them down.”