Longview will open the Texas high school football playoffs this coming week, and for the first time since 2001, that doesn’t just mean the Lobos.
All three University Interscholastic League schools with campuses inside the city limits — Longview, Pine Tree and Spring Hill — headed into the final week of the regular season on Friday knowing they would continue playing this coming week when the postseason begins.
The Lobos, coming off a state championship a year ago, closed out the regular season with a 49-14 win in Mesquite. That extended the state’s longest winning streak to 26 games, giving the Lobos the 11th perfect regular season in school history and the program’s 40th district title.
Pine Tree dropped a 38-33 decision on the road to Marshall, but the Pirates are in the postseason for the second time in three years after a long drought.
Spring Hill, meanwhile, locked up a playoff spot a few weeks back under dubious circumstances with a win over a short-handed Liberty-Eylau team. That put the Panthers in the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
On Friday, the Panthers answered some questions first-year head coach Jonny Louvier needed to see addressed with a 28-14 victory over Pittsburg that gave Spring Hill the third seed out of the district.
“Our seniors wanted to be the ones that got us back to the playoffs, but the way the Liberty-Eylau thing unfolded...” Louvier said in reference to L-E suiting up just five varsity players against the Panthers after having most of its team suspended following a brawl against Waco La Vega in the previous game.
“I know how it looked form the outside. Yeah. We made the playoffs, but we got in because that team (L-E) lost a bunch of players and we played a JV team. Beating Pittsburg was big for seeding, but also for our kids to be able to say we earned a spot. It wasn’t handed to us.”
Longview will open the playoffs at home on Friday against Temple. Pine Tree visits A&M Consolidated on Friday, and Spring Hill will take on Caddo Mills in Van on Friday.
It’s a scenario that hasn’t happened since 2001 when Longview went two rounds deep in the Class 5A Division II playoffs, Pine Tree fell in the opening round of the Class 4A Division I playoffs and Spring Hill lost in the second round of the 3A Division II postseason.
And, it’s only happened three times overall — 1997 and 1983 being the other seasons.
“I think it’s great for the city of Longview, and there will be a lot of excitement all over town,” Longview head coach John King said. “To have Pine Tree and Spring Hill make it, first of all, it speaks about the coaches they have in Kerry Lane and Jonny Louvier and the job they’re doing in a short amount of time. I don’t think anyone in East Texas is surprised by the success they’ve had, because they’re two great coaches.”
“For us, I’m glad the Lobos are back in it. It’s been a tough year, trying to put the pieces back together after a good run last year. We’re honored to have a chance to compete in the postseason.”
In 2001, the Lobos defeated Dallas Kimball (28-7) and then lost to Allen (20-17. Pine Tree lost 10-7 to Corsicana in the opener, and Spring Hill defeated Queen City (17-6) before losing to Gladewater (21-10). Ironically, Gladewater’s quarterback in 2001 was Louvier.
In 1997, the Lobos advanced all the way to the 5A Division I state championship game, defeating Dallas Skyline (23-7), Plano East (21-10), Killeen Ellison (14-0) and Duncanville (36-21) before losing to Katy (24-3) in the title match.
Pine Tree lost to Texas High (14-9) in 4A Division I, and Spring Hill fell to Linden-Kildare (54-12) in the first round of the 3A playoffs.
In 1983, Longview and Pine Tree finished first and second in the district, with the Lobos defeating the Pirates 27-16 in the regular-season finale. The Lobos defeated Killeen Ellison (14-7) and lost to Klein (35-0) and Pine Tree lost 41-7 to Temple in the 5A first round.
Spring Hill, a 2A school then, lost to Alto, 42-12.
After Pine Tree made the playoffs back in 2001, it was a long dry spell before the Pirates reached the postseason again. But, under Lane, the Pirates have made the playoffs twice in the last three seasons.
“I think it’s good for the town,” Lane said of all three teams representing the city in the postseason. “It creates a good buzz about football. I’m happy for coach Louvier and his kids getting it done. Longview is a staple in the playoffs. They are always there, and that’s where we plan to be. It’s cool this is happening for the first time since 2001, but I think it’s about to be a yearly thing.”
King said the success of the three teams didn’t happen overnight, and the foundation was started a long time ago — and not just in football.
“There are a bunch of kids that have been friends with our players for a long time,” King said. “They’ve played youth football, city league basketball, track. ..every sport there is, they were together. We’ve gotten to know a lot of these kids throughout the years and watch them compete and grow up into fine athletes and men. They’ve always been an athletic bunch since they were young, and it’s held true all the way to this point. It’s a pretty good group for the city of Longview.”