Dakirin Buchanan snagged an interception and Patrick Webb blocked a kick as Longview wrapped its practice Wednesday with a first team-on-first team drill.
Immediately, both players were joined by 10 other green jerseys on the field in a raucous celebration.
”Everything about it,” Buchanan said of his favorite thing about this Lobo defense. “Just playing the game of football, making plays and knowing that we’re together.”
The hits have been big and the celebrations bigger this season for the Lobo defense, which has spearheaded Longview to a 9-0 record.
Even bigger than those two things are the personalities on the team.
”We’ve built a strong bond since the offseason,” Malik Cannon said. “We just keep talking, keep motivating each other and pushing each other to get better.
”We compete against one another. That’s big. When we do that, we make one another better.”
There’s dancing, there’s singing, there’s trash talk and there’s competition among the unit, one that has 30 players with at least one tackle.
”You’ll look up and see Tyshawn (Taylor) or any of them dancing or moving around or singing and you wonder if they’re focused on what we’re doing and then, boom, when it’s go time, they’re going in it’s on,” Lobo defensive coordinator Casey Pearce said.
Buchanan loves the mix.
”We have a lot of personalities and the different personalities, they really help,” the two-year starter at cornerback said. “If that wasn’t the case, it wouldn’t be much fun. When we’re all together, we’re having fun and playing the game. Those guys get me hyped and fill me up.”
Shutting down the game is more like it so far this season. The Lobo defense has allowed 71 points through nine games this season, including three shutouts and 27 scoreless quarters. Opponents are averaging 178.4 yards per game and have a combined rushing total of 634 yards — a 2.8 yard-per-carry clip.
”We’ve just had a goal of being one of the top defenses and we’ve been working toward that goal every day,” defensive lineman Drew Beltran, who has a team-high 18 tackles for loss and eight sacks, said. “I can tell that our coaches do appreciate our work ethic out there and even the players, they appreciate the work that each of us are putting in. It’s that same focus every day in the weight room, in the athletic period, after school and on game day.”
Stats or, for opposing offenses the lack thereof, are one thing but Buchanan, Cannon and Beltran all answered the same when asked about their goals week-in and week-out: execute.
”We work day-by-day, week-by-week on everything that we do,” Cannon said. “We make mistakes but we bounce back. Those mistakes are thing to learn from.
”Coach makes sure that we have everything covered, everything precise so when we get to game day, we just go out there and play our game.”
Added Beltran: “Our goal is to be able to execute whatever we need to do each week. CP has been emphasizing that since the very beginning, just executing every snap.”
Longview returned four starters and a handful of key contributors entering the season, one that brought in a full installation of the 3-4 defense that the Lobos rolled out some in 2018.
The bulk of those returning came on the front seven with Sawyer Goram-Welch, Joe Jones and Beltran up front ahead of Taylor, who has a team-high 89 tackles, at linebacker alongside Cedric Smith. Kybrien Jackson-Jamerson joins Cannon at the down safety spot. That left the secondary as a question mark coming into the offseason with Buchanan and Robert Pierce back.
Together, it’s a blend of size up front and plenty of speed behind it.
”Those guys in the backend, where we had a lot of what ifs coming into the year, have come along and put us where we could compete,” Pearce said. “You’ve got guys like Speedy (Shannon Jackson) in the backend that are talkers. It’s been a while since we’ve communicated back there like we have this season.”
The Lobos have a combined 92 tackles for loss and 32 sacks on the season while holding opponents to 23 percent on third-down conversions. Nine of the 459 snaps for opponents have gone for more than 30 yards.
There’s a struggle sometimes when it comes to putting together game stats with the swarm tackling style that goes on.
”It has to be first contact for us a lot of the times,” Pearce said. “We tracked the football really well this spring, it picked up right where we left off and it’s become more viscous.
”We’ve got big kids that run to try to get a shot at somebody. They’re doing it with angles and doing it with leverage. If someone misses, it’s going to get turned, they’re missing with leverage where there is someone else there to finish it off. They get frenzied up and thrive off someone making a big play and they celebrate. It’s cool to watch them celebrate, it’s not just one guy, it’s a wad of kids out there together.”
Cannon laughed when asked one word to describe the Lobo defense. He landed on ‘crazy.’
It fits, with a perfect blend of personality, passion and humility knowing that things won’t get any easier.
Longview head coach John King had another word: Family. That fits, too.
”We just have to execute, play our game and keep working together,” Cannon said. “It’s about improving and pushing one another.”
All while having a little fun along the way.
Longview closes out the regular season against Mesquite at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Hanby Stadium in Mesquite.