Longview vs. West Brook

Longview’s Shannon Jackson looks for running room against Beaumont West Brook on Oct. 15 in Lufkin.

Adding to the unknowns and uncertainty that has accompanied the 2020 season as a whole, Longview is gearing up for a district race that features plenty of new faces this season.

For three of the six district games — tonight’s opponent West Mesquite, Wylie East and McKinney North — it will be the first time Longview has faced those opponents in program history. This season will mark the first time in 44 years that the Lobos have played Sherman and 34 years since Longview collided with Highland Park.

As for Tyler High, there’s a little history there.

That lack of history and paired with the year 2020 in general factors in a lot of unknowns for the Lobos.

“I don’t know much about several of the opponents that we have coming up,” Longview head coach John King said. “Other than Tyler, I haven’t coached against a single one of them. I know their programs and most of their coaches but that’s about it.”

King said it’s tough to gauge teams, especially this season for a number of reasons. Games have been canceled, some started later than others and, overall, progression has been a little slower this season than in years past.

“Everyone seems like they’re at a different stage in the season,” King said. “I think you can’t go off non-district records or compare opponents at all because everyone is progressing at different paces as we work through this thing.

“That factors in to going into district and preparing. You can’t really watch tape from the first week, especially ours, and think you’re getting ready to face that same team.”

Things are moving on 2020’s timeline and, obviously, it’s a new experience and challenge for everyone.

“I think progression has been a little slower this year for a lot of teams, and really football, across the board, us included,” King said. “You look at us and is it because of so many inexperienced players or COVID and the stress it’s put on everyone or the late start or the delay or no spring ball or an altered summer schedule.

“I think we’re getting better every day and every week but, and this is no one’s fault, it’s just the way it is, the progression has been a little slower. I think that for most teams, not just us. It’s not as crisp, yet, for pro ball, college ball or high school ball for a lot of teams. We’ve all grown accustomed to the game being a year-round process in some form or fashion — offseason workouts, spring ball, summer 7-on-7, all of that, and three months got wiped away. I think that is showing itself right now. But there’s no excuses, everyone is in the same boat and it’s a matter of adapting and moving forward.”

COVID-19 continues to impact district games across the state and each district is responsible for their own plan. There’s been straight-up forfeits for some districts while others have altered its schedule to allow for an open week and others have even gone to zone play to determine playoff spots.

District 7-5A, DI has a no contest policy, meaning that if a game has to be canceled, it reverts to a head-to-head factor against common opponents involving the two teams affected.

“Number one, play the game if you can with what players you have that aren’t affected,” King said. “If for some reason you can’t play the game, the rule is that there will be a letter from the superintendent saying that your football team is quarantined and won’t be able to play that week. If that’s the case and the game cannot be made up, the two teams involved will come down to head-to-head against common opponents and if you’re tied, it comes down to points.”

With Highland Park starting late and Wylie East having to cancel two games, scheduling a ‘flex’ week for make-up games wasn’t possibletoogistics and scheduling, King said. Make-up games are possible but there will have to be other factors.

“It’s going to come down to head-to-head if any ‘no contests’ are called,” King said. “You have the opportunity to make it up if the schedules align but that would more than likely mean that another team is having issues in order for that to work.

“We made the decision as a district to go with the no contest policy and the head-to-head factor with a point differential.”

The top priority, King said, hasn’t changed.

“As it’s been since March, we’re going to take care of business and stay as safe and as healthy as we can, here, at home, everywhere,” he said. “We’re going to continue to do whatever we have to do to make that happen.”

Longview will honor 43 seniors beginning at 6:50 p.m. tonight. Kickoff against West Mesquite is set for 7:30 p.m.

Follow Hayden Henry on Twitter: @hayden_h