It’s back to where it began, in a way, for the Longview Lobos.
Flashback to 2017. Longview hit the road to face a speed-laden and blitz-heavy Mesquite Horn team — words that Lobo head coach John King used again throughout the week to describe the 2019 Jaguars — and made the long trek back home with a district loss.
Longview returns to Hanby Stadium looking to go 2-0 in 11-6A against an explosive Horn team
It was the last time in the regular season, 21 games ago, that Longview has dropped a game. It was the first of just two losses since that district-opener in 2017, a span of 32 games.
Quarterback Haynes King, then a sophomore, took over at halftime in the 52-34 loss to the Jaguars with Parker Cox, making his second start of his career, at center.
The pair, along with the Lobos, are 31-1 since that night, a loss that sparked a run to the state semifinals in 2017 and a state title in 2018.
It’s a different year with different teams on both sides of the ball but history has to start somewhere and a loss at E.H. Hanby Stadium could easily be the beginnings of this Lobo run.
Here’s a look at Longview (5-0, 1-0 in District 11-6A) vs. Mesquite Horn (2-4, 0-1), which kicks off at 7:30 p.m. tonight in Mesquite:
■ BATTLE TESTED: Horn’s 2-4 record should come with an asterisk with the gauntlet of a schedule that the Jaguars have faced this season, including Highland Park, Cedar Hill and Arlington. Combined, Horn’s opponents are 23-11 on the season. Horn opened 11-6A action by handing Mesquite its first loss of the season, 35-14, before falling to a bounce-back Rockwall team, 45-7, a week after the Lobos dismantled the Yellowjackets.
“Mesquite Horn at home, that’s a factor because they’re a team that plays well there,” John King said of the Jaguars, who have a two-game win streak over the Lobos at Hanby Stadium. “I wouldn’t say a must-win situation for them but I can tell you that they don’t feel good about what happened (against Rockwall).
“This is a good football team and I know they’re going to play better because of the pride they have in their program and the talent they have on the field. We’re going to see a battle-tested and angry team.”
■ WHEN HORN HAS THE BALL: Wide open is how King described the Horn offense that is averaging 341.7 yards per game and has 98 more rushing yards than passing yards this season. The Jaguars have three players in the top 15 rushing leaders in 11-6A: Ben Wyatt, quarterback Davazea Gabriel, who went out with a first-half injury against Rockwall and status is unknown tonight, and N’Kowski Emory. The trio has 16 touchdowns this season.
“Speed, speed and more speed,” King said. “They’re wide open. They’re in an empty set and give you a bunch of different formations. They’re going to release five in routes and get the ball to playmakers in space.
“They’ve played a couple of different quarterbacks due to an injury so who knows what to expect this week. Their skill guys are solid and Emory, if he gets a seam, he’s gone.”
Patience and discipline are the key words for the Lobo defense, which has allowed four touchdowns total this season and has held up against the run (2.4 yards per carry) but will get a test in the passing game.
“The big thing is our front five guys have got to hold up against the run between the tackles with us having a light box in having to defend a spread formation,” King said. “They’re going to have more quarterback runs than we’ve seen in a while that adds another problem. We’ve got to limit their explosive plays and be ready for their tempo. If they can get in a rhythm, they’re tough to handle.
“Great eye discipline will be key. They’re going to do a lot with sweeps and it’s going to be imperative that we play assignment football, maintain leverage and keep everything in front of us because they’ve gotten behind everyone. We’ve got to limit the big plays and make them earn it.”
■ WHEN LONGVIEW HAS THE BALL: It all goes back to staying on schedule and finding a rhythm of their own for the Lobo offense. Wide open could also describe the Jaguar defense, a blitz-happy unit that thrives on third-and-long situations, King said.
“They base their defense out of a 3-4 look but they’re playing this 3-2-6 defense that everyone is calling it now with a robber, it’s kind of the flavor of the year, I guess,” King said. “Everyone is doing it to get an extra hat in the box that you’ve got to account for and that guy is normally the best tackler on the field and is freed up a lot of the time.”
Longview’s ground game is coming to form with four out of five games with 200-yard-plus outings. The Lobos come in off back-to-back games with less than 100 yards passing.
First down will be key for the Lobos, who are 32-of-57 on third-down conversions with an average of seven yards.
“They’re going to force low-percentage throws and we’re going to see a ton of blitzes from them,” King said. “I was looking at the percentage of blitzes their past few games and third down is going to be about 75 percent of the time. They’re going to heat you up. Red zone and third-and-long, they’re coming with it.
“We’ve got to pick up those blitzes on the line, with our fullbacks and tight ends, in both throwing and running the ball. We’ve got to hit some big plays and avoid those third and longs situations where they thrive.”