John Tyler vs Longview

Jessie Anderson runs the ball for Longview, on Friday September 14, 2018, during their game with John Tyler at Lobo Stadium. (Michael Cavazos/News-Journal Photo)

John King and Jerrod Baugh found themselves in a similar spot earlier this year as both head coaches looked for a game to fill out their respective schedules.

What transpired is a meeting between the two long-time friends and, particularly for Longview, a final non-district test as the Lobos head to Ruston, Louisiana before beginning what proves to be a tough District 11-6A slate next week.

“We were both looking for a Week 4 game and both of us had some possibilities that fell through at the last minute,” King said. “I gave him a call and we were able to work it out and set this thing up.

“I knew that, first of all, it was the last tuneup game before district. We can get to Ruston just as fast as we can get to the Metroplex. That was big, we didn’t want to travel all over Texas right before we started district play on the road.”

Secondly, King knew what kind of test the Lobos (3-0) were getting in Ruston, who comes into tonight’s game at 2-1 on the season.

“Secondly, they’re a good football program and I knew that we would get a good test in the line of scrimmage on both sides,” King said. “They present a different set of problems from what we’ve seen so far this year with their style of play, what the do formation-wise and with their personnel.

“It’s another good test and that’s the whole point at this time of the year. I feel like we’ve got a good variety in non-district from spread teams to smashmouth teams to teams that can do both and that’s what we’ve got (tonight).”

Thirdly, King and Baugh, as well as both coaching staffs, have a long history on the field together, setting up a chess match between King and his former offensive coordinator.

“Three, that’s a guy that I’ve known and a lot of people on our staff have known for a long time and I know he does it the right way,” King said. “We’re going to go against a guy that can coach, that knows our offense, can make adjustments and he’s going to force you to do the same thing.

“Jerrod and I are cut from the same cloth in a way and we cut our teeth doing the same things.”

What it all equates to is a smashmouth showdown, set for a 7 p.m. kick tonight at James Field at LJ ‘Hoss’ Garrett Stadium in Ruston.

“Their physicality jumps out right off the tape on both sides of the ball,” King said. “That’s another area where that our team needs, to go put our hand in the dirt and get after it.

“It feels like an old-school SEC ballgame and I can promise you that it’s going to be physical from whistle to whistle. There’s no quit in these guys and there better not be in ours.”

Here’s a few things to watch for as Longview travels to Ruston:

OFFENSE

While smashmouth ball comes to mind, Longview’s offense comes into tonight nearly as balanced as can be.

The Lobos have rushed for 740 yards on the season and have thrown for 719 yards on 103 rushes and 56 pass plays this season.

King said staying consistent and putting points on the board — an area that Longview has done 21 times in 30 possession this season — is what he’s looking for tonight.

“We’ve got be be steady whether it’s running the football or throwing it,” King said. “We’ve sputtered at time in both areas.”

Longview’s offense is scoring quicker this season with one of 21 scoring drives coming on drives of 10-plus plays. The Lobos have four three-and-outs on the season and are 14-of-25 on third down.

“When there’s times where you know the defense needs a rest, we’ve got to be able to give that to them,” King said. “That means we’ve got to do a better job on first down and then convert some third downs and sustain some drives.

“There’s certain plays we’ve got to hit and execute in order for that to happen. We’ve got to find a way to run the football a little better and take the shots when they present themselves.”

By the numbers: Longview has scored 136 points through three games this season, 69 in the first half and 67 in the second.

DEFENSE

Defensively, it’s been a bend-but-not break season for the Lobos so far.

Longview’s defense is holding opponents to 3.8 yards per carry as a whole this season and will get tested tonight in that area by Ruston’s stout ground game. Overall, opponents have a 5.3 yards-per-play mark.

“We’ve got to hold a point and allow our linebackers and safeties to fit and we’ve got to do a better job in both of those areas,” King said. “Linebackers have been getting defensive linemen rolled into their lap all season by these guys so that’ll be a good test for both areas.

“We’ve got to get lined up properly, play with some focus and tackle a lot better than we have at times.”

By the numbers: Longview has allowed 21 second-half points all season ... Opponents are 18-of-43 on third-down conversions and 4-of-6 on fourth down ... The Lobos have allowed three plays of 30-plus yards in 174 snaps

LOUISIANA TIES

The familiarity between Longview’s staff and Louisiana runs deeper than Baugh, who was a longtime Longview assistant and head coach at Gladewater.

King is a Springhill High School graduate and played collegiately at Northwestern State University.

Offensive coordinator Chris Vallery is a Ouachita Christian High School (Monroe) graduate and played at Louisiana Tech.

Tight ends coach David Ashley is a Mangham High School graduate and ran track at Louisiana Tech.

Safeties coach and special teams coordinator Randy Huffstickler is a Southwood (Shreveport) High School graduate and went on to a four-year, All-American career at Central Arkansas.

Offensive line coach CJ Lottinger is a Woodlawn (Shreveport) High School graduate and played collegiately at Louisiana Tech.

Assistant athletic director Johnny Hamilton is a Ouachita Parrish (Monroe) High School graduate and played at Northwestern State University.

The connection between the Longview and Ruston staffs goes much deeper as well: Ruston assistant coach Todd Garvin was coached by King and Vallery at Ouachita High School ... Assistant coach Chad Reeder is from Springhill and his father, Benny, was King’s high school coach ... Assistant coach Curtis Goodwin was coached by King at Ouachita ... King coached with assistant coach Cody Taylor’s father at Ouachita, where the elder Taylor player for Mike Vallery before coaching with him at Kilgore.

11-6A CHECK IN

Weather forecasts in Dallas tonight forced several 11-6A teams to move their final non-district games to Thursday night.

Rockwall (1-1) was set to take on Arlington Martin. Rockwall-Heath (1-2) closes with McKinney North while Mesquite Horn (0-3) traveled to Arlington and Mesquite (2-1) met Hurst Bell.

Tonight, North Mesquite (2-0) takes on Haltom and Tyler Lee (1-2) meets Mesquit Poteet.

“There’s going to be another set of problems next week, the week after that and all the way though,” King said. “We’re about to get going in a league that’s improved top to bottom and we need to go over to Ruston and close out the preseason with a strong, crisp showing and continue to get better as a football team.”

For more on Longview vs. Ruston, see ‘The Zone’ inside today’s News-Journal and see the ‘Lobo Insider’ blog at ETVarsity.com; Follow Hayden Henry on Twitter: @hayden_h

Hayden Henry is the beat writer for the Longview Lobos and covers sports throughout East Texas.