Longview offensive lineman Tim Polk paused Monday when asked how practice was going as the Lobos prepared to square off with John Tyler.
“Not everyone gets to play on ESPN,” Polk said. “We’ve got to get ready.”
It’s a short week heading to a big spotlight as Longview and John Tyler square off for the 96th edition of the rivalry on Thursday. This time is different and will come with a national audience as the two teams meet in the GEICO ESPN High School Football Showcase.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at Earl Campbell Field at CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium and will air live on ESPN2.
“It’s a heck of an honor for both programs to showcase their football program and school on national TV,” King said. “It affects more than just the football team with the band, cheer, Viewettes, dance line, ROTC and all of the programs that will be involved. It doesn’t happen too often and we’re very honored to be able to participate.”
With the Thursday game, it’ll be a short week of work for the Lobos, who moved to 2-0 on the season with a 53-0 win over Marshall on Friday. It’s an even shorter week for the Lions, who dropped to 0-2 on the season with a 34-7 loss to crosstown rival Tyler Lee this past Saturday.
“We’ve got to pile some things in during a short week and it’ll be about what team can handle that with maturity and a sense of urgency to get everything needed in,” King said. “It wasn’t bad today, we got a break with some cooler weather but we’ve got to have a couple days of focused practice.”
Longview is off to a 2-0 start this season with a 24-21 road win over Lufkin and a 53-0 thumping of Marshall on Friday. John Tyler opened the season with a 39-17 to Mesquite Horn and Saturday night’s loss to the Red Raiders. Thursday marks the fifth-straight home game for the Lions.
“We’ve still got plenty of room to improve and we’ve got to focus on getting better while getting ready to play a very athletic football team, one that is kind of a wounded animal right now,” King said. “It’s like I told the kids today, you can’t read anything into records, anything into scores, compare this or compare that, this is John Tyler.
“Thursday night is a new day, a new game between two teams that have 48 minutes to get it decided. This is two teams that know one another well, enough to know that the past doesn’t matter. It’s about what teams prepares the best, comes out with the fewest mistakes and gets after it for four quarters.”
With that extensive knowledge and respect between these two longtime foes, King knows that the Lions are ready to strike at any moment, which is how he described the John Tyler offense.
“Those guys, it seems like they can’t get out of their own way at times over the first two weeks with some costly miscues,” King said. “There are things that they’re not doing yet that they’re more than capable of doing but when they do, they’re going to be a good football team.
“You can see that on both sides of the ball and it’s one of those things can easily happen this week.”
John Tyler comes in with what King describes as a ‘stable of running backs’ that has the ability to hit the ground running.
“They’re a block here or a block there from breaking loose on any given snap,” he said.
Longview’s defense has been steady throughout the first two weeks. The Lobo defense has held opponents to two yards per carry, a 23% conversion rate on third down and five plays of 30-plus yards and 13 negative-yardage plays in 91 snaps.
“It’s been about what I expected after going through the offseason and I felt lik eour defense would give us a chance to be a good football team,” King said of the Lobo defense. “They’ve had to adjust to two different schemes in two weeks, three really and they’ve held up well to both.
“John Tyler is going to present a different set of problems for us and attack our weaknesses that we haven’t been exposed to yet.”
Finding traction and rhythm has been a big key for the Lobo offense that is averaging 452 yards per fame this season, 249 through the air. The Lobos have nine touchdowns and two field goals in 19 possessions and have converted 14-of-22 third downs with an average of eight yards.
“We’ve played a little better but there are times where we’re still not executing like we need to,” King said. “It’s a work in progress and we’re going to keep grinding and the more those kids play, the more comfortable they will get.
“We’re taking steps, some bigger than others, in the right direction. This is a different football team and we’re going to have to go about it in a different want. We’ve got to continue to find out what we’re good at and built on that while flushing what needs to go. That’s our focus moving forward.”
Thursday brings another chance for two teams to improve early in the season with bragging rights on the line.
This time, however, the spotlight is even bigger.