Time: 7:30 p.m., tonight
Stadium: Lobo Stadium
Rockwall: Rodney Webb (7th season, 51-27; 133-74 overall)
Longview: John King (16th season, 172-36)
Last week: Rockwall 45, Arlington Martin 38; Longview 17, West Monroe, La. 7
Up next: Mesquite Horn at Rockwall; Longview is open
WHEN ROCKWALL HAS THE BALL
Players to watch
Rockwall: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba (6-1, 195; 36-789, 12 TDs) ... QB Braedyn Locke (77-132-3, 1,573 yards, 19 TDs) ... RB Khalil Catlett (67 carries, 329 yards, 4 TDs; 5 catches, 158 yards) ... RB Zach Henry (25 carries, 179 yards, 3 TDs) ... WR J.J. Williams (9 catches, 250 yards, 2 TDs) ... OL Micah Nickson (5-11, 340) ... OL Matthew Joyce (6-5, 320)
Longview: LB Tyshawn Taylor (46 tackles, 8 TFL, 5 sacks, 2 FF, 2 PBU) ... DL Sawyer Goram-Welch (23 tackles, 5 TFL, 3 sacks) ... S Malik Cannon (33 tackles, 8 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 PBU) ... DL Drew Beltran (21 tackles, 7 TFL, 3 sacks) ... CB Dakirin Buchanan (5 PBU) ...
Keys: The obvious matchup is, well, obvious: Longview’s secondary against Rockwall’s prolific passing attack. But the key matchup will be the Lobo front seven against Rockwall’s front. Smith-Njigba, an Ohio State commit, hasn’t been stopped this season with an astounding 21.9 yards per catch. He’ll get his yards but limiting them will be key for the Lobo defense, which will be tested in a new way against Locke, a sophomore that has burst onto the scene for the Yellowjackets. Longview has been thrown against 68 times this season, 25 times by Lufkin for 285 yards and 24 times by John Tyler for 31 yards. The old saying that the best pass defense is a pass rush. The Lobos have 40 TFLs and 13.5 sacks this season. Getting pressure on Locke will be crucial. Add in the fact that Rockwall is averaging 5.2 yards per carry as well and the Lobo defense will have its hands full.
He said it: “(Smith-Njigba) is a dynamic football player and does a little bit of everything for them — receiver, wildcat quarterback, kickoff return, punt return — a do-it-all guy. I feel like he’s the best player in the state of Texas. That’s my opinion of him, a first-class individual that can do a lot of things. They like getting the ball to him but they have plenty more weapons. They’re going to tempo us and try to get us misaligned. We’ve got to get ready in a hurry and try to limit the explosive plays. They’ve been good at getting them. They’re lighting it up. You’ve got to limit those.” — King
WHEN LONGVIEW HAS THE BALL
Players to watch
Rockwall: DL Sebastian Hinojosa (6-1, 280) ... S Tyler Ashworth (47 tackles, TFL. INT, 2 FF) ... DL Kaden Fleming ... LB Cole McMahan (21 tackles, 4 TFL) ... CB PJ Barber (2 PBU) ... LB Jake Edwards (2 INTs) ... S Corey Kelley (2 INTs)
Longview: OL Parker Cox ... RB Kaden Meredith (64 carries, 439 yards, 6 TDs) ... QB Haynes King (46-86-5, 663 yards, 2 TDs; 17 carries, 117 yards, 2 TDs) ... ATH JD Williams (5 carries, 37 yards, TD; 4 catches, 61 yards) ... WR Kaden Kearbey (10 catches, 135 yards, TD) ... WR Kyas Moore (16 catches, 291 yards) ... TE Jhailon Braden (6 catches, 53 yards, TD) ... FB Jaharious Jones ... K Antonio Onofre
Keys: Find a rhythm and sustain drives for the Lobo offense. This could be just as big of an impact against Rockwall’s offense. The Lobo ground game has found traction over the past few weeks, led by a heavy workload from Meredith, who had a career-high 23 carries against West Monroe so sustaining long drives and keeping the Yellowjackets offense on the sideline will be big. The Lobo passing game as sputtered at times with King at a 53% completion rate this season due to missed throws, drops and long-yardage situations due to penalties. Longview has a 25-minute advantage in time of possession this season but has faced 46 third downs with a 54% conversion rate. Staying on schedule on first down and simply staying on the field will be crucial for the Lobo offense.
He said it: “Their nose guard (Hinojosa) is a man and disrupts everything in the middle. Their linebackers are physical and the safety (Ashworth) is normally freed up to make all the tackles and he does it well in space. Secondary-wise, a lot of different looks with speed to play man or zone. It’s a difficult preparation for these guys. We’ve got to be balanced. Our running game is going to be key for us and we’ve got to be consistent with that to mix in some play action in there.” — King
Did you know: Tonight is the 10th overall meeting between the two teams with Longview leading the series, 8-1 ... Rockwall’s win came in the playoffs in 1931, according to Lobo football historian Bill Simpson of lobohistory.com ... Longview is 43-1 in home district games under King. The lone loss came against John Tyler in 2016 ... The Lobos have won 15-straight games at Lobo Stadium since then ... Longview’s last district-opening loss game to Mesquite Horn in 2017 ... The past three games against Rockwall have been decided by a total of 24 points ... Rockwall is averaging 53 points and 567 yards (211.2 rushing/355.8 passing) per game while allowing 36 points and 454 yards (228.5 rushing/225.5) per game against opponents with a combined record of 7-6 ... Longview is averaging 34 points and 417.3 yards (250.5 rushing/166.8 passing) per game while allowing 7 points and 170.8 yards (74 rushing/96.8 passing) per game against opponents with a combined record of 4-9 ... Rockwall HC Rodney Webb is the president of the Texas High School Coaches Association. Longview HC John King is the president-elect of the THSCA ... 11-6A is the toughest district in Class 6A, according to Dave Campbell’s Texas Football’s computer rankings
Twitter-sized preview: It’ll be a tall task for the Lobo defense, which has led the way so far this season, against Rockwall’s prolific offense. The Lobo offense needs to find some traction to avoid a shootout in the 11-6A opener and one the premier games this week in the state.