Leonard emerges as weapon for Lobos
By Jimmy Carter firstname.lastname@example.org
Oct. 24, 2012 at 10 p.m.
A scout for one of Longview's future opponents didn't have many compliments for the Lobos while watching their game at Mesquite Horn on Friday.
But he changed his tune late in the first half. At least about Dorian Leonard.
The scout couldn't help but be impressed when 6-foot-4 junior receiver turned a catch that was barely a first down into a 38-yard gain by outracing Horn defenders across the field.
"That boy's got some get up and go," the scout said excitedly in the press box as Leonard eluded defenders on a catch that set up a last-second field goal to knot the score at 10 just before halftime.
The scout didn't know who Leonard was, but was impressed with what he saw. There were likely some Lobo fans who felt the same way.
Leonard finished with six catches for 131 yards, both career-highs. He hauled in a 22-yard touchdown that put Longview on the scoreboard after it fell behind 10-0.
It was the breakout game he had been waiting for all year after entering Friday with just three catches for 62 yards in the first six games.
"The whole season I've been telling the other players that once I get the ball, I'm going to do something with it," Leonard said. "I was really surprised the way they kept coming back to me and having confidence in me to make plays. I just had to step up."
Leonard did just that, developing a connection with sophomore quarterback Dezmond Chumley that kept Longview in the game despite the running game being held to a season-low 74 yards and the defense giving up multiple big plays.
Chumley found Leonard repeatedly when the Lobos needed a big play in the second and third quarters, showcasing a chemistry and trust the duo has worked to establish since Chumley took over the starting job and Leonard moved ahead of senior Cedric King on the depth chart.
"I'll talk to Dezmond before the games and say, 'Even if I look covered, throw it to me and I'll make something happen,'" Leonard said. "Once I get the ball, I try to do something with it. If I have one defender, I make sure he doesn't get me down."
Leonard's height and long arms make him a big target for Chumley, who has only started three games in his first season on varsity.
"He's a big target and I know when he gets it his zone it's hard for the defense to stop him," Chumley said. "When he gets in his Kobe (Bryant) mode, I can get him the ball whenever."
Even though Leonard hadn't been a large part of the offense entering the game, his position coach wasn't surprised at his production when his number was called.
"I think Dorian has extraordinary ability," receivers coach Steve Brown said. "Just looking at him, he looks like he's one of the more physical guys and he's developing in the weight room more than he has in the past."
Brown has had the unenviable job of trying to preach positivity to the receiving corps after senior starting quarterback Bivins Caraway went down with a season-ending ACL injury in the first game of the year. But Leonard and the other receivers took his message to heart and had their most productive game of the season against Horn, consistently getting open as Chumley threw for a career-high 186 yards.
"When Bivins got hurt all the receivers hung their head thinking they weren't going to get the ball as much," Brown said. "I told them to make the most of their opportunities and Dorian did that Friday night."
The Lobos passing success against Horn might change the way future teams scheme against the offense. It already altered the way Leonard's teammates view the passing game.
"Everybody on the team was calling the receivers the outside offensive line," Leonard said. "But that changed a lot after Friday."
(Follow Jimmy Carter on Twitter: @jicartersports)