|NORTH RICHLAND HILLS - Longview's football team came up with a formula on how to rally against a good opponent on Saturday. The Lobos made their biggest offensive weapon a decoy.
The decoy was receiver Eric Hawkins, who drew defensive attention from his teammates. This included fellow receiver D.T. Jackson, who had eight receptions for 151 yards - including the go-ahead touchdown - as Longview rallied and held on for a 35-28 win over Abilene at the Birdville ISD Fine Arts/Athletics Complex.
Jackson's scoring strike was a 23-yard reception from quarterback Bivins Caraway with 6:18 remaining, putting Longview ahead 28-21 after the Lobos had trailed 21-7. Caraway also had a big game, passing for 254 yards and four touchdowns, with fullback Deontre Wilson scoring twice on receptions of 11 and 33 yards.
Both Jackson and Caraway said Hawkins was a decoy. Hawkins, who has verbally committed to the University of Arkansas had two receptions for 11 yards for Longview (4-1), the No. 10-ranked team in the Associated Press' Class 5A state poll.
"We knew even with Eric as a decoy we could be just as good," Jackson said. "This was my best game."
Longview's offense also featured a return to form for running back J'Haston Faggans.
Faggans had his first 100-yard rushing game of this season, piling up 138 yards on 24 carries. This included an eventually critical 36-yard touchdown run with 45 seconds remaining to give Longview a 35-21 lead.
Faggans rushed for 1,234 yards in 2010, but suffered an ankle injury in a Class 5A Division II semifinal against Tomball. His recovery has been slow and he was also hampered by a concussion in the season opener against Marshall.
"I wasn't used to the offensive line since I didn't work with them in the spring," Faggans said. "I think now we have a rhythm."
Jackson would make two more key plays in the closing seconds.
After Faggans' touchdown, Abilene (2-3) covered 69 yards, capped by a 42-yard touchdown run by Marcell Porter with 12 seconds remaining. On Abilene's ensuing onside-kick attempt, Jackson recovered the ball at the Longview 38-yard line.
Longview nearly had a disaster on the final play of the game. Lining up in the victory formation, the snap was bobbled, but Jackson recovered the loose ball to end the game. The Lobos were victorious despite fumbling the ball seven times, losing three.
"I don't think we've fumbled the ball this many times and still won against a good team like this," Longview head coach John King said. "We are going to work on ball security until we are sick of it."
The Lobos opened the game with a bad start. Abilene took its opening drive 65 yards, capping it with an eight-yard touchdown run by Porter with 6:43 left in the first quarter.
Two plays from scrimmage later, Jake McMillon stripped the ball from Caraway and recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. The Lobos had five fumbles in the first half, losing two. Abilene sacked Caraway four times in the first half for 48 yards of losses, with Brandon Seely providing two of the sacks. Abilene finished with eight tackles for losses, including three by McMillon.
"We got after him (Caraway) pretty good. We did some different things defensively, kind of trying to figure out what we do best. We ran some blitzes we haven't been running and got after it," Abilene head coach Steve Warren said. "We created some turnovers that helped ourselves and we were able to put some points on the board because of it. We just didn't do that enough in the second half."
The Lobos regained composure in the second quarter, capping a 71-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Caraway to Wilson with 9:12 remaining. Abilene countered with a 75-yard drive, capped by an eight-yard touchdown pass from Evin Abbe to Porter to make it 21-7 Abilene with 7:23 left in the first half. Abbe passed for 130 first-half yards and finished with 236 yards passing. Keevan Lucas had six receptions for 117 yards for the Eagles.
The Lobos cut Abilene's lead down to 21-14 with 1:43 left in the first half on a 42-yard touchdown pass from Caraway to Justinn Spady. Caraway had 133 yards passing in the first half. Taking Caraway's sacks away, Longview had 115 yards rushing on 21 carries in the first half, led by 57 yards by Faggans.
Longview would tie the game the 33-yard touchdown pass from Caraway to Wilson with 6:08 left in the third quarter. Wilson took the short pass and broke three tackles for paydirt.
Longview's defense was a key part of the rally in the third quarter, holding the Eagles to a pair of first downs. The Lobos also had a chance to go ahead with 3:15 left in the third quarter when Corey Bartley forced Abbe to fumble and Davatric Cooks recovered at the Abilene 29-yard line. Unfortunately for the Lobos, after they drove to the Abilene eight-yard line a fumbled snap bounced into the end zone and Xavier Johnson recovered for an Abilene touchback. Johnson led Abilene with eight tackles.
Longview linebacker DeMarkus Lathan and Bartley had 10 tackles each. Lathan has made at least 10 tackles in every game this season.
"I don't think we did anything different in the second half," Lathan said. "We just knew we had to play harder."
The Lobos will have next weekend off before opening District 11-5A play against Mesquite on Oct. 7 at Hanby Stadium in Mesquite.