|Arlington - Longview is heading to its fifth state title game in program history, and will play for its first championship in 81 years.
It was a "hold-on tight" night for the Lobos to return to the title round.
Longview built a 35-7 lead lead in the first half and had to hold on in the end against a never-quit effort from Amarillo Tascosa in a 45-42 win in the Class 6A, Division II state semifinals on Saturday at AT&T Stadium.
Longview moves to 15-0 on the season and into the state championship for the first time since 2009 in search of its first title since 1937. The 15 wins mark a program-best for the Lobos.
"It was a hard-fought win against a good opponent," Longview head coach John King said. "We had to do it a different way and it wasn't easy. We played well in the first half and had to hang on there at the end.
"It's a great feeling. You're drained from tonight emotionally and physically, but we're advancing to the last one and the opportunity to play for a state title. The kids earned it and had to earn it the hard way."
Longview will meet Beaumont West Brook, which punched its ticket to the state final for the first time since 1982 with a 35-30 win over Austin Westlake earlier on Saturday. The championship game is set for 3 p.m. Saturday back at AT&T Stadium.
Tascosa, trailing 45-28 with 5:10 left in the fourth quarter, scored twice in the span of nine seconds to cut the Lobo lead to 45-42 with 1:37 left. The Lobos recovered an onside kick, picked up a first down and ran out the clock to seal the win.
"I wasn't surprised," King said of Tascosa's fight. "That's what they've done all year. They're a gritty bunch and it's a reflection of (head coach) Ken (Plunk) and how he coaches his kids.
"We knew they were going to come right back at us. We got them back in the game and they started believing."
The Rebels, out of their flexbone offense, finished with 462 yards on the night - 370 on the ground - to out-gain Longview by 79 yards. The Rebels had 76 plays to 44 from the Lobos.
In a twist, the Rebels finished with four passing touchdowns in the win. Longview's scores all came on the ground, including a kickoff return score.
Keilyn Williams and Jessie Anderson each had 100-yard nights for the Lobos, finishing with 128 and 111 yards, respectively. Anderson had three touchdowns on runs of 31, two and two yards. Williams finished with touchdown runs of 30 and 14 yards.
Haynes King finished 5-of-9 passing for 87 yards and an interception to go with 55 rushing yards.
Sophomore Kaden Meredith put Longview ahead 21-7 with 3:13 left in the first quarter on an 85-yard kickoff return.
JK Martin rounded out the scoring for the Lobos with a 35-yard field in what would be the difference in the final score.
Defensively, Robert Pierce had an interception and the Lobos got strong play out of Jordan Wallace and Jaylon Allen. Dakirin Buchanan and Isiah Rodgers had big plays in the secondary for the Lobos as well.
Jephaniah Lister was all over the field for the Longview defense.
Rebel quarterback Joseph Plunk finished with 194 rushing yards on 29 carries and completed three of his nine passing attempts for touchdowns to finish with 91 yards through the air.
Tascosa open the third quarter trailing 35-14 and churned out a 13-play, 75-yard drive capped with a halfback pass from Evan Enos to Max Burleson.
Longview punted for the first time to start its second half. Robert Pierce got the ball back with an interception before King was picked off two plays later.
Buchanan and Rodgers broke up passes on three-straight plays for force a turnover on downs.
The Lobos then marched into the Rebel red zone but the drive stalled and resulted in a 35-yard kick from Martin for a 38-31 lead with 9:56 left to play.
The Rebels had two more touchdowns from there around Williams' second score.
Plunk, aided by Longview penalties, guided a 10-play, 75-yard drive to pull within 10, 45-35, with 1:46 left.
"I think our defense got worn down because we couldn't maintain there offense in the second half and it showed late," King said. "We were our own worst enemy at times and they had a lot to do with it. They had more pass attempts than we did. Would you have bet that before we came over here? No. That's nobody but me."
King Doerue scooped up the ensuing onside kick and trickery from the Rebels made it a three-point game on a 47-yard hook-and-lateral passing touchdown to make it a three-point game, 45-42, with 1:37 left.
Pierce then recovered the onside kick for the Lobos, who converted a third down with a three-yard run from King to hold on in the dramatic finish and advance to the state finals.
Despite the dramatic finish, Longview got just the start it wanted.
King connected with Kamden Perry on passes of 15, 16 and 17 yards on Longview's opening drive. Williams broke a tackle and raced 30 yards to the end zone to cap a 5-play, 85-yard opening drive for the Lobos.
"We felt like we had some things we could run with and had great success," King said. "You're up 35-7 and think you can keep doing that. We came out in the second half and didn't block as well, didn't do a lot of things as well."
Tascosa picked up a first down on its first play of the game before a tackle for loss from Allen forced the first of three first-half punts for the Rebels.
Williams had a 16-yard run and Anderson rumbled for 13 and 31 yards, the second ending with his first of three first-half touchdowns to give Longview a 13-0 lead with 7:02 left in the opening quarter. King made the tackle after the point-after attempt was blocked.
Tascosa got its offense going on its second drive, converting a fourth and one en route to a 10-play, 75-yard drive to pull within six, 13-7, with 3:13 left.
Meredith gave Longview the momentum right back on the ensuing kickoff. The sophomore picked up the ball at the 15, reversed field and raced 85 yards to the house. King took in the two-point run for a 21-7 Longview lead.
Anderson got 26 yards on a third and short and scored his second touchdown around two three-and-outs from the Lobo defense.
King raced 40 yards after a Tascosa punt and the Lobos ran off seven-straight rushes, capped with Anderson's trifecta in the first half, a two-yard score to put Longview ahead, 35-7.