|LONGVIEW - The Longview Lobos are headed to the playoffs for the 20th consecutive season, and on Friday Longview displayed all three phases of the game they'll need to take with them to have a successful postseason run.
Using a potent running game, a stifling defense and opportunistic special teams play, Longview rolled to a 55-10 win over McKinney North in a District 7-5A Division I skirmish at Lobo Stadium.
The win moves the Lobos to 6-2 overall and 3-1 in district play heading into next week's regular-season final at Tyler High. McKinney North drops to 3-6 and 3-3 with the loss. The Bulldogs are idle next week.
It didn't start well on Friday for the Lobos, who were playing for the first time since dropping an 18-13 decision to Highland Park back on Nov. 6. Longview had a pass picked off near the end zone on its opening drive, and McKinney North marched 84 yards in 13 plays - eating 5:01 off the game clock - to take a 3-0 lead.
From there, it was all Lobos.
Longview scored on its next five possessions, took a commanding lead in at the half and blanked the visiting Bulldogs after the break.
"We were just our own worst enemy early, but we were able to get it adjusted pretty quickly," Longview head coach John King said of the early turnover and North's long, opening scoring march.
"We settled down on what they were doing and what we wanted to do. We did that pretty quick and played a solid game from there, effective on offense and swarming on defense. They locked in, got settled down and played our game."
Thanks to a couple of botched special teams plays that led to negative yards - and directly to one touchdown - McKinney North finished the first half with one rushing yards on 17 carries. Bulldog quarterback Gavin Constantine did pass for 139 yards in the half, but most came on the opening drive.
The Lobos took the opening possession and moved to the McKinney North 34 before Marquise Alexander intercepted a Jordan Allen pass at the 4-yard line to end the Longview scoring threat.
Constantine then went to work through the air, completing his first six pass attempts and moving the Bulldogs to the Lobo 12-yard line before the drive stalled and Tyler Huettel came on to drill a 28-yard field goal to give the visitors a 3-0 lead with 4:51 left in the first.
Longview answered with a quick, four-play, 68-yard drive that was capped by a 39-yard scoring jaunt from Kaden Meredith, who finished the day with 188 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
A blocked punt by Kybrien Jackson-Jamerson set up Longview's next scoring drive. This time the Lobos moved 16 yards in just three plays, adding to the lead on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Allen to tight end Justin Beltran. The lead was 13-3 with 1:22 left in the opening quarter, and the Lobos quickly added to the lead in the second stanza.
A combo sack by Jackson-Jamerson and Jahkamian Carr forced a McKinney North punt and set the Lobos up in good shape at the Bulldog 48. Meredith had a pair of 14-yard runs after an interference penalty, and capped the drive with a 9-yard blast up the middle to boost the lead to 20-3.
After the Lobo defense forced another punt, Longview moved 55 yards in seven plays and added to the lead with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Allen to Haynes with 5:10 left in the half.
North countered by driving 67 yards in seven plays and getting a 7-yard touchdown run from Elijah Alexander with 2:45 left in the half, but the celebration was short-lived for the Bulldogs when Meredith sprinted 60 yards on the next Lobo snap to put Longview on top 34-10.
Special teams made its second big play of the night just before the half when North - pinned deep in its own territory - had a snap on a punt sail over the punter's head and into the end zone. The punter attempted to kick the ball out of the end zone, but whiffed, and Jacobi Williams recovered for Longview. The touchdown sent Longview into the break with a commanding 41-10 lead.
McKinney North didn't cross midfield in the second half, and the Lobos used touchdown runs by Meredith of seven yards in the third period and LaDaylon Jackson from 10 yards out in the fourth to put the finishing touches on the blowout.
|LONGVIEW - A knot in the stomach usually accompanies Longview head coach John King when the Lobos hit the practice field on Thanksgiving Day.
With the adjusted schedule in 2020, practice on Thursday was under different circumstances as the Lobos prepared for the penultimate game of the season.
"Normally, you have a knot in your stomach because it's do or die, it's the playoffs and you can't have a bad week or even a bad day," King said. "But, with two weeks off and in control of our own destiny, we really challenged them to amp it up and go into playoff mode. That's why we broke out the gold socks.
"We had to win out to secure a playoff spot, which we did today, and now we have to keep winning to secure a home playoff game."
The Thursday practice without the win-or-go-home implications also led to a time of reflection.
"Coach (Oscar) Wilson leads us in a word of prayer every day after practice and that was a motto behind all of them, just to be thankful we were able to be here, healthy, and to be able to play the game with everything going on. We've all been in this together, on and off the field, and it was nice to take a step back and reflect on that."
And now, with a total team effort in a 55-10 win over McKinney North in a Friday afternoon tilt at Lobo Stadium, the Lobos are bound for the postseason for the 20th straight year and playoff mode is fully engaged.
Here's a few things from Friday's win:
MEREDITH INCHES CLOSER: With an 188-yard, four-touchdown outing, senior running back Kaden Meredith is inching his way to two significant Lobo school records.
Meredith now finds himself with 52 career touchdowns -- 49 on the ground, one scoring reception and two kickoff return scores -- to place him three back of Fred Talley, who racked up 55 from 1996-98, according to Lobo football historian Bill Simpson.
The four-touchdown day pushed Meredith past Vondrell McGee's total of 48 into sole possession of second place on the rushing touchdown record, four behind Talley's 53.
Meredith has 3,447 total yards in his career.
ONE-TWO PUNCH: Markevion Haynes entered Friday's game as the leading rusher and although it was Meredith's day on the stat sheet, Haynes continued to provide solid support and a potent part of the one-two punch.
Haynes finished with a team-high three catches for 49 yards, including a bruising 15-yard touchdown from Jordan Allen.
"He did it all today," King said of Haynes. "Catching out of the backfield, blocking or running the ball, he's a heck of football player. He had some nice catches, got him a touchdown on one, but really had some big blocks that spelled Kaden to break loose. Unselfish player back there."
KYBO FLIES AROUND: Outside linebacker Kybrien Jackson-Jamerson flew around all afternoon and was involved in a number of big ways, filling the stat sheet with a sack, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt.
"We played with a lot of heart today," he said. "We were off for a while, it felt like longer than three weeks, so we were ready. It's a blessing to be out here with everything going on. I cherish practice and every moment I get with my team.
"Me and my guys, we're going to do whatever it takes out there. We're going to do what Lobos do and that's work hard together."
Jackson-Jamerson, who has four fumble recoveries on the season, committed to the University of Alabama-Birmingham recently.
DEFENSIVE LINE SHINES: Trevor Tamplin continued a breakout season on the Lobo defensive line on Friday, finishing with a sack, a tackle for loss, a forced fumble and a pass broken up.
Tamplin entered the game with a team high in sacks with five and tackles for loss with eight.
Another new name coming into the season up front for the Lobo defense is Jahkamian Carr, who added a fumble recovery, his third of the season, to go with six tackles.
LINEBACKER DUO: Linebackers Laqualon Hale, a senior, and junior Devean Isaac have turned it on of late.
Hale finished with a team-high 10 tackles against McKinney North. Isaac followed with five tackles to go with a sack and a tackle for loss, giving the junior 21 tackles over his past three games.