|LONGVIEW - It's hard to believe the string has come to an end.
Something that hasn't happened in 20 consecutive years came to pass Friday night at Lobo Stadium, as the Longview Lobos failed to win a season-opening game.
Big plays were the order of business for the offense-minded Fort Worth Eastern Hills Highlanders, scoring three times on the ground and once through the air and handing the Lobos their first season-opening loss in 20 years, 26-15.
The Highlanders managed 445 yards of total offense on the night, and that in spite of being pushed back by a whopping 21 penalties for 145 yards.
Senior quarterback Scott Fricks came through with 178 yards in the air, including a 47-yard pass completion for a touchdown with just seconds showing on the second quarter clock.
And when Fricks wasn't doing his thing, tailback Percy Rogers was going his.
Rogers, the heir-apparent to last year's star running back Jeff Atkins, bounced outside for 235 yards. His longest was 69 yards that set up a Highlander touchdown early in the fourth quarter. He also had a 16-yard touchdown run for Eastern Hills' first touchdown and added runs of 21 and 13 in the second half.
Longview also made some offensive moves in the second and third quarter that made it interesting.
After Eastern Hills had put together a 65-yard touchdown march on its opening possession - capped off with Rogers' 16-yard scamper - the Lobos wasted little time in coming back to take the lead.
Senior quarterback Johnny Smith, who wasn't expected to see action due to a knee injury, came in to replace starter Eric Harris in the second quarter. He promptly connected with split end Charles Smith on a 46-yard bomb that moved the ball to the Highlander 6-yard line.
From there, the Lobos got on the board with a Smith quarterback sneak. Then Steve Blaschke's extra point gave Longview the lead, 7-6. Eastern Hills had missed its extra point kick.
After Eastern Hills had extended its lead with the help of the 47-yard touchdown pass from Fricks to Hunt just before halftime, the Highlanders added to their lead in the third.
Fricks connected with Kenneth Lewis on a 33-yard gainer, and then plunged over himself from the 1-yard line a minute later.
Longview's offense wasn't through just yet either, as a Rogers fumbled and recovery by linebacker Michael Buffins gave them another chance to narrow the gap.
Junior Joe Johnson, who totaled 56 yards on 13 carries to rate the top Lobo rusher on the night, began to go to work at that point.
Johnson rambled for 9 yards, then aded 10 more on his battling touchdown run at 3:45 in the third that cut the score to 18-13.
Johnson got the call again on the two-point try, and he broke a tackle to reach the end zone, as the game narrowed to just three points, 18-15.
But the big play continued to bless the Highlanders. They put the game out of reach when Rogers bounced outside to elude a solid defensive line rush by the Lobos, and rambled 69 yards to Longview's 13.
From there Frank Brazil moved it to the two on a 11-yard carry, and reserve Derrick Johnson carried over for the game' final score.
The loss was an especially heart-breaking one for the Lobo head coach mentor Doug Cox.
"I don't know what to say," the Lobo boss commented. "I still this team has the potential to be a very fine team. We're a much better team than we showed tonight."
Cox, who had shown concern over the Eastern Hills passing game, was surprised the running attack was so effective.
"I was surprised they were able to keep the football away from us all night," he said. "I'm very disappointed and so are our players."
Rogers' 235-yard effort was the tops in the contest, while Johnson's 56 topped the Lobos. O'Neal Jackson at tailback for Longview ran for 38 yards on nine carries, while starting fullback Victor Crane ran for 18 yards on just three totes.