|LONGVIEW - As tradition would have it, Pine Tree's senior football players dressed in formal attire - black tie and tails - at school Friday afternoon.
But Friday night the Pirates bucked tradition, capturing a 10-9 victory over Longview in Lobo Stadium in what may be the biggest upset in the history of Pine Tree High School, and formally ended the Lobos' hopes for the District 13-5A Championship.
Lufkin defeated Nacogdoches to win the district title. Longview, which enters the playoffs as the district's runnerup, faces Waco High next Saturday at 2 p.m. in Texas Stadium in bi-district.
It was only Pine Tree's second victory over Longview in the nine game series, but the win put a silver lining on an otherwise disappointing season for the Pirates. Pine Tree ended the '86 campaign at 4-6.
Longview is 7-2-1.
"Anytime you can beat your rival in the last game, it helps cover up a lot of misfortune," said Pine Tree coach Maurice Cook while donning an ear-to-ear grin. "I felt all along our kids could play and they stayed together all season. I admire them for that, it would've been easy to give up here."
Neither team could sustain drives on the wet playing surface. Pine Tree managed just 186 total yards, while Longview had 212.
The Lobos, though, suffered three lost fumbles, an interception, and a costly penalty.
One of those fumbles allowed the Pirates to take a 10-7 lead early in the second half.
John Reedy fumbled the half's opening kickoff and Jeff Moore recovered at the Lobo one.
Although Longview's defense wouldn't budge, Tim Greaves kicked a 25-yard field goal with 10:05 showing in the third period to account for the winning points.
The Lobos threatened Pine Tree's margin twice, but both times the Bucs turned the Lobos away. First, Alvin Hawkins recovered a Ray Allison fumble at the PT seven-yard line and later Curtis Lang intercepted a Griffin pass at the one-yard line with 1:01 left in the game.
After Lang's interception the Pirates milked the clock with three sneaks by quarterback Brian Fisher. On fourth down from the one, Cook opted for an intentional safety, ordering the center to snap the ball out of the end zone with eight seconds left.
That brought the score to 10-9, and after the free kick Longview had a final chance with just two seconds left and the ball at its own 46.
When Eric Faggett was tackled at the 37 after catching Griffin's pass, a sea of blue and gold engulfed the soggy playing field.
"I was nervous when we decided on the safety," admitted Cook. "I had a field goal in my mind. But we had the (free) kick at the 20 and there was the time factor. It was where everything had to fall just right. We had already some big risks but we came to win it so that's what we had to do."
"We have no excuses," said Longview assistant coach Steve Gaddis. "They played a hell of a game."
Added Longview coach Doug Cox: "They didn't make mistakes and we made mistakes. It wasn't that we didn't play hard, I think we did. We just didn't play well."
The Lobos had been troubled by penalties all season. And while they were flagged just three times, they were costly. Two clipping calls negated long punt returns, including a 68-yarder by David Henderson for an apparent touchdown, which would have given the Lobos a 14-0 lead.
Longview went out in front in the first quarter after Henderson returned a Greaves punt 38 yards to the Pine Tree 27.
Jimmy Smith gained 15 yards on first down and three on the next play. On the third play, Griffin hit Faggett out in the right flat for nine yards and the touchdown with 1:18 showing.
David Hill added the extra point.
The Pirates couldn't move on the ensuing possession and were forced to punt. Henderson caught Greaves' 38-yard kick at the Longview 32, found a wall of blockers on the right side and raced into the end zone.
Except a yellow flag, for clipping, brought the play back to the Longview 41.
"That punt return killed us," lament Cox. "That was a beautiful play."
Longview got as far as the Pine Tree 34, but Smith was fumbled when hit and Fred Waddington, who also had two sacks, claimed the bubble at the 36.
Neither team could mount much offense until Pine Tree's junior tailback broke into the secondary on a pitch let, cut back on Henderson at the Longview 35 and outran the Lobo secondary to the right flag to complete a 65-yard scoring run with 3:22 left in the half.
The fumble on the kickoff gave Pine Tree it's only chance to score in the second half.
It was all the Pirates needed.