TYLER - The No. 1 ranked John Tyler Lions beat Longview on a depressing Saturday afternoon, 28-7, the same way they overcome the other 24 victims in their winning streak: by gobbling up turnovers and turning them into touchdowns.
Five times the snakebit-for-a-day Lobos fumbled, and four times the blue-shirted Lions fell on the ball. That was all the epitaph needed for the visitors before a nearing sellout crowd at rainy Rose Stadium. Longview fell to 7-2, 2-2 in district, and needs a win or a tie Friday night at Marshall (or an unlikely Lufkin loss to Nacogdoches) in order to make the playoffs.
John Tyler (9-0, 4-0) clinched no worse than a tie for the district championship.
The flukiest bounce of an unlikely afternoon took all the air out of the Lobos' balloon. It came early in the third quarter, with the game tied 7-7. Longview had stopped John Tyler's first possession of the second half. Nico Hernandez's punt was a low, short, ugly thing that could given the Lobos good field position. But after it bounced barely 20 yards downfield, it hit Longview's Shawn Byrdsong in the backside and skittered loose. Tyler's Jeremy Bowie recovered at the Lobos' 32.
Two plays and 46 seconds later, John Tyler was head to stay. After an eight-yard run by Quincy Watson (102 yards on 18 carries), Lions quarterback Mickey Jones rolled left and arched a 24-yard touchdown pass to Brian Giddens in the back left corner of the end zone. Hernandez covered for a 14-7 John Tyler lead.
It was the second touchdown pass of the day for Jones, who ran the ball only twice but completed 5 of his 9 passes for 85 yards. On both plays, Jones rolled to his left and found a receiver who had single coverage on the outside.
In the first quarter on John Tyler's fifth play of the game, Jones threw 29 yards to junior David Warren, who had run own out and up to get behind the district's leading pass interceptor, Juan Ingram. The pass capped a five-play, 65-yard drive and put Longview in a 7-0 hole.
Ingram claimed the Lobos' only takeaway, with 4:38 left in the second quarter, igniting Longview's only scoring march. With defensive end Tony Cox pressuring Jones into a bad throw, Ingram timed his jump and picked the ball off at the Longview 40.
Quarterback Jay Hurst was then inserted in place of started Lee Nix, and Hurst guided the the Lobos on a nine-play, 60-yard scoring drive, often leading the blocking for Isiah Stoker, who broke two tackle on a 23-yard run to the John Tyler 19. Aided by a four-yard face-mask penalty, the Lobos worked the ball in close to the goal, and Stoker scored from the 1 with 40 seconds left before halftime.
Longview rushed for 108 yards in that first half, giving the Lobo fans optimism which was dashed by that third-quarter mishap.
"We had the momentum at the half," Longview's head coach Robert Bero said. "We stopped them and were going to get the ball back with good field position. But the ball hit one of our kids."
The other fumbles came off the hands of Stoker, the district's leading rusher, who was a marked man from the game's first play and was held to 84 yards on 25 carries. In the first quarter, with the Lobos driving at the Tyler 8, Nix pitched the ball just a bit wide of its intended target, and the ball went off Stoker's hands and was recovered by Nathan Bowie at the 17. Late in the third quarter defensive back Gary Baxter stripped the ball from Stoker after a 16-yard gain, and Nathan Bowie again covered the ball at the John Tyler 39. In the last two minutes of the game, Stoker died to field a kickoff but he and teammate Lee Jackson bumped, and John Tyler's Karanja Lewis recovered.
"Longview made a couple of mistakes, and we were fortunate enough to get on them," said Allen Wilson, coach of the defending state champions, who go for consecutive win No. 26 Friday against Lee. "A couple of those plays, I thought we hit him and stripped him of the ball."
Wilson said of Jones's touchdown passes, "We thought we could isolate some people and make some big throws, and Mickey Jones executed those pretty well. We know they've got a great team. It was a tough game for four quarters, and the score doesn't indicate that."
The score was high because once the Lions got that 14-7 lead, their offensive unit settled down and staged scoring drives of 72 and 51 yards. Tyler took what the Lobos gave them, then took a little more for good measure.