|LONGVIEW - With four come-from-behind wins to their credit - including two in as many weeks and three in five district games - the Longview Lobos have piled up nearly as many nicknames as wins this season.
Call the Lobos the "Comeback Kids" or the "Cardiac Wolf Pack" if you will, but Longview officially earned two more titles Friday.
Just call the Lobos PERFECT. District champs will also do just fine.
Fred Talley rushed for 175 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and the No. 1 ranked Lobos rallied from an early 14-0 deficit to notch a 40-21 win over the Marshall Mavericks at a sold-out Lobo Stadium. The win gives Longview its first perfect regular season since 1976 and the team's first outright District 12-5A championship since 1993.
Longview will open the Class 5A Division I playoffs next Saturday with a 2 p.m. contest against Dallas Skyline in Duncanville.
"I thought our kids played well," Longview head coach Robert Bero said. "Marshall gave a great effort, and we knew they would. But I'm going to give credit to our football team. They have battled all year long to be district champions."
Friday's battle was a uphill one from the start as Marshall jumped out to a 14-0 lead with a pair of quick touchdowns in the opening 1:04 of the contest. The Lobos answer with 20 second quarter points to lead 20-14 at the half, scoring early in the third to take a 26-14 lead and then adding two fourth-quarter touchdowns to put the game away.
Having to come from behind was nothing new for Longview, which trailed at halftime against Killeen in week two of the season, Lufkin in week six and John Tyler last week.
"We've been down before," Bero said. "This is a confident football team. They believe they can win, and they did a great job tonight maintaing that confidence."
Marshall scored twice Friday before the Lobos ever touched the football, taking the opening possession and striking quickly on an 81-yard pass from Paul Todd to Greg Lawson on the second play from scrimmage. Robbie Spears booted the PAT, and the Mavericks led 7-0 just 49 seconds into the game.
Lawson, a member of Marshall's sprint relay team at the state track and field meet in Austin last spring, is no stranger to the big play with touchdown receptions of 87 and 77 yards to his credit in the Mavericks' last two games.
Mandel Allen recovered the ensuing kickoff when the Lobos failed to pick up the loose ball near the Marshall sideline at the 19. Lawson took a pitch from Todd, and lofted a pass to Justin Kirkland at the 5. Kirkland beat a Lobo defender to the corner for the touchdown, and Spears banged home the PAT for a 14-0 Marshall lead with 10:56 still showing on the first quarter clock.
Longview drove to the Marshall 16 before missing on a 34-yard field goal attempt, but Jacob Pierce fell on a Kyle Daniels fumble at midfield to halt Marshall's next possession and start the Lobos on the comeback trail.
The Lobos needed 10 plays to cover half of the field, keeping the drive alive once when center David Norwood recovered a fumble after a short completion and again when quarterback Jay Hurst kept the eight yards on a busted play to set up a first-and-goal at the Marshall 5.
Two plays later Hurst rambled in from the 2, and Eric Roerecke added the PAT and make it a 14-7 contest with 11:36 to play in the first half.
After forcing a Marshall punt on the next possession, the Lobos drove 93 yards in 14 plays to tie the score. Talley, held to 27 yards on six carries to this point, carried 10 times for 67 yards on the drive - scoring from the 1 with 5:13 to play. Roerecke's PAT tied things at 14-14.
Longview took the lead for good with 1:04 to play in the half, taking over at its own 25 after a missed 42-yard field goal by Spears and marching 76 yards in just five plays. Lee Nix took over at quarterback on the drive, hitting Talley for 10 yards on the first play and then tossing screen to Talley on first and 10 from the 37. Talley did the rest, breaking a couple of tackles, cutting all the way across the field and going in standing. A penalty after the touchdown forced a long extra point by Roerecke, and the Lobos led 20-14 at the half when the PAT failed.
Talley put the Lobos on top 26-14 when he bolted 50 yards on the first play from scrimmage to open the second half.
Marshall got a break to keep things close, putting the ball away on its first possession of the second half but retaining a possession when Shameron Turner recovered a Dexter Daniels fumble at the Lobo 42.
The Mavs drove the rest of the way in nine plays, scoring on a 1-yard run by Todd. Spears' PAT made it to a 26-21 contest with 6:54 left in the third, but that would be all the scoring for the Mavs.
After the teams traded punts, Longview took over at the Marshall 34 and found the end zone eight plays later on a 1-yard run by Leon Bell. Roerecke's PAT put the Lobos on top 33-21 with 9:48 to play.
Longview closed out the scoring when Shawn Byrdsong picked off a Todd pass at the Marshall 49 - his fourth interception of the season - and went untouched down the Maverick sideline for the score. Ian Todd added the PAT to make the final 40-21.
Lee Jackson later added his fourth interception of the season, and Desmon Jackson recovered a fumble with less than 20 seconds to play to touch off a wild celebration by the Lobos as Nix kneeled the ball to close out the game.