|MESQUITE - Longview battled the yellow hankies in the first half and its own missed opportunities in the second. End result: A stunning and quick exit from the 2005 high school football playoffs in a Class 5A, Division II, Region II bi-district match up.
For the second time in three years, South Garland played giant killers. However, unlike the overtime victory in 2003, Saturday's 14-13 bi-district win over Longview sent shockwaves across the Class 5A postseason landscape.
Ranked third in the final regular season Associated Press poll, coupled with a perfect 10-0 ledger, the Lobos had been one fo the favorites in the drive for a state championship. While Longview had won its second consecutive District 12-5A crown, South Garland (7-4) needed a win last week just to make the playoffs and earn the final berth out of 11-5A.
"We didn't put it away," said Lobo head coach John King. "We got it where it was just six (points) and you just had to hold your breath, because they were still one possession away from taking the lead. We had opportunities to make it a two-possession game, but they stopped us. They made plays when they had to and that's why they won the game."
The Lobos led 10-0 before South Garland scored late in the first half, and 13-7 with 10:27 to play in the game.
A 70-yard drive in eight plays put the Colonels on top at the 6:46 mark. Nick Florence's 7-yard pass to Phillip Payne in the front right corner of the end zone, and Matthias Slaughter's extra point put South Garland up 14-13.
That's how it would end.
But the real heartache for the Lobos and their fans, who outnumbered those on the visitor's side of Memorial Stadium nearly 3-1, came with just 46 seconds left to play.
Longview had driven from its own 38 to the Colonels' 4, where it face third-and-one. A 35-yard pass from Carlin Freeman to Adrian Reese moved the ball deep in South Garland territory, where Chris Ivory then ripped off a 14-yard run down to the 13.
Two plays later, the Colonels stuffed backup fullback Mark Johnson for a one-yard loss. With the game on the line and Longview looking at fourth-and-two, sophomore kicker Zack Decker lined up for a 21-yard field goal. He was already 2-for-3 on the afternoon, including a 27-yarder from the same south end of the field.
Kicking into a stiff southerly wind, Decker's attempt sailed two feet wide of the right upright. No good.
The home side of the stadium stood in stunned disbelief, while the Colonels' sideline and stands erupted. South Garland had scored an even bigger victory than its 14-7 overtime win two years ago at Waco ISD Stadium.
Decker had converted a 22-yard field goal with 11:11 remaining in the second quarter that put the Lobos up 10-0, then added a 27-yarder early in the fourth stanza. He also had an apparent 36-yard field goal split the uprights in the waning seconds of the first half. However, after he kicked it, an official near the South Garland sideline disallowed the kick as he signaled that a timeout had been called by the Colonels. Decker subsequently missed the re-kick wide right as the half ended.
Longview was also in position for a potential field goal with just over two minutes left in the third quarter at the colonel 16. An incomplete pass on fourth-and-one turned the ball over on downs.
"There (at the end) I just thought the smart thing to do was kick the field goal," King said. "Mark's done a good job all year. We just tried to hit a quick counter (with the previous play), figuring they would be bringing pressure, and if he could get a push at the line fo scrimmage and fight forward for a yard that would be enough for the first (down)."
Longview struggled inside the red zone. In five trips, the Lobos came away with only two field goals.
They had first-and-goal at the 5-yard line and settled for Decker's 22-yard field goal early in the second quarter. Then it was a first down at the 17, but a 15-yard penalty resulted in the missed 36-yard try as the half ended. There was the failed fourth down at the 16, and another Decker field goal after reaching the Colonel 12. Finally, the third-and-one from the 4.
The only Longview touchdown of the game came on a 38-yard jaunt by Vondrell McGee with the Lobos' second possession. He took a pitch from Freeman, and getting a block downfield from Michael George, sprinted untouched into the end zone.
Longview's offense nearly matched its season average (399.9) with 386 yards - 214 on the ground and 173 passing. However, 56 of that rushing yardage came on a fake punt as Jarvis Pippins took the direct snap and reached the South Garland 5-yard line before being hauled down from behind. The play, which came late in the opening quarter, resulted in Decker's 22-yard field goal.
McGee rushed for 91 yards and one touchdown on 18 attempts. Ivory finished with 57 yards on 12 carries. Freeman match his season-high with 173 yards passing (12 of 20). Reese was the leading receiver with three catches for 105 yards, followed by McGee (3-30), Ivory (4-25) and David Robinson (2-13).
Florence was 13 of 24 for 244 yards and one touchdown for South Garland, and he also ran for a 1-yard score. He was picked off twice by the Lobos. Payne was the leading receiver for the Colonels with six receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown.
South Garland rushed for only 50 yards on 15 attempts.
Tony Johnson, who was making his first start at linebacker since breaking his arm against West Monroe on Sept. 3, intercepted the ball at his own 30 after it bounced off the helmet of the intended receiver on South Garland's initial possession of the game. Laderrick Satterwhite recorded his fifth interception of the season, picking off Florence in the end zone as the Colonels had a sdecond-and-goal from the Lobo 7 with 2:39 left in the first quarter.
Cartez Beall also denied the colonels a scoring opportunity on their first possession of the second half as he stripped the ball from Tyler, who had gotten behind the Lobo secondary for a 42-yard gain to the Longview 29.
As for the penalties, Longview was flagged 12 times for 116 yards - 101 in just the first half. South Garland had five pantries for 45 yards.
When asked about the officiating, Longview's King said a lot by saying a little.
"No comment," he said, face flush, eyes widening. "Put that in bold headlines."