|LONGVIEW - Longview quarterback Damion Lewis said his team played its best game of this year on Saturday. How the Lobos played is a candidate for their best game of any year.
This was because of the national reputation of their opponent, River Ridge (La.) John Curtis. It was a reputation that the Lobos were not intimidated by - and overcame - in a 24-20 upset before 9,000 spectators at Lobo Stadium and a national television audience.
John Curtis (3-1), which is ranked in several national high school polls - including a No. 9 ranking in the ESPN Elite 25 - had a 27-game winning streak snapped. Longview coach John King said the win was comparable to 2002, when the Lobos knocked off the top-ranked team in the nation Shreveport (La.) Evangel, 31-28. Evangel was led by current Southern California quarterback John David Booty.
Lewis led Longview on an 86-yard drive for the game-winning touchdown, a seven-yard run by Johnny Garrett. The most critical play of the late touchdown drive was a third-and-nine at the John Curtis 32-yard line, in which Lewis found Aaron Johnson for a 25-yard reception. Lewis and Johnson were competitors for Longview's starting quarterback position in the offseason.
"Aaron and I are close. We're best friends," Lewis said. "I'll enjoy this all of my life."
The last chance for John Curtis was snuffed out by Longview defensive end Marques Sparks. John Curtis tried a draw on a fourth-and-five on its own 33-yard line, but Sparks stopped Kenny Cain for a one-yard gain with 30 seconds remaining. Sparks said he knew John Curtis would run instead of pass before the play.
"I knew it was a run because the linemen put their hands to the ground, instead of standing up for pass protection," Sparks said. "This is the best game I have ever played. It's the most important game of my life."
John Curtis coach J.T. Curtis said he is not certain if his staff meant to call a pass play. He said that the toughness of the Lobos was the key.
"Longview has a very good football team," J.T. Curtis said. "They have a physical team. Very physical."
Longview stopped John Curtis on fourth-down conversion attempts on its last two drives of the game. The game-winning drive was set up when Longview linebacker Drew Harden dropped Cain for a one-yard loss at the Longview 14-yard line with 6:28 remaining. The play made up for a gamble the Lobos failed to convert on its previous drive, when Harden was stopped for no gain on a fake-punt attempt.
The lead changed hands four times in the second half.
John Curtis took the opening drive of the second half 63 yards, capped by a four-yard touchdown run by Cain. Longview struck back with a 77-yard drive ending with a five-yard touchdown run by Mark Johnson, who finished with 127 total yards of offense.
John Curtis took the lead back with 11:05 remaining on a six-yard touchdown run by Blain LeBlanc. The touchdown was set up by a 38-yard pass from Matt Saucier to Vincent Allen. Longview allowed just two plays that went for over 20 yards.
Longview's offensive success was on its bread-and-butter offense: the running game. John Curtis had a size advantage on its offensive line, but the Lobos attacked it for 235 yards, led by 114 by Garrett.
"Running the ball in the middle, that's what we do," King said. "That's our comfort zone."
Longview took the opening drive and drove to the John Curtis 11-yard line. Longview was going to attempt to make the first down, but after a motion penalty the Lobos settled for a 32-yard Zach Decker field goal. Longview held the Patriots to 13 total yards and no first downs in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Patriot defense stiffened, holding the Lobos to a three-and-out possession on their first drive. John Curtis forced a big play on Longview's second possession, as Lewis overthrew Garrett and Alex Lauricella, who has orally committed to Tulane, intercepted the pass and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown.
That was the extent of the scoring for John Curtis in the first half. The best offensive scoring chance for the Patriots was when Saucier found P.J. Smith wide open on their opening drive of the first half, but Smith dropped a sure 67-yard touchdown.
Lewis rebounded from his interception and led his team on an 82-yard drive in the final 1:56 of the first half. A juggling catch and 37-yard scamper by Mark Johnson would set up a nine-yard touchdown pass from Lewis to Johnson with five seconds left in the first half, giving Longview a 10-7 halftime lead.
Dacorris Ford and Harden had 11 tackles each, while Harden added two tackles for losses and a forced fumble. Defensive lineman Jazz Reeves had six tackles, two tackles for losses and a forced fumble for the Lobos.
LeBlanc led John Curtis with 69 yards rushing, while Saucier had 125 total yards. Jonathan Pippen had 10 tackles and three tackles for losses for John Curtis.
The last word on an uncommon day at Lobo Stadium belonged to King, who had a message for the majority that believed Longview would lose.
"Don't ever bet against the Lobos," King said.
Longview plays Dallas Carter at Kincaide Stadium in Dallas on Friday.