WACO - Longview’s defense was looking for a way to raise its intensity on Saturday, while the offense found out how it reacted to adversity. Both reactions turned out excellent for the Lobos.
The Lobo defense may have played its best game in years, keeping Tomball scoreless for a 24-0 victory in a Class 5A Division II Region II semifinal at Floyd Casey Stadium. It was the first playoff shutout for Longview since a 68-0 victory over Dallas Bryan Adams in a 2006 bi-district playoff and far more impressive considering Bryan Adams had a mediocre squad that year.
Tomball scored 27 or more points nine times this season, but the Lobos limited the Cougars to 146 total yards, and just 35 yards in the second half. Jordan Burton led Longview with seven tackles while Larry Thomas had two sacks and a fumble recovery.
The Lobos had three interceptions, including two by Ja’Quale Darden. Darden said good pass defense was a carryover from great run defense. Longview head coach John King said his defensive line had a great game, with sophomore lineman Jalen Porter being one of several outstanding performances.
“We keyed on their run in practice this week, because we knew their passing came off their run,” Darden said. “The D-line deserves assists for our interceptions.”
The adversity for the offense was losing starting tailback J’Haston Faggans in the second quarter with an apparent right-ankle injury. Despite losing their workhorse, the Lobos stuck with their running game, and Dakota Anthony produced, moving from fullback to tailback to rush for 85 yards on 17 carries. Longview got two rushing touchdowns from quarterback LaDarrin Robertson, including a five-yard touchdown run with 8:47 remaining for the lone touchdown of the second half.
Reserve tailback Shannon Polk was another reason the Lobos closed out Tomball, rushing for 59 yards on eight carries, all in the fourth quarter.
“We have each other’s back. When we have a fallen teammate, we step up our intensity for that teammate,” Anthony said. “Shannon grew up a lot tonight.”
Longview (9-4) advances to play Mesquite Horn (9-4) in the Class 5A Division II Region II final at 6 p.m. next Saturday at Independence Stadium in Shreveport, La. Horn defeated Leander 43-27 in the other Region II semifinal earlier in the day at Floyd Casey Stadium. It is the fourth consecutive season Longview has advanced to the region final round. Tomball ends its season with a 10-3 record.
The Longview-Horn game is a rematch of a District 11-5A game which Longview won 13-8 on Oct. 15 at Lobo Stadium. Horn starting quarterback Collin Strahan did not play in October because of a fracture in his right arm, but has since healed.
“I know it will be different because they’ll have their quarterback back, but we’ll be ready,” Darden said.
For the second straight week, Longview’s defense held its opponent scoreless in the first half. Longview held Tomball to 111 total yards, led by Brian Tomlinson and Darden, which had an interception each. Darden also had two additional pass breakups while Burton had five tackles for the Lobos in the first half.
On offense however, the Lobos also struggled at times in the first half, giving up the ball twice, including an interception by Tomball’s Raymel Stevenson. A Darden breakup when Tomball attempted to convert a fourth-and-four play started a 74-yard Longview drive, ending with a one-yard touchdown run by Faggans with 42 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
A shanked punt by Tomball punter Jared Heim gave the Lobos the ball on the Tomball 28-yard line, and Longview would eventually convert with one-yard touchdown run by LaDarrin Robertson with 3:37 left in the second quarter, helping the Lobos have a 14-0 halftime lead.
Faggans was injured on that short drive. After a making a five-yard run to the Tomball 14-yard line, Faggans needed help to limp off the field. Faggans, who rushed for 1,169 yards and 13 touchdowns this season entering Saturday’s game, led the Lobos in the first half with 65 yards rushing on nine carries.
Tomball running back Brandon Green had 90 total yards in the first half and would lead Tomball with 123 total yards for the game, 85 rushing. Stevenson led Tomball with nine tackles. Kyle Harden led Tomball with five first-half tackles and finished with eight tackles.
NOTES: Tickets for the Longview-Horn game go on sale at 8 a.m. Tuesday at the Longview ISD athletic department office. They will be sold 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Friday ticket sales will run from 8 a.m. until noon. Advance prices are $10 each for adults, $6 for students. All tickets at the gate are $12 each.