LONGVIEW - There were times Friday night when both sides of the ball struggled for the Lobos in the season opener with rival Lufkin.
When push came to shove, it was something that Lobo head coach John King said started up the tunnel and came to fruition on the field as Longview walked away from the 77th meeting with Lufkin with a wild, last-minute 21-20 win at Lobo Stadium.
The win was the first for the Lobos in a season opener since 2011.
“They feed off of each other and they have each other’s back,” King said. “That’s the mentality that’s in the locker room. When bad plays were made, the other side turned and said, ‘pick it up, we’ve got your back, it’s ok.’
“That’s how you’ve got to be.”
With the win, King becomes the winningest coach in Longview High School history with an overall mark of 121-28.
After chewing up over seven minutes from the clock, marching 81 yards on 15 plays, the Lobos reclaimed the lead in a contest that remained deadlocked at 14-all for well over a quarter of play. Lufkin then responded with a scoring march of its own with 34 seconds left with a point-after attempt to all but guarantee overtime in the contest.
That’s when King told Ameron Dean to go get it.
“He was the block guy on that extra point and he was close on another kick earlier,” King said. “I told him when we called timeout that if they score, you can clock it. I said, ‘You’re close, get a hand on it.’ And he did.
“It was more than Ameron, it takes guys at the point of attack like Bryan Gilliland, who was the hammer that forces those guys to block inside and that allowed Ameron to come off the edge.”
King described is as a team effort — something that the previous 47 minutes and 26 seconds set up.
Tylan Miller rushed for 165 yards, scoring twice along the way on runs of eight and 20 yards – the latter turning into the game-winner to cap a methodical drive that kept the Lufkin defense on the field for a large amount of the final stanza. Miller finished with 50 yards on the 81-yard drive, converting a fourth-and-1 with a seven-yard run. He was named the Great American Rivalry Series MVP.
“The longer he runs it, the better he gets,” King said of Miller. “He’s hard to get to the ground. I thought our offensive line did a good job handling everything on that drive.
“It wasn’t any secret. We went to three tight ends and two backs and those guys were able to control the line of scrimmage.”
Fullback Austin Moore finished with 63 total yards of offense, including two catches for 20 yards – one of which, an eight-yard haul on third and four to keep the fourth-quarter drive alive. Having missed his junior season due to injury, it was Moore’s official debut.
“He did a good job of blocking all night long,” King said of Moore. “It was a very unselfish night from a guy that hasn’t played varsity football. It was a heck of a game from him.”
Lobo quarterback Michael Ross finished with 96 yards of total offense, including an eight-yard touchdown run.
But before the Lobos turned to the punishing ground attack, it was the defense that set the stage.
After back-to-back turnovers in the third quarter with the score tied 14-14, the Lobo defense responded both times, holding Lufkin to one first down over the two possessions. Kybrin Sheridan, Stacy Nelson, Bryson Davis and Dean, who added an interception to his blocked punt, held Lufkin to 65 total yards until the 4:14 mark in the fourth quarter.
“They played a heck of a ballgame against some athletic and skilled players,” King said. “They made plays and just enough plays for us to get away with a win.”
Lufkin struck first to open the contest on a nine-play, 68-yard drive to stake an early 7-0 lead.
The Lobo offense went three-and-out before tying the contest on a six-play, 43-yard drive, sparked by a 23-yard carry from Moore and capped by an eight-yard option keeper from Ross.
A host of Lobo defenders forced a turnover on downs at the Longview 31-yard line, setting up Miller’s first score on an eight-yard option pitch from Ross.
Lufkin tied it 14-14 on an 92-yard punt return from sophomore Savon Fields just before halftime.
The Panthers punted the ball with 11:33 to go into the contest, where Longview took over on its own nine-yard line and scored on Miller’s second touchdown run with 4:14 remaining.
Lufkin went 82 yards on 10 plays to answer on an seven-yard pass from junior quarterback Kordell Rodgers to Jadarien Bennett before Dean’s blocked point-after sealed the Lobo victory.