SHREVEPORT - With two run-heavy teams squaring off, a key both ways was to make the most of every snap.
In Saturday night’s finale of the Battle on the Border High School Football Showcase, that was the case for Longview and C.E. Byrd – two teams that hit the ground a combined 81 times.
When the dust settled in a back-and-forth, toe-to-toe contest, it was the Yellow Jackets of Byrd handing the Lobos their first loss of the season, 22-15, at Independence Stadium in Shreveport.
With the loss, Longview drops to 2-1 to wrap the non-district slate. Byrd, a Louisiana state semifinalist a year ago, improves to 2-0 on the season and a perfect 5-0 in Battle on the Border contests.
“They’re a well-coached football team,” Longview head coach John King said of Byrd. “We knew their scheme would be difficult and they’ve got great players that they run it with.
“They’re solid in every area of the game and we just didn’t make plays when we needed to.”
Byrd, based in a triple option, brought a swarm offensively with a load of misdirection, rolling up 350 yards on the ground. The Yellow Jackets did the same defensively, holding the Lobos to 264 total yards – 85 rushing – in the win.
“Preparing for them in a week with what they do with the triple option – something you don’t see every day – takes some adjusting,” King said. “There were times when we did and there were times when we didn’t and they made us pay.”
Longview finished the night with eight possessions, two resulting in touchdowns, three punts, one to end the half and two turnovers, giving the Lobos eight on the season. The Lobos were also tagged with eight penalties, totaling 84 yards.
“You can’t fault the effort tonight,” King said. “We just didn’t play smart at times – too many penalties. That was cost us out of the gate in the second half like the turnovers did in the first.
“You can’t lay the ball on the ground. You’re going to get limited possessions as it is with a team like Byrd. They’re going to keep the ball from you.”
Byrd finished with two rushers over 100 yards, led by a 152-yard night from senior Tysen Hardman. Tray Allen followed suite with 129 yards with both backs notching scores. Rounding out the bulk of the Byrd attack was quarterback Deuce Caston, who tallied 53 yards, including a short touchdown jaunt.
For the first time this season, the Lobo passing attack outpaced the ground game with quarterback Michael Ross finishing 9-for-16 for 176 yards and two touchdowns – the first of such for the Lobos this season. Jon Sorey hauled in three passes for 56 yards and Ross used the tight end trio of Jordan Wyatt, Landon Peeler and Jacorian Jones, who finished with catches of 47, 40 and 11 yards, respectively. Tylan Miller finished with 57 yards for the Lobos, whose largest gain on the ground game on the first snap of the night at 16 yards.
With a 7-7 deadlock after a back-and-forth first half, the second half was a matter of making plays when they counted. Byrd accounted for four possessions – two scores, one punt and a game-ending drive, totaling 14:13 off the game clock. The Lobos got the ball three times – scoring once and punting twice for the remaining 9:47 of game play in which they totaled 99 yards – 20 on the ground.
“Offensively, we didn’t play consistent enough to give our defense a break,” King said. “The offense is partly to blame for that.”
Byrd marched the field on seven plays covering 52 yards to stake a 14-7 lead with 8:41 left in the contest. The Lobos then went three-and-out. Byrd picked up a quick first down – a spot where the Yellow Jackets averaged 6.7 yards per carry – before punting the ball back to Longview.
Sparked by a 40-yard completion from Ross to Peeler, the Lobos set out on their strongest drive of the night – converting two fourth downs and escaping a 3rd and 26 – with Ross connecting with Jones for an 11-yard score. Brycelon Pruitt took a fake field goal in for two points, giving the Lobos a 15-14 lead with 9:05 to play.
The 15-play, go-ahead drive doubled the Lobos’ two other possessions in the final 24 minutes, with both resulting in three-and-outs.
Byrd responded quickly with runs of 15 and 54 yards from Hardman to put the Yellow Jackets back on top with a two-yard score from Caston. Hardman’s two-point run put Byrd ahead 22-15 with 5:13 to play.
The Lobos’ final drive covered four yards in three plays with a punt near midfield. From then, the Yellow Jackets went back to the ground, converting two third downs, to close out the game.
“They got after us,” King said. “They’re a good football team and I think we are too. We needed a play there in the fourth quarter when we got the lead. That’s the time to make a play of make a stop and we didn’t.”
After Longview’s opening drive ended with a fumble, Byrd took advantage of a short field to claim an early 7-0 lead.
Set up by 37-yard kickoff return from D’Crayvan Polk, Sorey hauled in a pass intended for Wyatt and then turned upfield for a 48-yard score to tie the game 7-7 with 4:01 left in the first quarter.
The two team exchanged punts before the Lobo defense ended a six-minute-plus Byrd drive with a turnover on downs at the Lobo 35. The ensuing possession ended with the Lobos’ second turnover of the first half.
Longview now turns their attention to District 15-5A action, which comes on the other side of an open week – a September 25 meeting with Pine Tree at Lobo Stadium.
“We’re going to have to continue to work and improve,” King said. “You’ve got to be at your best because that’s when it counts as far as a playoff berth and district championship.
“That starts a week from Friday.”