LONGVIEW - Clifford Ward rushed for 131 yards and two touchdowns and Longview built up a 21-0 cushion before casting in for a 28-13 season-opening victory over Fort Worth Eastern Hills here Friday night in a non-district encounter. The victory marked the 17th consecutive in season openers.
Ward, a 5'10, 170-pound junior who led the team in rushing a year ago with 907 yards, appeared sleek and crisp in his running, carrying the ball just 18 times and stepping off runs of 10 ore more yards on five occasions. He was one of eight ball carriers empaled by Lobo coach Doug Cox.
Although the Lobos, early season favorites in District 14-AAAAA, jumped out to a quick 14-0 first quarter lead and padded the margin to 21 in the second period, an Eastern Hills score at the first half buzzer spoiled a shutout bid, an effort which would have been the 12th in the last 17 season openers. Nevertheless, Longview scored a final period touchdown for a 28-6 advantage and used some timely defensive play to hold onto the victory.
Whereas Longview used quick-striking scoring efforts in the first half, quarterback Zane Butter drove the Lobos 49 yards in 11 plays, using 5:38 of valuable clock time, mid-way through the final period.
Eastern Hills came right back to narrow the margin - thanks in part to a 15-yard Longview personal foul penalty and a scrambling 16-yard run by quarterback Vince Spruell - when Marvin Jackson burst over from three yards out with 3:42 showing on the clock. Mike Estill added the PAT for what turned out to be the game's final tally.
Key defensive plays by Duke Brooks, Tercy Graham, Glenn Collier, John Dulweber and Terry Morrow, who batted a third down pass away from its intended receiver, enabled the Lobos to hold fast.
A little trickery highlighted the first half of play, although miscues proved costly to the visitors.
The Lobos, thanks to a pair of interceptions and a bobbled snap from center on an attempted punt by Eastern Hills, used only 14 plays and had to travel but 114 yards for their three scores.
The initial score for eh season was set up when the Eastern Hills punter was forced to run with the ball on a fourth and eight situation at the end of the game's first offensive possession. He was tackled after a gain of two yards and Longview was set up 42 yards from pay dirt.
A 28-yard pass completion from Jones to Harris quickly put the ball at the 10 where on the next play Ward found enough daylight to go in standing for a 6-0 lead with 7:54 left in the opening period.
Longview was back in business after Morrow picked off a pass at the Eastern Hills 47. Butter, on a fancy Statue of Liberty play that had the defense fooled, handed off to Ward who scooted 28 yards down the left sideline to place the ball at the 18. It was Ward again, four plays later, on an eight-yarder around the right end for a 13-0 lead with 2:26 still showing on the clock.
The Statue of Liberty play executed by Butter drew the Highlanders' defense straight to him, and just at the last precise moment he handed the ball to Ward on the second play of the drive. Butter also picked up a crucial first down, just moments later, after the faked to Ward and dived over right tackle and landed at the eight, the point needed for the first down. Ward scored on the next play.
Kyle Jones, who alternated at quarterback with Butter, picked off a pass early in the second period and returned it 25 yards to the 25 where backup tailback Ronnie Hunter, subbing for Ward, took it in on the fifth play of the drive from three yards out for a 20-0 advantage at the 8:25 mark.
An exchanged of fumbles kept both teams at bay for a few minutes but Eastern Hills got on the board at the buzzer with a 25-yard pass completion from Spruell to David English and a draw play with Leonard Hunter taking the ball in from 18 yards away, the last steps tightroping it down the right sideline. The extra point was missed.
Longview, who will play host to another Fort Worth school, Paschal, next week, totaled 295 yards for its evening's work including 245 yards on the ground. Eastern Hills was able to net just 103 yards rushing as Spruell found the going rough most of the game. He was sacked four times and finished with a minus 13 yards rushing.