IRVING - Turnovers proved to be the difference, just like Longview coach Doug Cox feared they might be.
Plano was perfect in that respect. Longview wasn't as four miscues - three in the second half - enabled the Wildcats who opened their quest for a fifth state championship, to stifle the Lobos for all but one series here Friday night.
Taking advantage of two interceptions and two fumbles, Plano rolled to a 23-7 triumph before a crowd of 14,719 and will advance into Class AAAAA regional action against the winner of tonight's Temple-Conroe contest. The loss abruptly halted Longview's bid for advancement out of bi-district for the first time since 1975. Longview's season ends at 8-3, while the Wildcats will carry a 10-1 mark and a No. 7 state ranking a little further.
Except for a brief rally late in the first half, Longview was bottled up most of the game, an unfortunately, had to spend all but seven Plano plays in its own end of the field the entire second half.
The Plano defense was more than prepared for the task at hand, holding the Lobos to a mere 21 yards the last two quarters and no first downs. The Lobos could get no further than their own 45 the seconds half and the Wildcat's Kevin Garman came on to boot field goals of 33 and 38 yards to seal the win. A one-yard touchdown by Kelly Boyd with 15 seconds left in the game was incidental.
Boyd, who became the first runner to surpass the 100-yard mark against the Lobos' "Mean Green" defense this season with 24 carries for 129 yards also scored in the second quarter to boost the 'Cats to an early 10-0 lead.
Trouble began brewing when Longview's Gahlen Johnson fumbled on the very first offensive play of the second half and Plano's James Wilkinson came up with the loose ball. That opportunity ended in Garman missing a 33-yarder but the Wildcat defense was not to be denied in the second half.
Longview's next series netted but three yards and Scott Dillard punted the ball to the Plano 46, one of only two times the Wildcats had to begin a drive in their own territory in the second half. Six plays later Garman climaxed the drive with a 33-yarder for a 13-7 lead with 2:35 left in the third period.
Another fumble recovery, by Joe McRoberts, who also picked off an interception, put the halts to a Longview drive and turned into a Garman three-pointer, the 38-yarder with eight minutes left in the game.
The final Plano touchdown was set up when Kyle Jones was sacked on a fourth-and-four play at his own 41. From there the 'Cats ripped off gains of nine, 11, four, seven, eight and the final one-yard for the closing score.
Plano had 302 yards for its evening's work and held Longview to 170 - 88 on he ground and 82 (all in the first half) through the air. Longview hit five of 10 passes, with Zane Butter hitting four of those in his seven attempts. The Lobos, however, attempted just two passes in the second half.
Longview's run-oriented attack suddenly was put in the back pocket, momentarily, as Zane Butter came in to provide a little heroics for the Lobos. Known as the better passer of the two quarterbacks utilized in the Lobo offense, Butter on a second-and-two situation connected with Nathan Harris far down the field for a 41-yard gainer, although Harris battled Garman for the ball and came down at the Plano 26.
With the running game still having trouble cracking the Plano front wall, Butter hit two very crucial passes in Longview's only first half scoring drive. He found Clifford Ward open across the middle for a six-yard gain on a fourth-and-four play and three plays later, on a third-and-14 play hit Gahlen Johnson, who moved his way to the Wildcats' five for a 13-yard gain. From there Hunter did the duties, picking up the first down on the next play and two plays later bulling over Ray Delk's block for the score with 1:20 remaining. Michael Rosborough's PAT narrowed the gap to 10-7.
The Lobos actually had one more golden opportunity when a hard rush on a fourth down punting situation forced Plano's Marty McWilliams to eat the ball. Marcus Jackson made the first contact and McWilliams was hit with a six-yard loss, giving Longview the ball at the Wildcat's 30 with 34 seconds left on the clock.
Butter again went to Ward, for five yards but he was unable to get out of bounds and on the next play he was stopped for a 10-yard gain at the 15 as time ran out.
The Wildcat defense held on Longview's ensuing offensive possession and quarterback Butch Fifield came on to guide the 'Cats in for another score and a 10-0 lead. He provided two key plays in the march, a 10-yard scamper on a quarterback keeper around the right end and a 26-yard pass connecting to Mark Rose, on a third-and-nine play, to the Longview four. Two plays later, Kelly Boyd took feb all in standing up form three yards out with 5:08 showing on the clock.
Much of the opening period was to feel each other out. The only miscue of the first half was Plano's Jaydon McCullough ran under a tipped Kyle Jones' pass intended for tight end Bobby Daniels' midway through the first period.
The Lobos, with 82 yards through the airways, had 100 total yards the first two periods, while Plano had 173 - 129 of it on the ground as Fifield had 63 and Boyd 50.
The win avenged a 26-0 loss Plano suffered at the hands of Longview in the '75 game and its ninth 10-win season since 1970. The 'Cats have claimed state titles four times in their rich history and district titles 17 times in the last 20 years. Longview and Plano have met four times, with Plano winning three of the meetings.
Plano will enter regional play having allowed just 73 points in 11 games. The 23 points was only the second time this season the 'Cats have scored less than 28. The other time was in a 10-7 loss to Greenville.