BEDFORD - Longview's defense gift wrapped the package and Lobo quarterback Jay Hurst delivered it as the Christmas season got off to a merry start Saturday afternoon at Pennington Field.
Hurst tallied all the points the Lobos would need, scoring a pair of touchdowns and running in a two-point conversion as No. 1-ranked Longview (13-0) pitched it's second shutout of the season, 14-0 over No. 3 Killeen Ellison (12-1), to win the Class 5A Division I, Region II championship before a standing room only crowd of 13,500.
The Lobos advance to the state semifinal next Saturday against Duncanville at Texas Stadium. The time is still undetermined. Duncanville defeated Odessa for the Region I title, 49-28.
While Hurst had the answers for the Lobo offense, the defensive unit was making sure there was no question about which team was the best in the state. The hitting delivered by the Mean Green was enough to have made Santa Claus, who made a pre game appearance by way of helicopter, blush.
Ellison came into the game averaging 357.3 yards total offense. Much of that offensive attack came from tailback Reggie Duncan, who had 2,231 yards on the season.
The Eagles finished with 216 yards offense, including 141 on the ground. Duncan posted just 101 yards on 26 carries and fumbled twice. He was stripped once and then lost the ball on a tremendous hit by Longview free safety Lee Jackson, where the 205-pound junior lay on the turf for several minutes before being helped off.
"We played our regular defense," said Bero, in reference to whether the Lobos particularly focused the defense on Duncan. "We played great running backs all year long, and our district (12-5A) is loaded with great running backs. I just thought our defense stepped up and played at a real high level."
Offensively, the Lobos ran for just 93 yards as tailback Fred Talley was again bothered by his left ankle, an injury suffered in the regular season finale against Marshall. Hurst and Lee Nix did combine on 7 of 16 passing of 143 yards.
"Once again, we didn't have a healthy Fred (19 carries, 47 yards)," Bero said. "That's three weeks we haven't really had Fred healthy and our football team's still winning. You've got to credit the defense when one of your best offensive players is out, somebody else has to step up. And our defense has done that."
Longview scored the first time it touched the ball, going 74 yards in nine plays. But it was the defense that turned it over to the offense.
The Eagles had taken their opening possession from their own 20 to the Lobo 26-yard line. A 35-yard pass from quarterback Jeff Overstreet to K.J. Hendricks on the first play from scrimmage moved the ball into Longview territory. After reaching the 26, Longview linebacker Jacob Pierce stopped Duncan for no gain, turning the ball over on downs.
A succession of handoffs to Talley moved the ball across midfield. But on third-and-eight, Hurst connected with Dexter Daniels for a 30-yard pass completion to the Eagles' 13. A face mask call against Ellison moved the ball to the six. Three plays later, Hurst scored on a 1-yard dive up the middle at the 5:01 mark of the opening quarter.
However, the point-after was wide to the right after a five-yard penalty turned a short kick into a 25-yard attempt. With a 12-18 mph wind blowing front eh west, it played havoc with the kicking and punting.
The wind played a factor in the Lobos opting to start the game with it at their back after Ellison won the toss. Longview also chose to kick off first in the second half. Both touchdowns came with the wind at Longview's back.
Longview's second touchdown came after a wind-blown 10-yard punt by the Eagles, where the ball was downed at the Lobo 46. On the second play of the drive, Hurst hit Kevin Bishop over the middle for a 42-yard pass completion to the Eagle 14-yard line.
Three plays later, Hurst found an opening and ran six yards unmolested for a 12-0 advantage, with 1:23 left in the third quarter. Hurst then came back after both teams traded penalties on the extra point attempt for a two-point conversion run.
"We try to run that power play out of our Lobo formation (two extra blockers)," Bero said. "We have a keep off of it, and they were trying to squeeze down and stop the off-tackle play. We just thought it was open outside and Jay did a great job of reading the defense."
After being held in check, Ellison had its best drive of the game following Longview's second touchdown. Starting at their own 20, they marched to the Lobo 23-yard line. The drive took 14 plays and consumed some six minutes off the clock to end the third quarter and open the fourth before Duncan was stripped of the ball and Frank Cox recovered for the Lobos.
Ellison also got a break on Longview's next possession as the wind nearly sailed the ball over Hurst's head as he went back to punt from his own 28-yard line. Hurst one-handed the snap and then ran out of bounds at the 29.
The wind earlier had sent a pair of Erin Roerecke field goal attempts from 39 and 41 yards wide to the left and right.
But two plays later, Duncan was dropped at the five-yard line by Jackson, fumbling the ball as Tracy Brooks recovered. Longview also stopped the Eagles again at the one, turning the ball over on downs with three seconds showing on the clock.