LONGVIEW - Once the playmakers got into a rhythm, Longview was on its way to the first district championship in seven years.
Malcolm Kelly caught a pair of touchdown passes, Vondrell McGee rushed for 147 yards and Willie Cloyd kicked three field goals as the Lobos clinched the 12-5A crown with a 30-13 win Friday night over North Mesquite at Lobo Stadium.
It’s Longview first district title since 1997 when the Lobos posted a 10-0 regular season record en route to an appearance in the Division I state title game. The 2004 squad is now 9-0, and can wrap up a perfect campaign with a win next Friday against John Tyler at Trinity Mother Francis Rose Stadium.
The Stallions, who came in with a 6-3 overall mark and 3-2 league mark, needed a win and some help to move into the playoffs. With the loss, North Mesquite finds itself out of the postseason for the second year in a row as it closes out its season.
“It feels good,” said Lobo head coach John King, who along with assistant coach Oscar Wilson each had the contents of a water cooler poured on them in the final minute of the game. “It’s been seven years, and it’s something the kids have been fighting for. The last two years we’ve had an opportunity to share it going into the last game and haven’t been able to do it. We approached it tonight by finding a way to get it done.
“Winning it on our home field is special, especially for these seniors - it being ‘Senior Night’ - and for our fans. To do it here at Lobo Stadium.”
Kelly, who has already committed to the University of Oklahoma, came up big in the second half. On the Lobos’ first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, he hauled in a Carlin Freeman pass near the Lobo sideline and raced 72 yards into the end zone. Cloyd’s extra point extended Longview’s 10-point halftime lead to 20-3.
The senior preseason all-state receiver caught his second touchdown pass with 11:24 remaining in the fourth quarter - again on a one-play drive - catching a 40-yarder in the end zone as the Stallions continued to try to cover him one-on-one. An interception by DeKendrick Campbell set up the Lobos’ score.
Kelly finished with four receptions for 138 yards, while increasing his touchdown total to seven for the season. Freeman was 6 of 16 for 164 yards, which included his ninth and 10th touchdowns of the year. He also completed two passes to Adrian Reese for 26 yards.
Cloyd, meanwhile, kicked field goals of 32, 32 and 22 yards. He has now converted eight of nine attempts. The senior also kicked three extra points, and handled all kickoffs, including a pair of successful onside kicks.
North Mesquite tallied twice on Sterling Turner field goals - 30 and 26 yards - and a Ryan Witherspoon-to-Jermaine Nevels 22-yard touchdown pass. Witherspoon, who leads the district in passing, was 24 of 36 for 244 yards, one TD and one interception. He was also the Stallions’ leading rusher with 12 carries for 38 yards.
Longview built a 13-3 halftime advantage, scoring 10 of those points in the final 19 seconds before intermission.
Tied 3-3, the Lobos put together a nine-play, 76-yard drive with Freeman scoring on a quarterback option from 5 yards out. A 27-yard run by McGee, a 13-yard reception by Kelly and a 12-yard Freeman-to-Reese completion set up a first-and-goal.
On the ensuing kickoff, North Mesquite’s Brandon Jackson muffed the kick, then fumbled it trying to pick it up and Sam Huddleston recovered for Longview at the Stallion 14.
On first down, Kelly had a defender knock away the ball in the end zone. On the next play, it appeared the senior wide receiver was interfered with, but the pass was ruled incomplete. With five seconds left on the clock, Cloyd came on to convert his second 32-yard field goal of the game.
The Lobos tried a bit of trickery to start the game, getting a 28-yard run by Jarvis Pippins on a fake punt for a first down at the North Mesquite 19. However, the drive stalled, thanks in part to a procedure call against Longview. Cloyd then converted his sixth field goal of the season.
Cloyd was then successful with an onside kick that James Pierce recovered. A succession of penalties killed the drive as the Lobos were driven backwards by a determined Stallion defense.
North Mesquite got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter as Turner booted a 30-yard field goal. The Stallion defense and Longview’s early troubles on offense had the Lobos backed up after the opening drive.
A 33-yard pass completion from Witherspoon to Jackson gave North Mesquite a first down at the Longview 15. The Stallions had a third-and-three from the 8, but a penalty killed their drive and forced Sterling’s successful field goal kick with 9:04 left in the second quarter.