LONGVIEW — John Tyler and Longview, two of the state’s elite high school football programs, meet in a high-profile football scrimmage at Lobo Stadium today.
The scrimmage starts at 6 p.m. with the junior varsity and freshmen playing simultaneously (three sets of 12 plays, beginning at the 35-yard line) on different halves of the field. The varsity teams take the field at 7:30 p.m.
The Lions, under the guidance of first-year head coach Ricklan Holmes, enter the exhibition ranked No. 3 in Class 4A. The Lobos, under longtime coach John King, open the year ranked No. 9 in Class 5A. JT returns 17 starters (10 offense/7 defense) from an 11-4 team. Longview counters with 10 returning starters (2 offense/8 defense) from an 11-2 squad
JT boasts an explosive offense, paced by senior quarterback and Houston commit Greg Ward (6-0, 170), who totaled 5,000 yards and 54 TDs last year. The JT offense also features receivers Fred Ross (6-2, 185), an Oklahoma State pledge who caught 100 passes for 1,320 yards and 15 TDs last year, and wideout Darion Flowers, who finished with 1,048 receiving yards a year ago.
The JT defense brings back several key performers, including defensive end Tyus Bowser (6-3, 225, Sr.) and linebacker Richard Gipson (6-2, 220, Sr.). Both players notched 13 tackles for losses in 2011.
Senior quarterback Bivins Caraway (5-11, 200) highlights the Lobos’ pro-I attack on offense. Caraway, who is committed to Louisiana-Monroe, passed for 2,425 yards and 22 TDs last year and directed Longview to the championship bracket at the 7-on-7 state championships last month.
Tory White, a 5-9, 185, senior running back listed with 4.4-second speed in the 40-yard dash, takes his place as starting running back for the Lobos after stepping off 770 yards and seven TDs a year ago.
A bevy of talent returns for the Lobos’ stop unit, led by linebacker DeMarkus Lathan (5-10, 200, Sr.), the reigning Class 5A Defensive Player of the Year. Lathan made 141 tackles last year.
Longview figures to be one of the state’s fastest defenses, with eight players listed with 4.6-speed. Plenty of help from a 10-0 junior varsity moved up for the tradition-rich Lobos, who are 91-19 in the previous eight years under King.
Both teams open the regular season next week: JT at home Friday versus Lufkin in the Trinity Mother Frances Classic and Longview against Coppell on Saturday, Sept. 1, at Ford Stadium on the SMU campus in Dallas.
LIONS’ TALES: The scrimmage format will be as following: first team offenses rotate 15 plays, followed by the second teams with 10 plays each, ending with the first teams returning for 10 snaps apiece. Each series starts at the 30-yard line, with teams getting three downs to make a first down. Teams get four downs once passing midfield and drives penetrating the red zone (20 yard line) continue until the offense scores or defense holds. After a kicking segment featuring four snaps by each teams punt and extra-point units, the teams return for two 15-minute halves, with possession again starting from the 30-yard line.