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ET Football: Lobos ready to get back on the field

By Hayden Henry
Aug. 6, 2016 at 10:34 p.m.

Longview's Gaylon Wiley

It's been an emotional rollercoaster of a summer for the Longview Lobos.

There's been highs, a strong showing for summer workouts, and the lows, a tragic accident involving two recent graduates and teammates.

While the healing process in an ongoing one, head coach John King sees Monday's return of football practice as a bit of a revival.

"It's one of those things where if we can make it Monday without any bad news, that would be great," King said. "The start of football gets these kids back into a regular routine and, I hate to say it starts the healing process exactly, but it can help revive every body."

On Friday, the last weekday without football at the Lobo Den, coaches scurried about putting the final preparations of the season to bed. The night before, the staff held its annual player-parent meeting.

"We had a ton of folks here and a lot of parents fould out what Lobo football is about," King said. "We played tour guide -- showed them the facility. They got their phones out and took photos of the trophies, of the pictures.

"It felt normal."

The meeting capped what King called a strong summer in terms of summer workouts.

"I think our overall participation was as good as we've ever had," he said. "I know that the vasty majority of our varsity football team was here most every day. We gave them a goal and a lot of them hit it.

"We've got a lot of hungry kids. There's a lot that are ready to prove themselves and quite a few that are going to get their chance on a Friday."

The number 18 bears some significance heading into fall practice. That's the number of spots the Lobos must fill on the field and a number that's indicative of what the team will look like in terms of age, setting the stage for a wide-open two weeks of practice heading into an Aug. 19th scrimmage with Pine Tree at Lobo Stadium.

"When you have 18 spots up for grabs, it has a tendency to be wide open," King said. "The crazy thing about that is that last year, we had 18 underclassmen. This year, we'll double that."

King said the staff has an idea of its 75 varsity players with the remaining 80 heading to sub-varsity.

"I thought in the spring that the strength of our team was the offensive line and I think they lived up to that," he said. "We should have a strong running game and we're going to need that with breaking in a new quarterback and a whole host of receivers."

Defensively, a scheme change in the spring has a host of players competing in every area of the field.

"I feel good about the defensive structure we put in place in the spring," King said. "The defensive staff has done a great job of getting the right players in the right places. We've got some that can run."

King's biggest concern?

"I feel like our kicking game could be a strong suite, we've got two with strong legs," he said. "But we've got to find a snapper -- that's my biggest concern. Their strong legs aren't much if they can't get the ball."

So the next two weeks hold dire importance with an season-opening date at Abe Martin Stadium, a return visit to Maverick Stadium the next week and South Oak Cliff coming to town on Sept. 9.

"We've got to focus on ourselves first and it's still going to be a culture shock when 7:30 p.m. on Friday, August 26 in Lufkin, Texas hits," King said. "It's going to be hot. It's going to be fast. It's going to be physical. You can't simulate that in any kind of way."

Then comes the return to Class 6A with a home game against Mesquite Horn on Sept. 16.

"We'll know a lot about ourselves when we get through this non-district schedule and that's why we have the schedule we have," King said. "We're always going to have a tough one and that's the exact reason why.

"We need it and that's what the kids want, that's the expectation."

Monday attempts to bring a return to normalcy and a return to work.

"It's been a good summer but it has been challenging," King said. "Our kids, they're tough, and you've got to push through it. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you. It'll be good to get out there, get started and get a new football season kicked off."

Junior varsity and varsity practice will be on the grass fields between 4:45-5 p.m., Monday through Thursday. The first of pads is Friday.

(Follow Hayden Henry on Twitter: @hayden_h)



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